If you have read my other blogs, specifically “My Journey of Journeys,” you’ll remember I started researching my father’s side in the 1990s. I had started with the direct male line and then a few years later started with the wives, my grandmothers.
In 2010, I met up with a couple of others who were researching the Logans. One, in particular, was a retired Air Force Colonel living in Texas. He had an extensive tree on the Logans, and we emailed back and forth for at least three years. He is my 4th cousin, 1x removed.
Because I was still a rookie, I took what information he had on blind faith and plugged all the information into my tree. Not that his information was wrong, but I failed to verify for myself. Furthermore, I failed to get his sources. So, I have these people in my tree that I do not have verified documentation for.
One such person is Abigail Soper. Oh, I know her name is Abigail, as documentation from her children’s records lists their mother. What I do not have is her maiden name. I decided to try to verify her family once and for all, nine years later. With all the digitizing and new genealogical information, I thought for sure it would be an easier task now. I was wrong.
In November, I started writing historical societies and county clerks in the vicinity of Connecticut and Vermont. The information from my 4th cousin had Abigail being born in Connecticut but marrying Daniel Logan in Vermont around 1780. No cities mentioned. They could find no mention of Sopers or even Logans for that matter.
The town historian for Bennington, Vermont, however, was very helpful. She went over and beyond in trying to help me. She explained that the Logan name was not common in Bennington, but offered other historians who may assist me. One is in the town listed on an ancestor’s death certificate, Middlebury. Another is in the border town where my ancestor was married, Warsaw, New York.
The other Logans in this family were just as confusing as some documentation showed their sons born in New York, and some showed Vermont. I was perplexed. On a website called Random Acts of Genealogical Kindness, I contacted a gentleman who specialized in that area. He wrote me back immediately! And he had some excellent information.
I did not follow my own advice in studying the area of the time. This gentleman gave me the history of my ancestors’ time, and it makes perfect sense on how and why the documentation seems to be conflicting. Here is what he said, in his own words:
The period in history that is involved here is a tough one for research in Vermont. Initially, the area, including Vermont, was under French control. After the battle on the Plains of Abraham in Quebec [ending the French and Indian wars], the area became part of the English holdings. Both the colonies of New York and New Hampshire claimed all or part of the land between them.
While they were still arguing, the War of Independence broke out in 1776. In 1777, the residents of the land area between Lake Champlain and the Connecticut River declared themselves an independent republic. This lasted until 1791 when Vermont was admitted as the 14th state. All record-keeping was done at the office of the town clerk. It still is. The recording of births, marriages, and deaths varied from town to town and really was not codified until around 1865. Copies of the various records were not collected at a central archive until around 1911.
He later wrote: I have done some looking and have found at least one extended family of Sopers from the mid-18th century in the towns of Dorset and Manchester in Bennington County. Your Abigail creates a bit of a problem. Remember the brief history lesson I gave you?
In 1765 the French and Indian Wars had only ended two years previous. This means that England had new land it needed to quantify. The colonies of New York and New Hampshire felt that each of their grants gave them most or all of this former French territory as part of their landholdings. Each colony sent surveyors in to lay out grants. An early Vermont land speculator, Ethan Allen and his brother Ira preferred to deal with the governor of New Hampshire. So they formed The Green Mountain Boys, an ad hoc group of vigilantes whose mission was to force the New York surveyors and tax collectors out in favor of New Hampshire.
There is some argument as to how successful they may have been. History remembers this group in regard to their taking over Ft Ticonderoga in NY. The point in this is that in 1765 those towns were most likely considered part of NY as Vermont, per se, did not exist at that time.
Middlebury, Vermont, is a bit north in Addison County, also on the west side of the Green Mountains, and also was most likely considered part of NY before 1777. I will see if I can find anything that connects Abigail to this family in Dorset and Manchester. You might see if you can get the contact information for the town’s historical society in Dorset and Manchester, Vermont. Every town has a historical society, and some are more active than others.
So, as you can see, it was very convoluted at the time my ancestors were in that area. Trying to find documents in the 1700s is hard enough, even harder when the borders and politics changed so much.
I now have three things on my to-do list concerning Abigail.
1) Contact the county historian in Middlebury, NY, to see if he has any information on this Logan family.
2) Contact the historical societies in Dorset and Manchester, Vermont, to see if they have any information on the Soper family and, possibly, Logan.
3) See if I can get in touch with my Colonel cousin to find out his sources.
Look at me, learning from my mistakes and continuing on. 😉
Wish me luck! I will keep you updated on my search for Abigail.