One of my 3rd great-grandfathers on my dad’s side, Joseph CUSHING, was born in 1790 supposedly in what is now Carroll County, Maryland. At the time of his birth, Carroll County had not been formed yet.
I know a lot about Joseph actually.
I have census records for 1820, 1840, 1850, and 1870. In all of them he is living in Carroll County or in a place that would become Carroll County when said county was formed. Joseph has a Find-a-Grave listing, too, so I know he died in 1873 and he’s buried at the Stone Chapel Cemetery in Warfieldsburg, Carroll County, Maryland. Finally, his name appears on the death certificate for his daughter, Sarah Ann CUSHING HATFIELD.
The brick wall has more to do with his parents and his birth.
Those little leaves on a popular genealogy website can lead to some errors due to inadequate research and false assumptions based on facts. I fell into that trap concerning Joseph and his parents.
A few years ago, I added to my tree that Joseph’s parents were Jonathan CUSHING and Mehetabel ABRAMS CUSHING. This was based on one of those hints. I probably told myself I’d get back to it later to make sure it was right. About a year ago, another researching cousin told me she stopped with the CUSHING line because she believed that Joseph was actually fathered by someone other than Jonathan CUSHING. I took that information as factual and left that line alone, too, until last week.
I am not yet convinced that Joseph is related to either Jonathan or Mehetabel, and I’ll tell you why.
The belief that he was not fathered by Jonathan appears to be based on the narrative someone wrote about the marriage of Jonathan and Mehetabel, Joseph’s birth soon after, and a name change several years later. I do not know who wrote the narrative but it is used a source on many trees of that popular genealogy website.
Basically the narrative says that Jonathan married Mehetabel in haste and rescued her. It says that they married 4 November 1789, and Joseph was born in January 1790. Then it goes on to say that Joseph changed his surname from ABRAMS to CUSHING, when he was 21, most likely because he grew up feeling more like a CUSHING than an ABRAMS or whoever his bio dad was. The narrative sites a mention of this name change in the Fredericktowne (Maryland) Herald newspaper on 26 October 1811, but there is no copy of the article provided.
I decided it was time to see what I could prove, and I found some interesting information.A Jonathan CUSHING did marry a Mehetabel/Mehitable on 4 November 1789, but in the public records her last name was JAMES, and the marriage took place in Boston.
- A Jonathan CUSHING did marry a Mehetabel/Mehitable on 4 November 1789, but in the public records her last name was JAMES, and the marriage took place in Boston.
- The Mehetabel/Mehitable this Jonathan married had the surname ABRAMS, instead of JAMES, in the book The Genealogy of the Cushing Family by James S. Cushing.
- Joseph was born in January 1790, and he maintained on every census that he was born in Maryland. Even on his daughter’s death certificate it says he was born in Maryland.
- Joseph doesn’t appear in The Genealogy of the Cushing Family. Only two daughters are listed as children of Jonathan and Mehetabel/Mehitable.
My thoughts so far…
- Perhaps Mehetabel’s maiden name was JAMES and she was married to an ABRAMS or the other way around. Perhaps she was widowed while carrying the baby that would be Joseph. Perhaps she married Jonathan CUSHING because she needed a husband and her child needed a father. Based on The Genealogy of the Cushing Family, I also lean toward Jonathan CUSHING not being the bio-dad of Joseph, if this Jonathan and Mehetabel are actually his parents at all.
- If the Joseph ABRAMS who changed his name to CUSHING in 1811 in Maryland is my Joseph, then why did he change his name? If he was actually born in Massachusetts to Mehetabel and Jonathan, why did he always claim he was born in Maryland? Was he running from something? And if he was running from something, then wouldn’t he have changed his name to something completely different than names he is associated with?
Next steps in this mystery…
First, the only library in the country that holds the Frederick-Town Herald archives is the University of Delaware. I am pursuing a copy of the newspaper article about the name change. Perhaps that will give more information.
Second, Massachusetts has death records for the time when Mehetabel’s first husband would have died, if there is a first husband. Perhaps I can find a death record for him.
Joseph CUSHING is still my 3rd GGF, but the truth about his parentage and birth is foggy. I hope this new research will clear up some of my questions.
Have you revisited any brick walls lately and discovered new paths to research? Comment below.
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