Finding Jonathan Wood
This page is part of the Tri-County Genealogy Site by Joyce M. Tice
Saying good-bye to Lemuel Wood was a little like saying good-bye to Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny. As a little girl, I loved to hear the story about Lemuel Wood, my Very Great Grandpa. My 6g Grandfather, the story goes, was a drummer boy in the Revolutionary War. He was heroically wounded in battle when a bullet grazed his face. From that time forward, he always wore a full beard to hide the scar. Lemuel Wood had a profound impact on my life. I loved American History because Lemuel made it real. I longed to travel to the east coast and walk the paths that Lemuel walked. I would grow up to join DAR because my ancestor, Lemuel Wood fought in the Revolutionary War. As I approached the age of 30, I knew I had to join DAR. I was letting Lemuel down. While visiting my Aunt Evelyn Strouse Conlan in Seattle, Washington I asked for the information that I needed to become a member. Aunt Evelyn brought out the envelope containing the information and placed it in my eager hands. I opened the envelope and was shocked to see THOMAS WILSON?? " Who in the heck is Thomas Wilson? Why on earth didn't you join DAR on Lemuel Wood?", I demanded. "Oh, there's something wrong with that line, we never could prove it.", she answered. I was shocked! Outraged! On that day, I made a silent vow to prove to DAR and the world that I was entitled to wear Lemuel Wood's name on my chest. GETTING TO KNOW LEMUEL:
I had absolutely no idea how to 'do' genealogy, so I took a class. The class took a field trip to the local LDS library. Barely in the door, I announced that it was crucial to locate information about my ancestor, Lemuel Wood the Revolutionary Soldier. A quick look in the DAR Patriot Index told me the basics. He was there. He was real. He was in Connecticut. I was a quick learner. From that day forward I lived, breathed and dreamed Lemuel Wood. I ordered DAR record copy, Lemuel's Pension file, microfilm of vital records, church records, wills, probate, census records... everything and anything that might tell me more about Lemuel. I wrote letters to genealogical societies, I hired professional researchers. Soon, I was really getting to know Lemuel. Lemuel Wood was the son of Lemuel B. Wood and Greswald Mallory of Danbury, Connecticut and the Grandson of Dr. Samuel Wood, first physician of the same town. Lemuel B. Wood was born about 1720 in Danbury. (1790c, CT, Danbury) On 29 October 1744 he married Greswald Mallory in Redding, Connecticut. (Redding Congregational Church Records, Vol. 1, p. 74) Lemuel B. and Greswald had five children, Joseph, Nathan, Elizabeth, Lemuel and Ezra. Ezra was captured during the Revolution and held prisoner at 'Sugar Hill'. He apparently died young, as there is no mention of him in the will of either of his parents. Lemuel B. Wood died 31 May 1795 in Danbury.( Danbury Court District Probate Packet # 5408 names wife and all children, except Ezra). Greswald Mallory Wood died after 17 January 1801. (Danbury Court District Probate Packet # 5398) I traveled to Danbury, Connecticut and visited the Historical Society there. Mary and Eugene Fox were kind enough to take me to many of the places our ancestors had walked. We copied all of the available information on the Wood family of Danbury, Connecticut. I felt that I had finally come home. According to the DAR application paper of Mrs. Helen Dixon Trumble (National Number 235192) Lemuel Wood was born on 6 August 1761 and died on 4 July 1808. In November, 1790 he married Elizabeth Kundle in Greenwich, Connecticut. Lemuel and Elizabeth had three children, Mary Rae Wood, William Wood and David Wood. According to the DAR application, Lemuel Wood enlisted February 18, 1777 and served as a private in Colonel Samuel Wylly's Third Connecticut Regiment until 1 January, 1781 and then in Colonel John Durkee's First Connecticut Regiment. He was wounded in the left side in a skirmish at Frog's Neck, NY while in Captain Jabez Fitch's Company and was discharged 31 December 1781. There was no mention of him as a drummer boy, and no mention of a facial wound. Obviously, a mistake had been made. No mention of Thomas, Seth and Mollie. An error of omission, probably. The actual pension papers would clear that up. According to the actual Widow's Pension Claim (W4106), it appears that the information on the DAR application paper was correct. The only glaring error was that of Elizabeth's surname. Her actual name was Rundle, not Kundle. An easy mistake to make, due to poor and faded penmanship. This error is also substantiated by the fact that the 1790 census shows Rundles, no Kundles in Fairfield, CT. No mention was made of Thomas, Seth or Mollie. When Elizabeth filed for her pension claim, the only children mentioned were David, Mary Rae and William. Why? A second marriage perhaps? Was Elizabeth refusing to recognize the first set of children? (No reference to a second marriage on the DAR application though.) Where was Seth? Lemuel Wood died on 4 July 1808 in Cayuga County, New York. Elizabeth went west and died on 6 June 1844 in Fitchville Township, Huron County, Ohio. (W4106) Perhaps hiring a professional researcher in Cayuga County would clear up the mystery. I hired Hallie Sweeting to go to the Cayuga County Courthouse and find something, anything that would prove once and for all that Lemuel had a son, Seth. If Seth was the son of Lemuel, somewhere there would be proof. I hired a researcher in Tioga County, PA to find the proof I needed. I wrote letter after letter.
SEEDS OF DOUBT:
According to Hallie Sweeting, the Cayuga County Courthouse records gave no indication that Lemuel Wood had any additional children. In later life, most of Lemuel's legal transactions were signed by David and William. Lemuel was buried in Cayuga County, New York. The family sold the land and went west to Ohio. Census records gave no indication that a Seth Wood had ever resided in Cayuga County, New York. The Tioga County Historical Society sent pages and pages of information on the Wood family. However (and this is a big however) it was suggested that some researchers were of the opinion that Seth W. Wood was NOT the son of Lemuel Wood, but actually the son of Jonathan Wood. This was the first time I had ever heard mention of Jonathan Wood. This was the first time I had ever seen the middle initial "W" attached to Seth's name. This was definitely NOT what I wanted to hear and I was not happy. I was absolutely certain that this was not the case and had some pretty good reasons why.
THE POWER OF DENIAL, ALSO KNOWN AS FATAL FLAWS:
First of all, I knew Lemuel Wood was my ancestor. I had been told that from my earliest memories. It was family tradition. How could it possibly be otherwise. Second, I knew from the records that Seth Wood was born on 19 July 1778 in Ridgefield, Connecticut. He married Elizabeth Wilson who was born on 8 November 1799. Frustrated, I went back to the Ridgefield Vital Records. There,in Volume 1 page 94, I found the following: [Wood], Seth W. [s. Jonathan & Hannah] b. July 19, 1798 Obviously, the Seth W. Wood person could not be my ancestor. My Seth Wood was born on 19 July 1778, not 1798. How could someone born in 1798 possibly marry Elizabeth Wilson on 12 April 1800? No, Seth W. Wood was not my ancestor. Third, I had a newspaper article. I still have the article. Obviously it was one of a series of articles published in a Mansfield newspaper entitled "Centennial Families". This article begins with the statement that, "The Wood family of Tioga County descends from Dr. Samuel Wood who came from England to Massachusetts in 1683 and soon afterward located in Danbury, Connecticut....."the article went on the trace the descent of this family to our very own Seth Wood. "Seth, son of Lemuel Wood, settled in Tioga County, Pa, coming about 15 years after the birth of his son, Thomas." Now, this was the printed word. Certainly everything printed in the newspaper has to be accurate. Fourth, and finally I had an infallible source. Genealogical and Personal History of Northern Pennsylvania, (1913) by John W. Jordan, LL.D. Librarian of the Historical Society of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia. Vol. III, p.801-802. This book said, "(V) Seth, son of Lemuel (2) Wood was born in 1775, in North Danbury, Connecticut."
So, there it was in black and white. All of the reason in the world to believe that Seth Wood was the son of Lemuel Wood, Revolutionary Soldier. Gleefully I filed my DAR supplemental and waited for the day that I could order that little gold bar with Lemuel Wood engraved upon it.
REJECTION AND RESOLVE>
For several years, I lived in a genealogical remission. My work was done, the supplemental was in Washington, D.C. awaiting confirmation and Lemuel was mine. Then disaster struck. A letter came from Genealogical Records Division, Office of the Registrar General, NSDAR. In no uncertain terms, I was told that the proof I had submitted was inconclusive and inadequate. Unless I could offer more substantial evidence, they would not approve my supplemental. Sadly, I knew that I had done everything I could possibly do. There simply was nothing more to prove that Seth was the son of Lemuel. The dream had ended. It was over. For several weeks, I mourned the loss of Lemuel Wood. I had known him so well. I knew and loved his family. I had lost a part of myself. Once I was able to accept my loss, I came to a new resolve. If I could not prove that Seth WAS the son of Lemuel, I would then prove that he WAS NOT the son of Lemuel. After all, isn't the truth a noble quest?
Working on the assumption that perhaps the Tioga County Historical Society had been right all along, I set out to set the record straight. In order to prove that Seth was the son of Jonathan, I had to slay a few dragons. The Ridgefield Vital Records had been transcribed onto index cards and microfilmed. In order to verify the accuracy of the transcription, I needed to see the original records. I ordered the microfilm from the LDS Library and scrolled to the appropriate page. The original record did not say 1798, it said 1778. The transcription was in error. Someone had misread the 7 and thought it to be a 9. Seth W. Wood was the correct age to be our ancestor. If this was the case, then Jonathan could certainly be the ancestor I had avoided. As I began to learn more about Jonathan Wood and his wife, Hannah Whitlock, I learned that Seth W. Wood was Seth Whitlock Wood, named after Hannah's brother, Seth, who had died young. Jonathan, in fact came to Tioga County, PA with Seth and is buried near him. As I looked critically at the newspaper article, it became clear that someone had done some research on the Wood lineage. Unfortunately, that someone and reached some erroneous conclusions. It is apparent that the original search was done for the purpose of DAR membership. The emphasis of this research was on Lemuel's Revolutionary War service. DAR was a new organization, formed in 1889. In the age of suffrage, DAR membership was a powerful statement of women's rights and importance. It was from this research that the newspaper article had been created. Unfortunately, it seems that when hard evidence failed, the researcher relied on supposition. The basis of the error lies in the given name, "Lemuel". Because we had an ancestor named Solomon Lemuel Wood, it seemed logical that this line be descended from the proven DAR Patriot, Lemuel Wood. After all, this was the wanted result. However, the error of this thinking is clear. In further research, we find that Solomon Lemuel Wood is not named for Lemuel Wood the Revolutionary Soldier. In actuality, Solomon is named for his Father, Solomon Wood. His middle name, Lemuel is the name of his Grandfather, Lemuel Abbot. So much for Dragon #2. The next dragon was that of family tradition. One of the primary rules of genealogy is to take family tradition with a grain of salt. Just like Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny. It is good to listen and to remember the family traditions, they may very well hold some valuable truths and some good clues. Family traditions also offer a somewhat slanted view of history. But, that's another story. Suffice it to say that this dragon was easy to slay. The most formidable dragon is that of the Genealogical and Personal History of Northern Pennsylvania. I'm not sure what came first - the newspaper article or the book. Either way this book has done more to facilitate the myth that Seth was the son of Lemuel than any other source. This dragon will live on to eternity. As long as this book is in print, there will be people who believe that we are the descendants of Lemuel Wood. The power of the printed word is enduring. This book is a prime example of why a competent genealogist never puts in writing anything he or she isn't absolutely positive it correct. Once somebody sees it and publishes it there is no retracting it. Remember the formidable dragon, Genealogical and Personal History of Northern Pennsylvania. Even if we make a pact to burn, blow up or shred every copy we find, we will never find them all. This dragon will live on.
GOLD AT THE END OF THE RAINBOW:
As I look back on my search for Lemuel Wood, I realize that I was much more concerned with tradition (as I wanted it to be) than I was with truth. I was not prepared to accept anyone but Lemuel Wood as my ancestor. If one is willing to open up to the possibilities, there is a whole world of ancestors out there just waiting to be found. Jonathan Wood takes us back to the 1400s. The members of the Wood family were weavers, dedicated to their craft and to their religious beliefs. They ultimately gave up everything to follow the Reverend Denton to the colonies where they were free to worship as they pleased. Theirs is a lineage to be proud of.
Jonathan Wood, by the way, was also a Revolutionary Soldier. Once I accepted him for who he was, I did a DAR supplemental on him. This time, the Daughters of the American Revolution had no difficulty accepting the lineage. The work on this supplemental was done by Joan O'Dell. She is the one who found the source for the Revolutionary service and the proof of service. We both filed our supplementals at the same time. Mine was accepted first, only because I had a wide, blue ribbon. Joan then went on to contact the Daughters of the American Revolution and to make sure that Jonathan Wood's grave is properly marked as the grave of a Revolutionary Soldier. Our ancestor,Jonathan Wood can be located in the Centennial Edition of the DAR Patriot Index, thanks to Joan O'Dell's careful research. I had his name engraved on a gold ancestor bar and placed him on my DAR ribbon. He is there with his in-laws, Thomas Wilson, Samuel Gates and Isaac Northrup. When I wear my DAR ribbons, he is right where he belongs, right next to my heart.