Thursday, February 28, 2013

He married his Step Sister?

Back when I was a teen aged kid, in the 1970's, before computers and the internet, I started working on my family history.   As a teenager, I was very intimidated by the librarians and archivists in some repositories.  They definitely did not like genealogists, and they did not like children.  I had to get permission to step inside several archives, including interviews.  The staff at the American Antiquarian Society in Worcester often stopped to ask me what I was doing in the building, but I had a badge and my name was on the “researcher” list when I was fifteen. 

 It was difficult at times to untangle what I was reading in the vital records.  Can you imagine finding some sort of mystery and not having Twitter, Facebook or email to instantly consult with fellow genealogists?   None of my teen friends were helpful, and the genealogy class I attended was full of retired people who were new at genealogy, too.  I didn't know a single experienced genealogist, except my genealogy teacher.  There were no genealogy clubs.  I was on my own!

And so, upon studying my  5x great grandmother, I found her marriage record to be very confusing.  Working backwards from my 4x great grandparents, Andrew Munroe and Ruth Simonds, I saw that they were married on 22 March 1785 in Woburn (now Burlington), Massachusetts.   Ruth’s parents were Caleb Simonds and Susanna Converse.  Andrew’s parents were listed as Andrew Munroe and Mary Simonds.   In trying to find Mary’s marriage and parents, I ran into problems. 

It turned out that Mary Simonds was really Mary Mixer, daughter of Joseph Mixer and Mary Ball and the widow of Daniel Simonds.  She was married to Daniel Simonds in 1749, to Andrew Munroe in 1763 (and had a son, Andrew, jr.), and to Caleb Simonds (cousin to Daniel) in 1774.   Caleb Simonds was married twice, first to Susanna Converse in 1746 (and had a daughter Ruth), and then to Mary (Mixer) Munroe. 

Yes, Ruth Simonds married her step brother.  Eleven years after Caleb and Mary married, she married Andrew Munroe, Jr. on 22 March 1785. 

Susanna Converse m. Caleb Simonds  m. Mary Mixer m. Andrew Munroe
                                  I                                                             I
                            Ruth Simonds  m.  Andrew Munroe, Jr.
                                     Luther Simonds Munroe
                                   (my 3x great grandfather)

Not only was this eye brow raising to me at age fourteen, it was difficult to sort out on my own.  However, it slowly unraveled, and was quite a relief to find that everything worked out without any incestuous marriages. 

Then I found out that Luther Simonds Munroe had married Olive Flint in 1826, and her parents were named John Flint and Phebe Flint.   Can’t you just hear me saying “Here we go again!” 

Since this time, I've found several cases of step siblings marrying in my family tree.  Also first cousins marrying, lots of second cousins and third cousins marrying, and siblings marrying the widowed spouse of a sibling.   I think I've seen it all, over and over, which is not unusual in New England, and probably not unusual anywhere else.
Copyright 2013, Heather Wilkinson Rojo


  1. Heather, I haven't been in the American Antiquarian Society in many years, but when Bill and I went, we were both interviewed. It must be their policy regardless of age.

    1. Barbara, it was probably a former policy. I went last fall with my mother, and we just had to apply for a researcher card, no interview.

  2. At NARA (Archives II in College Park, MD) you have to take a computerized course and "quiz" before getting your researcher card and being allowed beyond the visitors intake room -- but no real "interview" as such. There are strict rules on what can be taken into the research rooms and they have ceiling cameras to watch the researchers. :-)

    A very interesting story of what you had to go through and the confusing family story that unfolded. I think you might have another post in describing the details of how you pieced all that together -finding Mary was actually Mary Mixer, etc.

    1. I've taken that NARA quiz at the main archives on the mall at Washington DC. It just expired. I wonder if have to take the quiz all over again the next time I go there? I think the strictest library is Widener at Harvard. I couldn't even get inside!

  3. My gg grandparents were first cousins, eugh! I guess it was perfectly acceptable to them.

  4. I have several instances in the family of step siblings marrying and first cousins marrying as well.

  5. I don't know what is more confusing - cousins (and cousins-once-removed) marrying or having an ancestor with 2, 3, or 4 spouses! (I have a variety in my tree.) It's the cousins-once-removed who marry that make visualizing the family tree quite challenging. I always have to hand-draw a chart.

  6. My New England ancestors seem remarkably separate, considering they would have been acquainted with one another for generations. They didn't "hook up" until my parents in 1955. But back in medieval times, I have at least one instance of step-brother/step-sister marriage (Ralph Neville, Mary Ferrers), and a few first cousins marrying. The Catholic church kept a pretty tight rein on consanguinity, though.