Monday, September 1, 2014

Amelia! What is your maiden name?

For many years I have been researching Amelia, my 4th great grandmother.  In the 1970s, when I was a teenager, I found my first record of her through her son’s birth record (Thomas Russell Lewis, is my 3rd great grandfather) in the published Salem, Massachusetts Vital Records.  According to the “Tan Books”, Thomas Russell Lewis is listed as “LEWIS, Thomas Russell, s. Amelia, bp. June 26, 1825. CR 10”.  The notation CR10 refers to the Howard Street or Branch Church.   Two sons were baptized on the same day. 

Thirty five years ago I am still finding records about Amelia, but none give her maiden name.

This baptism record was odd, since most of the births and baptisms list both parents.  Why was Amelia listed as the sole parent of these boys?   I could not find a marriage record, and there was a death of a Thomas Lewis listed on August 21, 1821 in the Salem records.  Was this her husband?    There was also a death announcement in the Salem Gazette, 24 August 1824 for “Mr. Thomas Lewis, aged 54”.  Was this her husband?  He is another brickwall, and I don’t know his parents or ancestry.

There are two Thomas Lewis’s listed in the book Old Marblehead Sea Captains and the Ships in which they sailed by the Marble head Historical Society, page 87
     1)      Thomas Lewis born 15 June 1776 master of the schooner “Hawk” 90 tons in 1792
     2)      Thomas Lewis, Jr. born 28 May 1775, master of the schooner “Susanna and Lucy” in 1812

In the Gloucester death record of the other son, Frederic Augustus Lewis, Thomas Lewis was listed as the father.  I also found Thomas Lewis listed as the father on both Thomas Russell Lewis’s and Frederic Augustus Lewis’s marriage records.  Which Thomas Lewis is my 4th great grandfather?

couldn't find a death record for an Amelia Lewis, and so I searched to see if she had remarried and gained a new name.  Yes! She had been married three times!  First to Thomas Lewis.  Second to Thomas Johnson on 16 October 1827 in Salem, and then a third time on 11 June 1843 in Topsfield, Massachusetts to John Adams.  Amelia is listed as Amelia Adams on her death record in Wayland, parents unknown, died 22 April 1860 as a paralytic in the poorhouse, born in Stoughton.   Since she died in a year ending with a zero, I searched the federal census mortality schedules and found this sad entry (both husband and wife died the same month in the poorhouse):

1860 Federal Census Mortality Schedule
Wayland, Massachusetts
Amelia Adams, age 72, married, d. April, b. Mass.  pauper, paralysis, 4 days
            John, age 69, married, d. April, b. Mass, pauper, lung fever, 3 weeks

1850 Federal Census, Topsfield, Massachusetts
John Adams, age 60, m, shoemaker, b. Mass.
            Amelia, age 60, f, b. Mass
            Joseph H, age 18, m, shoemaker, b. Mass
            Susan S., age 16, f, b. Mass
William H. Garrett, age 16, m, shoemaker, b. Mass

The clue here in the 1850 census is the names of the children, Joseph H and Susan S.  With this information I was able to find this family record published in the Essex Antiquarian journal, Volume 1, Number 6, 1897, page 92


In the possession of Mr. William C. Peabody of Georgetown is a book entitled "Rise and Progress of Religion in the Soul," by Philip Doddridge, D.D., and published in Boston in 1818, having on the first fly-leaf the following words, written in ink: "John Adams from his brother Joseph Adams," and on two other blank pages the following family records:

John Adams Born Sept. 17th, 1789.
Sarah Adams Born Decr. 5th, 1790.
John Quincy Born March 17th, 1815.
Abigail Bowles Born April 25, 1816.
Sarah Ann Born Nov. 8th, 1817.
Ruth Bowles Born Augt 11th, 1819.
Nathl Hayward Born April 24th, 1821.
Lydia Towne Born Febry 18th, 1823.
Abigail Bowles 2 Born Janry 30, 1824.
Nathl Niles Hayward Born June 29th, 1825.
Susan Hayward Born April 1st, 1828.
George Washington Born Janry 27th, 1830.
Joseph Hayward Born Decr 30, 1831.
Susan Irene Born Oct. 28, 1833.

My wife Sarah Adams Died April 9th on Fryday at 6 1-2 Clok 1841 P.M.  Intered on Monday Following.

Abigail Bowles 1st Died July 2d, 1817.
Nathl Hayward Died Sept. 10th, 1822.
Abigail Bowles 2d Died March 2d, 1824.
Lydia Towne Died Sept. 14th, 1824.
George Washington Died May 1st, 1832.
Susan Hayward Died May 5th, 1832
Sarah Ann Wildes Died July 14th, 1853.”

This fleshes out her 3rd husband’s family, but provides no clue to his marriage with Amelia, two years after the death of Sarah.  No maiden name, no birthdate. 

I have been unable to find any information on the 2nd husband, Thomas Johnson. But here is a big clue from the Essex County probate records.  These have recently been added to the online database of the New England Historic Genealogical Society, 35 years after I started my search for Amelia.

The image of the probate record for Amelia Johnson
from the New England Historic Genealogical website database
of Essex County, Massachusetts probate records at 

To the Honorable Daniel A. White Esquire, Judge of
Probate for the County of Essex
HUMBLY shews Amelia Johnson of Salem
In said County, widow that Thomas Lewis, last
An inhabitant of Salem in said county, ropemaker, has lately viz.
1821, August 31 died intestate, leaving goods and estate, of which administration
Is necessary: - That your petitioner is a widow, and was the widow (the children being not of the commonwealth) of
Said deceased, and has a legal right to take such administration, and is ready to give bond with sufficient sureties for the faithful discharge thereof.  Wherefore he prays, that your honor would appoint her administratrix as aforesaid, agreeably to
Law in such cases made and provided.
Dated at Salem this seventeenth day of August, A.D. 1841

                        Amelia Johnson
ESSEX, ss. At a Court of Probate holden at Salem in and for said
County, on the third Tuesday in August, A.D. 1841
The foregoing petition being duly considered, it is thereupon decreed by the Court here, that administration, as therein prayed for, be granted to said Amelia Johnson, she giving bon
According to law her faithful discharge of that trust.
                        D. A. White JUDGE OF PROBATE

Know all Men by these Presents, That we Amelia Johnson, widow, as principal
And John Downs, trader, as surety, both of Salem, and John I. Baker, of
Beverly, esquire, as surety, - all in the county of Essex.
Within the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, are holden and stand firmly bound and obliged unto Daniel A. White
Judge of Probate of Wills, and for granting administration with the County of Essex, in the full
and just sum of one thousand dollars, to be paid to the said Daniel A. White,
and his sucessors in said office; to the true payment whereof we do bind ourselves and each of us, and each of our heirs, exec-
utors and administrators, jointly and severally, by these presents, sealed with our seals.
dated the seventeenth day of August in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred
and forty one.

THE CONDITION of this Obligation is such, That if the above bounden Amelia Johnson
Administratrix of all and singular the goods and estate of Thomas
Lewis, late of Salem in said county, ropemaker, deceased, do make,
or cause to be make, a true and perfect inventory of all and singular the real estate, goods and chattels, rights and credits of said de-
ceased, which have or shall come to the hands, possession or knowledge of her the said administratrix or into the hands or
possession of any other person or persons for her and the same, so made, do exhibit, or cause to be exhibited into the Registry
of the Court of Probate of the said county of Essex, at or before the seventeenth day of November
next ensuing; and the same goods and chattels, rights and credits and all other the goods and chattels, rights and credits, of the said
deceased, at the time of his death ^ and two deeds of real estate which may be sold for payment of debts which at any time after shall come to the hands and possession of the said administratrix
or into the hands and possession of any other person or persons for the said administratrix do well and truly administer ac-
cording to law; and further do make, or cause to be made, a just and true account of her said administration upon oath, on or
before the seventeenth day of August, which will be in the year of our Lord one thousand eight
hundred and forty-two:- and all the rest, residue and remainder of the said goods and chattels, rights and credits, which
shall be found remaining upon the said administration account, (the same being first examined and allowed by the Judge, for the time
being, of Probate of Wills and for granting administrations within the County of Essex aforesaid,) shall deliver and pay unto such
person or persons respectively, as the said Judge, by his decree or sentence, pursuant to law, shall limit and appoint: - And, if it shall
hereafter appear, that any last will and testament was made by said deceased, and the executor or executors therein named do exhibit
the same into the Court of Probate of the said County of Essex, making request to have it allowed and approved accordingly; if the
said Amelia Johnson above bounden, being thereunto required,
do render and deliver the said letter of administration (approbation of such testament being first had and made) into the said court:-
Then the before written Obligation shall be void and of none effect; or else shall abide and remain in full force and virtue.
Sealed and delivered in presence of us:-
Charles Kimball                                   Amelia Johnson
Nathan. Lord Jr.                                  John Downs
                                                            John I. Baker

ESSEX, ss. At a Court of Probate holden at Salem in and for said County, on the
Third Tuesday in August, A.D. 1841
The foregoing bond, having been duly examined, in approved, and ordered to be recorded in the probate office.
                        D. A. White     JUDGE OF PROBATE
John S. Williams esq.
John Downs
James Odell
                                                Sal. Reg.

This document gives the date of death of Thomas Lewis as 1821, four years before the boys were baptized, and two years before her marriage to Thomas Johnson.  It says that her children, Thomas Russell and Frederic Augustus (maybe more children?), lived “not of the commonwealth”, so did the Johnsons live in another state?  Another country?  I’ve found no records of Thomas Johnson, her husband.  It also states that in 1841, the year of this document, she was twice widowed.  She did not marry John Adams until 1843 in Topsfield. It also lists that her husband Thomas Lewis was a ropemaker, which was interesting to learn.  Was he former sea captain, too?

My 3rd great grandfather, Salem sea captain Thomas Russell Lewis (before 1821 – 1853) died in Surinam, West Indies.  I found a death notice in the Salem Register (newspaper) dated 6 October 1853 “Mortuary Notice.  At Surinam, August 22, of erysipelas, Captain Thomas R. Lewis of this city, master of the brig Gazelle”.  Erysipelas is a strep infection of the skin, and deadly in the ages before antibiotics.

I had often wondered why Captain Thomas Russell Lewis was not buried with his family at the large family plot in Salem’s Harmony Grove Cemetery. It took me many, many years to find this newspaper notice.  I suppose he was buried at sea off the coast of Surinam in South America.  He was married twice.  His first wife was Hannah Phillips (abt 1821 – 1851), daughter of James Phillips and Sarah Cree of Topsfield. 

Hannah (Phillips) Lewis was my 3rd great grandmother.  His second wife was Lydia S. Pickering (1834 – 1866), daughter of Benjamin Pickering and Lydia Stanley, who lived for thirteen years after her husband’s death.  None of Thomas Russell Lewis’s records list his mother’s maiden name, nor do they give any clues to his father’s origins.

Over 35 years the clues to build this sketch of Amelia have slowly been uncovered. I had to use books, vital records, newspapers, census records, probate records, cemetery records, journals and online resources.  These are all resources YOU can use to help identify the missing maiden names of you female ancestors, too.  I hope that in the next few years I might learn her maiden name and origins.  I just hope it doesn’t take another 35 years to learn more about Amelia and Thomas Lewis!

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Copyright © 2014, Heather Wilkinson Rojo


  1. I think your best option right now would be to pursue this probate record that you found. If you're lucky, the loose papers still exist. Even the docket and judgments should tell a great deal. This could even be about property her late husband had inherited an undivided interest in, which will tell you where he came from. Milk everything you can out of this clue!

  2. Do U info on Adderley's who left Nigeria to Bermuda than onto Bahamas. He may have been name Pompey Adderley. Which they have a street in Bahamas named after him.

    1. I'm sorry, Sherlene. I mostly do genealogy in New England. You might want to look for a genealogist who specializes in the Bahamas.