Monday, February 23, 2015

Insanity, Guardianship, Account Books and Family History

Account Book, Jonathan Batchelder (1800 - 1847)

Jonathan Batchelder's Account
of Chichester           
New Hampshir        
1831  January the 12

Back in 2004 a wonderful thing happened to me.  A gentleman who had bought a box of books on the West Coast found a small account book dating from 1831.  The name Jonathan Batchelder of Chichester, New Hampshire was written on the first page.  This gentleman spent much time trying to find a descendant of Jonathan.  Someone at the Chichester Historical Society found my online family tree because Jonathan Batchelder is my 4th great grandfather.

Note:  I had posted a query about Jonathan Batchelder at a bulletin board at GenForum in 2000.  It’s still there fifteen years later, and it still brings me email about the Batchelder family.  It pays to plaster the names of your ancestors everywhere- forums, Facebook, blogs, bulletin boards, wikis, everywhere.  You never know what will happen or who will contact you.

Back in 2009, when my blog was new, I wrote a post about how I received Jonathan Batchelder’s account book.  You can read that story by clicking HERE.  Since that time I have been researching the life of Jonathan Batchelder and his family.  It’s a very sad story.  But it’s amazing that his little book ended up on the West Coast and somehow found its way back to me.

There was nothing of genealogical value written inside this account book.  Of course, there are lots of names of people who lived near Jonathan and probably lived in Chichester, New Hampshire in the 1830s and 1840s. It is fascinating community information.  Some of the names might be relatives because there are quite a few Batchelders and Lanes listed.  Prices listed of items and labor traded are interesting.  The spelling is atrocious.  The biggest surprise was this slip of paper stuck inside:

This is a wonderful find!  This paper has much more information than what I found in the probate records online.   I first went to Family Search where I found an index of probate in this time period, where I found this index card:

Using the date and the docket number from this index card I was able to find the record in this volume and page here:

"New Hampshire, County Probate Records, 1660-1973," images, FamilySearch (,348206601 : accessed 18 February 2015), Merrimack > Dockets 1844-1858 no 2275-4869 > image 76 of 339; county courthouses, New Hampshire.

And here is a close up of this case:

Why was Nancy Batchelder named guardian to 14 year old Pauline Ann Batchelder? Well, it’s a long story…

Jonathan Batchelder was born about 1800 in Hampton, New Hampshire, the son of Elisha Batchelder and Sarah Lane.   On 11 February 1822 in Belmont, New Hampshire he married Nancy Thompson.  She was born about 1804 in Gilmanton, New Hampshire.  They had two children born in Chichester: George born in 1822 and Pauline Ann born in 1828.

 In the newspaper New Hampshire Patriot and State Gazette on 21 November 1840, I found a notice on page 3 stating that Jonathan Batchelder had emancipated his son George.  My 3rd great grandfather, George, had just reached the age of 18, and went off on his own to earn a living.  This was a common notice in those days.

However, as I was searching the newspapers I found a more sinister notice in the New Hampshire Patriot and State Gazette on 3 December 1846, page 4:

Guardian’s Notice:
Notice is hereby given, that the subscriber has been duly appointed by the Judge of Probate for the county of Merrimack, guardian of the person and estate of Jonathan Batchelder, of Chichester, in said county, decreed to be an insane person.  All persons indebted to the said Jonathan Batchelder are requested to make immediate payment to the subscriber, and all having claims to present them for adjustment.
David M. Carpenter, Guardian
Chichester, Nov. 24, 1846

A few months later this was found in the New Hampshire Patriot and State Gazette, 11 March 1847, page 4:

Guardian's Sale
"By virtue of a license from the Judge of Probate for the county of Merrimack, the subscriber as guardian of Jonathan Batchelder, of Chichester, in said county, who has been decreed an insane person, will sell at public auction on Wednesday, the 24th day of March next, at ten o'clock in the forenoon, all the right and interest the said Batchelder has in the homestead place on which he the said Batchelder has heretofore resided, containing about fifty five acres of first rate land, on which there is a good lot of timber and wood; the house large and two stories, and recently painted; the barn and shed not old.  Said farm is within about two miles of Pittsfield Village, and on the main road from Pittsfield to Concord and Manchester, on which road Stages pass and repass every day.  Also, about fifteen acres of pasture and wood land, lying about one half of a mile from said farm, adjoining and of David Brown and others.  Terms of payment liberal.  Sale on the premises.
D. M. Carpenter, Guardian
Chichester, Feb. 24, 1847

This was followed by another notice in the fall of the same year, New Hampshire Patriot and State Gazette, 4 November 1847, page 3:

Administrator's Notice
"The subscriber hereby gives notice that he has been duly appointed administrator of the estate of Jonathan Batchelder, late of Chichester, deceased, intestate.  All persons indebted to said estate are requested to make immediate payment, and all having claims to present them to the subscriber for adjustment.
D. M. Carpenter, Adm'r
Chichester, Sept 29, 1847

It is never easy to read that an ancestor was insane and died so young.  The family home was sold and the courts at this time granted guardianship of the minor child, Pauline, to her mother.  This was also common at the time.  Mothers were not  automatically given their children upon the death of the father. 

One clue I have is that according to the book Batchelder, Batcheller: Descendants of Rev. Stephen Bachiler by Frederick Clifton Pierce written in 1898, it states that Jonathan Batchelder died in Concord, New Hampshire.  No date given.  No other details about his life, not even a maiden name for his wife, Nancy.  From the newspaper notices we can guess that he died before 4 November 1847.  There was a state insane asylum in Concord at the time, just a few miles away from Chichester.  Jonathan’s death was not recorded in any vital records.

Nancy Batchelder drops out of the records after her guardianship was recorded.  She is not in any census, nor is she in the vital records as remarrying or dying. I’d love to know what happened to her.  She was my 4th great grandmother, and I don’t know her origins, parents nor her birthday.  I only learned her maiden name from Pauline’s death record.  Nancy Thompson is a true brickwall ancestor.

Pauline grew up to marry David C. Watson of Vermont sometime before 1849 when her first son, Charles, was born in Pittsfield, New Hampshire.  About 1851 she had another son, and she named him George.  David Watson had a clothing business in Boston on Howard Street with his brother Charles.  David died in Sutton, New Hampshire in 1903, and Pauline died in 1911.

Pauline’s brother, George E. Batchelder, is my 3rd great grandfather.  He spent the rest of his life in Chichester as a farmer, like his father.  He also died young, at age 26, in 1848.  He married Abigail M. Locke of South Boston in 1845 and had two children before his early death, Abby Ann, born in 1847 and died two weeks old, and George E. Batchelder, Jr., born posthumously on 8 October 1848, one month after his father’s death.  George, Jr. is my great great grandfather. 

You can see that after more than 20 years of researching this family, there still are lots of details yet to find!

Click here to read my previous blog post about Jonathan Batchelder's account book:


The URL for this post is
Copyright © 2015, Heather Wilkinson Rojo


  1. Good story and excellent find. I wonder what constituted "insanity" then. My great grandmother was committed to the Augusta, ME Insane Asylum in 1907 after her husband left town. She died in that asylum 22 years later.

  2. Heather, what a find!!! Thank you for posting this.

  3. What an amazing find! And how kind of that gentleman to spend so much time trying to find a descendant of Jonathan.

  4. Very interesting! I have a great-grandmother who died in an insane asylum in Maine. I am so curious about why she was there and any other details I can find but I don't have any other info yet. She was committed about nine years before her death. She died in 1957. I should do some newspaper searches.

  5. I'm often looking at things at tag sales, It would be such a challenge to return a family item. I'd be so excited to have something returned to me. What a great find

  6. It's amazing how artifacts travel about. I wonder how on earth it made it to the West Coast. Amazing find!

  7. Heather,

    I want to let you know that your blog post is listed in today's Fab Finds post at

    Have a great weekend!