The Middlesex County Historical Society (middlesexhistory.org) on Main Street in Middletown, CT is in the General Mansfield House. Director Debby Shapiro asked me what I was looking for when I called for my appointment. When I arrived, Debby was ready for me.
MCHS houses the collection of genealogical research of Frank Farnsworth Starr, considered a preeminent genealogist who worked for 70 years as a professional genealogist tracking down family histories. He hand copied over 11,000 gravestone inscriptions. For genealogical researchers the collection of files he bequeathed to MCHS is valuable beyond quantification.
Frank’s records were tremendously helpful to me. MCHS has his collection alphabetized so it was easy for me to ask for files starting with the beginning of my outline. Unfortunately, I did not get very far into the alphabet because I am stuck on A.
My first story is about who was married to Nicholas Ackley. Frank had some information and a reference to probate records, which just deepened my mystery. Hannah (Ford Mitchell) was married to Achley in Hartford and had a dozen children by him. She died in 1680.
At that time, Miriam (Moore) was married to John Willey and had seven children with him. Willey died in 1688 and Miriam next married Samuel Spencer in 1689 and had a daughter in 1690. My research says that Spencer did not die until after 1700 so how then can Miriam (Moore) Willey be the widow of Nicholas Ackley in 1695 as the probate records digest state?
Keeping in mind that what I was looking at was actually a digest, by Charles Mainwaring, of the probate records, I searched on and found the distribution of the estate, which did not mention a widow, only a mother-in-law. I will need to see the real probate records, not a digest to be sure I have the accurate information.
What also complicates the research is that absolutely nothing is known about Hannah (Ford Mitchell’s) mother. Could her first name have been Miriam? Could she have married an Ackley?
I am determined to find an answer to this puzzle. I am going next to Hartford where Ackley came from. I have worked out different scenarios but have to keep an open mind until I have facts that point me in one direction or another.
In addition to Starr’s collection, MCHS has diaries, letters, account books, early court records, probate records, town records and church records. Unfortunately, little of all this wonderful research material is on the seventeen century. Most of the records from the 1600s have been lost or in some cases never kept.
My first visit to the Middlesex County Historical Society was very beneficial and ended with my decision to join after Debby graciously explained that it would cost me $10 every time I came ( I plan on returning) and for $25 I could be a member and not have to pay each time. It made sense to me.