Welcome! I really enjoy exchanging information with people and love that this blog helps with that. I consider much of my research as a work in progress, so please let me know if you have conflicting information. Some of the surnames I'm researching:

Many old Cape families including Kelley, Eldredge/idge, Howes, Baker, Mayo, Bangs, Snow, Chase, Ryder/Rider, Freeman, Cole, Sears, Wixon, Nickerson.
Many old Plymouth County families including Washburn, Bumpus, Lucas, Cobb, Benson.
Johnson (England to MA)
Corey (Correia?) (Azores to MA)
Booth, Jones, Taylor, Heatherington (N. Ireland to Quebec)
O'Connor (Ireland to MA)
My male Mayflower ancestors (only first two have been submitted/approved by the Mayflower Society):
Francis Cooke, William Brewster, George Soule, Isaac Allerton, John Billington, Richard Warren, Peter Browne, Francis Eaton, Samuel Fuller, James Chilton, John Tilley, Stephen Hopkins, and John Howland.
Female Mayflower ancestors: Mary Norris Allerton, Eleanor Billington, Mary Brewster, Mrs. James Chilton, Sarah Eaton, and Joan Hurst Tilley.
Child Mayflower ancestors: Giles Hopkins, (possibly) Constance Hopkins, Mary Allerton, Francis Billington, Love Brewster, Mary Chilton, Samuel Eaton, and Elizabeth Tilley.

Monday, April 8, 2024

Potential Ancestry of Ruth Harding Eldredge, born 1776 and died between 1855-1959, wife of Nehemiah Eldredge

Ruth Harding is my 5th great-grandmother on my grandmother Milly Booth Rollins’s side of the family. She has long been a stubborn brick wall as I could not find her birth information. What I knew about her is that she married Nehemiah Eldredge in 1796 as Miss Ruth Harding of Chatham. Their Marriage Intentions:  Mr. Nehemiah Eldredge of Harwich - Miss Ruth Harding of Chatham Jany 30th 1796. (Harwich Vital Records  p 178) Intentions were also published in Chatham.  (Chatham Vital Records p 165)

Nehemiah Eldredge was born 7 June 1775, the son of Elnathan and Dorothy (Freeman) Eldredge. The surname Eldredge is spelled in a variety of ways including Eldridge; I use Eldredge for consistency. 

Perhaps Ruth was a few years younger than her husband, so I looked for a ca 1777 birth record. The only one I have found in Barnstable County close to that is a Falmouth record: 14 May 1780, Ruth Harding was baptized at Falmouth, the daughter of Thomas and Jenny Harding. (Falmouth Vital Records 1:62 citing Church Records 1) If Ruth was born a year or so before her baptism, she would have been 17 or 18 at her marriage.

I haven’t found Ruth or Nehemiah’s death records which might shed further light on Ruth’s birth. I don’t believe they left Cape Cod and are likely buried without gravestones. The pastor at Harwich United Methodist Church (where some of Nehemiah’s family worshipped) told me many of the old records are lost and that has been confirmed by other genealogists. There are some people who give Ruth’s death year as 1823 but no one provides a citation for this.

Nehemiah was living on 7 May 1832 when his father Elnathan Eldredge mentioned him in his will. Many researchers give Nehemiah a 1839 death year, but without a citation. This date does appear in An Eldredge Genealogy, a 1966 manuscript by Ruth Brown McAllister. If only she cited her sources!

Ruth and Nehemiah had at least seven children; only James the eldest son’s birth is recorded:

i.James Harding Eldredge born Chatham 7 April 1797 (Henry K. Bearse Transcript of Harwich Births and Deaths, 1765-1840, citing book 6, page 33); married Rosanna Wixon 3 December 1818 in Harwich; died 1 May 1873 in Dennis.

ii.Rebecca Eldredge born 15 Jan 1802 at Harwich; married Isaiah Edwards 23 Oct 1823 at Harwich; died 20 February 1882 at Dennis as daughter of Nehemiah and Ruth Eldredge [birth date calculated from age at death].

iii.Sarah/Sally Eldredge born 4 July 1804 Harwich [calculated from age at death]; married Samuel Chase; died 2 Jan 1861 at Harwich as daughter of Nehemiah and Ruth Eldredge.

iv.Nehemiah Eldredge, born August 1807 at Harwich (calculated from age at death); married 3 October 1830 Betsey Eldredge at Harwich (Harwich Vital Records p 253); may have been the Nehemiah who married, second, Eliza Sylvia; died 4 Feb 1890 at Chatham as son of Nehemiah and Ruth Eldredge (Chatham VR 2:402).

v.Ruth Eldredge born Harwich 2 Oct 1810 (birth based on age at death); married Elisha Smalley at Harwich 11 Feb 1830 (Harwich Vital Records p 252); died 5 Feb 1892 at Harwich (Chatham Vital Records 2:409), daughter of Nehemiah Eldredge and Ruth Harding Smalley (the surname appears to be an error possibly stemming from confusion over mother and daughter’s names).

vi.Susan/Susanna Eldredge, born 29 Jan 1813 at Harwich (based on age at death); married first George Rogers, second 28 Sept 1845 at Brewster, Enoch Crosby as daughter of Nehemiah and Ruth Eldredge (Brewster VR p 207); died 30 Sept 1904 at Dennis (MA VR 36:38).

vii.Didama Eldredge born 29 May 1819 at Harwich (calculated from age at death); married Benjamin/Bani Eldredge 16 Nov 1837 at Harwich; died 11 May 1910 at Chatham daughter of Nehemiah Eldredge and Polly Harding (MA VR 1910/29 p 246); Polly must be Ruth’s nickname; negative death record search using that name.

They may have had two additional sons, but I’ve found no supporting records other than being included in Ruth Brown McAllister’s manuscript:  

Freeman, born 1802 probably Harwich, died 1822, probably Harwich, unmarried

Harding, born 1816, nothing further 

By searching census records for Ruth’s children, I found two important traces of Ruth which refute the 1823 death date. In 1850 at Chatham, Ruth Eldredge is age 74, living in the household of her daughter Diadama Eldredge, age 30. Ruth’s daughter Susan Crosby, age 27, is living next door. This gives Ruth a birth year of about 1776, a good fit with Nehemiah’s age.

In the 1855 Massachusetts State Census, Ruth Eldridge, age 79, is living in Chatham in the household of her daughter Susan Crosby, age 43. 

I do not find Ruth in the 1860 census living with any of her children, so I believe she died between 1855 and 1860, likely at Chatham. Nehemiah’s absence from these census records infers that he died before 1850 so that 1839 date is possibility.

Ruth’s Potential Parents: Thomas Harding and Content/Jenny Howes

Thomas Harding was born Chatham 29 April 1738 to Maziah and Bethiah (Sears) Harding (Ancestry database “Massachusetts, U.S., Town and Vital Records, 1620-1988") Intentions to marry Content Howes 23 May 1760 in Chatham. He married Jenny Howes 15 December 1760. It seems Content and Jenny are the same person as both are used in records relating to Thomas’ children. The long gap between intentions and marriage could be explained if he was a mariner away at sea. 

Some researchers have Content/Jenny born about 1740, the daughter of Daniel and Elizabeth/Betty (Doane) Howes, but I have not confirmed this with my own research.

The main issue I find with this couple is that they didn’t have children until 16 years after their marriage. Not sure how that could be explained other than they lived out of the area or their children’s births were unrecorded. I can’t find any other Thomas Harding married to a Content or Jenny and there is plenty of evidence pointing to Thomas and Content/Jenny as the parents of Ruth and her known siblings. 

Jenny Harding was dismissed from the Chatham Church and admitted to the Falmouth Church on 1 May 1781. (Falmouth Congregational church Records, Vol 1 & 2) This date is a year after Ruth’s baptism in Falmouth. 

Thomas and Content/Jenny’s children, born Chatham and Falmouth:

i.Mulford Harding born Chatham 10 July 1776. (Chatham Vital Statistics and Town Meetings 1727-1856, p 275) He married Sarah/Sally Young 12 May 1799 at Chatham, called the son of Thomas and Content. (Chatham Vital Records p 193) Many people give Mulford’s parents as Thomas Harding and his wife Phebe Hopkins, but Mulford’s Chatham birth record clearly gives his parents as Thomas and Jenny Harding; his death record names his parents as Thomas and Content. The use of names Content and Jenny add credence to his parents being the couple married in 1760. His unusual name comes from his maternal great-grandmother Patience Mulford Doane.

ii.Ruth Harding baptized Falmouth 14 May 1780, daughter Thomas and Jenny Harding.

iii. Fanny Harding baptized 15 December 1782 at Chatham, daughter of Thomas and Content.  (Falmouth VR 1:62, CR 1) She married Henry Nickerson of Long Island on 8 May 1802, at Chatham, no parents listed. I believe Fanny was a nickname to differentiate her from her mother and she is Content Nickerson, wife of Capt. Henry Nickerson, who is buried in Noyack, New York. She died 28 March 1836, in 51st year, so dates aren’t exact match. (Findagrave memorial ID 17180444)

iv.Hawes/Howes Harding baptized Falmouth 1784, son of Thomas and Jenny Harding (Falmouth Vital Records 1:62, CR 1) Another clue that I have the right parents as Jenny’s maiden name was Howes and his grandmother Bethiah’s maiden name was Hawes. 

v.Sally Harding baptized Falmouth 9 July 1786, daughter of Thomas and Jenny (Falmouth Vital Records 1:62, CR 1)

I have not found Thomas and Content’s death records or a probate record for Thomas in Barnstable County. 

Ruth’s Potential Paternal Grandparents: Maziah/Amaziah Harding and Bethiah Hawes

Maziah Harding was born about 1693 at Chatham (based on age at death), the son of Joseph Harding and Dinah Hedges. He died 31 Mar 1760 in his 68th year and is buried at Chatham’s Old Burial Ground. (Mayflower Descendant, “Records in the Oldest Burying Ground in Chatham,” 8: 238)

Maziah Harding's gravestone

He married about 1721 Bethiah Hawes. 

Bethiah Hawes born July 1701 at Yarmouth, the daughter of Lt. Isaac Hawes and his wife Bethiah Howes. She is a descendant of Mayflower passengers John Howland and Elizabeth Tilley, as well as Elizabeth’s parents. She died 10 March 1788 at Chatham. 

Maziah and Bethiah’s children (first eight from Chatham Vital Records published in Mayflower Descendant 5:121): 

i.Silvanus Harding born 18 May 1723

ii.Joseph Harding born 21 Feb 1725

iii.Seth Harding born 16 January 1727

iv.Desire Harding born 24 April 1729

v.Bethiah Harding born 22 March 1731

vi.Grace Harding born 30 March 1733

viii.Samuel Harding born 29 March 1736

viiii.Thomas Harding born 29 April 1738

ix.Prince Harding born 20 July 1740 (NEHGR 7:388)

I’ve seen additional children Paul and Susanna, but I need to do more research to confirm.

Maziah had a homestead in Chatham near that of his father, on the road leading out of Ragged Neck to the highway. 

Ruth’s Potential Paternal Great-Grandparents: Joseph Harding and Dinah (?Hedges)

Joseph was born 8 July 1667 at Eastham, son of Joseph and Bethia (Cooke) Harding. By 1693 the family had removed to Chatham. He married Dinah, probably the daughter of Tristram Hedges.

Children of Joseph and Dinah from Joseph’s will, order uncertain, from Smith’s Early Chatham Settlers:

i.Joseph Harding m. 1st Jane Adams dau of John of Boston 23 July 1713; m. 2nd Mary Stewart, widow of Michael between 1716-1720

ii.Maziah Harding born about 1693; m. Bethiah Hawes, dau of Isaac about 1721

iii.Dinah Harding b about 1700; m. first William Beer Jr. of Yarmouth who died soon after marriage; m 2nd John Young, son of David of Eastham (Intentions10 March 1721, Eastham VR)

iv.Bethiah Harding m. William Nickerson son of Thomas before Oct 1725

v.Priscilla Harding m. Joseph Howes son of Thomas 2 Feb 1726/7 (Chatham VR)

vi.Grace Harding d. before her father leaving dau Mary

vii.Mary Harding m. John Buck after 1726

viii.Nehemiah Harding b about 1708; m. Priscilla Collins, dau of Joseph of Eastham 14 Jan 1730/1 (Eastham VR) 

Rev Abner Morse in The Harding Genealogy mentions a son John who married a Deborah Nickerson, but the will of Joseph Harding does not mention him or any children of his. 

Joseph and Dinah lived in the southwest corner of Chatham at Cockle Cove, then called Ragged Neck. Hardings Beach, which adjoins this land, is named for him. He served as selectman for seven years, treasurer for two years, and held other offices. He was first a Lieutenant and then Captain of the military company. 

Hardings Beach in Chatham

Dinah, wife of Capt. Joseph Harding died 28 Jan 1738/9, age 76 years. She is buried at the Old Burial Ground, Chatham. Joseph died early in 1745, leaving a will dated 16 February 1738/9; proved 8 May 1745. He is buried with Dinah with just a foot stone surviving that reads Capt Joseph Harding. (The Mayflower Descendant, “Records of the Oldest Burying Ground in Chatham,” 8:238)

Dinah (?Hedges) Harding gravestone

Ruth’s Potential Paternal Great-Great-Grandparents: Joseph Harding and Bethia Cooke

Joseph Harding was born about 1629 in Plymouth Colony, the son of a man of the surname Harding and his wife Martha whose maiden name was probably Doane. He was raised from a young age by John Doane, presumably his maternal uncle, as both of his parents died young.

Joseph married Bethiah Cooke 4 April 1660 at Eastham. (Mayflower Descendant, “Eastham and Orleans, Mass., Vital Records," 7:13) She was born Plymouth about 1640, the daughter of Josias Cooke and Elizabeth Ring.

They had 10 children born Eastham as children of Joseph Harding with no mother listed (Mayflower Descendant, “Eastham and Orleans, Mass., Vital Records," 7:13)

i. Martha Harding born 19 August 1665

ii.Joseph Harding born 8 July 1667

iii.Josiah Harding born 15 August 1669

iv.Maziah Harding born 1 November 1671 [“1” written over “3”]

v.John Harding born 9 October 1673

vi.Joshua Harding born 15 Feb 1675

Joseph married second a woman whose name is unknown. They had children: 

vii.Nathaniel Harding born 25 December 1674 [sic]

viii.Abiah Harding born 26 January 1679

ix.Samuel Harding born 1 September 1683

x.John Harding born 14 June 1697 [could year be transcription error?]

Bethiah’s death date is unknown but likely died at Eastham. She is named in her father’s 22 September 1673 will and in a 1 June 1687 document pertaining to the settlement of his estate. 

Josiah Cooke and Joseph Harding were witnesses to a deed from William Twining of Eastham to Thomas Doghead dated 7 March 1671, Joseph signing by mark so perhaps he was unable to write. (Mayflower Descendant,”Dean—Twining—Snow,” 15:52)

Ruth’s Potential Great-Great-Great Grandparents Unknown Harding and Martha Doane

Martha, likely Martha Doane sister of John Doane, married a man named Harding whose first name is not known, in or about 1632 in England. Some researchers believe his name was Joseph Harding and there is a great deal of conflicting information about this family. Some of the stories say that he was a member of Gov. Gorges party that settled at Wessagussett (now Weymouth) and that they had an older son John Harding. But it seems more likely that she married Mr. Harding in England where he died and that she came to Plymouth in 1632 with her young son, Joseph. 

Sadly Martha died at Plymouth between 25 March 1633 (tax assessment) and 28 October 1633 (administration of her estate). She left personal property totaling over 20 pounds in an inventory taken 28 Oct 1633, but had debts of a greater value. She left her young son, Joseph, in the care of John Doane, presumably her brother who also administered her estate.

John Doane removed to Eastham on Cape Cod, with his large family including Joseph Harding.

Sources Not Mentioned Above: 

William C. Smith, Library of Cape Cod History & Genealogy, No. 36, “Early Chatham Settlers,”  1915

Ruth Brown McAllister compiler, An Eldredge Genealogy, 1966, privately printed manuscript

Luella Eldridge, The Family of Clyde Mulford Eldridge and Other Desc of William Eldred of Yarmouth,  1983 [Nehemiah Eldredge’s death year]

Wilbert J. Harding compiler/editor, The Hardings in America, 1925

Mayflower Descendant, “Descendants of John Young of Plymouth and Eastham,” vol 57, no 1 (2008)

The Nickerson Family Association, The Descendants of William Nickerson 1604-1689 First Settler of Chatham, Massachusetts, Part 1, 1973: 

Robert Charles Anderson, The Great Migration Begins, 1995

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