Mystery: How do You Screw Up a Quaker Birth Record?

+4 votes

Help -- Can anyone explain this Screw-Up? I need fresh eyes/other ideas.

Quaker records are great -- data on birth dates, marriages, and deaths - even travel. How can you screw up with these records?

Case in Point that I can't explain. 

Joseph Hewes represented North Carolina in the Continental Congress -- he signed the Declaration of Independence -- important guy. He was born and raised in New Jersey in a Quaker family - we have records of his birth and the  births of his siblings.

By those records he was born 28 day 4th month 1730 (28 June 1730 Julian Calendar). Yet, in a 1913 book (available on several websites) on p. 273 a transcription of the Quaker record appears that says Hewes was born 23rd day 4th month and then the author concludes that Hewes was born on Jan 23. How can this be? 

This date of Jan 23 as Hewes' birthday appears on plaques at various places and on just about every publication and website that mentions him (although some just say 1730).

Here's a link to my website that shows the Quaker record side by side with p. 273 on that 1913 book that I think is the source of this screw-up on Hewes' date of birth.

Mystery of Hewes' Date of Birth

If you click on the link at the top of that page it takes you to my thoughts on the mystery.

WikiTree profile: Joseph Hewes
in Genealogy Help by Robert Test G2G1 (1.9k points)

1 Answer

+4 votes
Best answer
A couple of thoughts:

1 - The Quaker record appears to have been altered. It looks like either the original recorder or someone else went over the day and the month. It looks like the letters "rst" are above the 4, which may indicate that the date was originally "1rst". That would still not be January, but may explain where January came from.

2 - Are you sure that the Quaker record is the original record? Most old handwritten vital records are just old transcriptions of the original record. The original record may be different or may no longer exist and different old transcriptions may exist.
by Chase Ashley G2G6 Pilot (203k points)
selected by Leigh Anne Dear
Thank you for these ideas -- I hadn't considered the idea that '1' may have been altered -- problem with that is that none of the other '1's on the page match the down stroke of the 4 -- so I doubt that the '1' was altered.

Did you click on the link at the top of the page I posted? -- you'll get higher resolution images there.

Wow!!-- you're right about the 'rst' -- that does look altered.

But as you suggest 1st month is march and not january but again you're right it does explain where January comes from!!

Original record -- Probably not -- I've spent a couple hours searching for another record. Joseph Hewes' Mothers family (Providence Worth) is listed under an older record and this newer transcription so I suspect there is an older record. If you click on that link at top of page I have another image of a different transcription of  the same Joseph Hewes record.

Thank you for your suggestions -- the '1' 'rst' is really interesting.
Chase, on second thought I think this is the original record. The lines at the top are clearly in a different hand.

1.The first line reads Aaron Hughs's Child and then in another hand the 'ren' has been added and the names of children 2-5 are in a different hand.

2. The entries on pages before and after this one are in different hands.

Robert, the majority of my ancestry is Quaker so I've poured over lots of these records. Yes, that entry appears to have been altered but at the time it was written or later? Unknown.

I would think the image on your linked page is most likely not the original birth record since all the children are in the same hand in chrono order and there are 14 years covered by these children. To me this appears to be a later transcription of the meeting minutes, made 1742 or later. It is common for minute books to later be transcribed into more orderly affairs than the original. What happens to the originals? I do not know. I have found multiple versions of the same information transcribed into new books at different times. Some original minute books I've seen are an amazing hodgepodge of birth, marriage and death records sometimes in date order, sometimes not, sometimes not in a logical sequence because someone had failed to leave adequate room for things, etc.

These are the Monthy Meeting minutes. Is the birth recorded in the Quarterly Meeting minutes? It would be interesting to see what date is found there.

T -- Thanks for looking at this -- I really appreciate fresh eyes and outlooks.

I'm not certain what you mean by an original birth record. I too have been working with Quaker records for 20 years or so and I've never seen a record that isn't a listing of the whole family written mostly in the same hand writing. For example here is the listing for Joseph Hewes' mother's family both in what I would call the original record and a later transcription of that record: Providence Hewes family  I think all Quaker birth records that I have seen have been a collection of data gather much earlier. This is interesting and I wonder Could you refer me to something that is more like a record that was produced within a month or so of the birth? 

I understand the actual minutes of a monthly meeting looking a bit ragged if they are the original minutes, but these birth - death - marriage records are a different matter. I haven't used Quarter Minutes Records that much but I don't think I've ever seen a marriage, birth or death record in them. 

The first thought that came to mind looking at this were some MM minutes north of England (probably York but I have to look) where nothing is in order, everything is haphazard, writing can be nearly illegible, etc.  Birth entries of one family can be spread over a couple dozen pages (in one case it was even in a different book with wrong dates on the cover) as nothing is separated by family. If you've got an Ancestry account I can link you to those specific examples--they've got the film (perhaps others do as well). I have also seen similar things in MM minutes around Philadelphia 1682-1720-ish where many are not transcribed and I'm still searching for all birth and other records on one family as they are all over the place in the minute books. They are a muddle.

QM and YM minutes. I do find things from MM minutes repeated here. Particularly true of perhaps more prominent people or more notable horrors. I recall one example of the Nicholson family who fled Quaker persecution in Massachusetts where the only surviving record of one son's murder in Virginia (tracked, chased and murdered) I found in the Philadelphia Yearly Meeting minutes. In that case I know the entry was made quite a number of years later because the clerk had entered a comment that dated approximately when the entry was made.
Very interesting -- I'll have to keep my eyes open for that. -- The early records of the Salem NJ MM -- anything prior to about 1690 are unreadable and maybe some of those would have notes on birth that are out of order -- now that I think about it I guess I have seen lists -- and come to think of it Philadelphia records do show that -- that seem to be current with the births. You're right!!

Thanks T. I'll look again at the Chesterfield Records
Just don't go blind hunting through that stuff! I can take about an hour of it at a time before I just can't see well and I start missing things.
Ha ha  -- then you have more stamina for it than I have.  20 minutes is about all I can take at a time.

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