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Who are the Parents of Samuel Bowen of Roxbury ?

Privacy Level: Open (White)
Date: 1731 to 1802
Location: Roxbury, Suffolk, Massachusetts Bay Colonymap
Surnames/tags: Bowen Winchester
Profile manager: Jim Bowen private message [send private message]
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Was Samuel Bowen (abt.1746-1802) the son of John and Mehitable Bowen of Roxbury, MA or Josiah and Mary Bowen of nearby Muddy River (Brookline)?

I have traced my Bowen pedigree to Samuel Bowen of Roxbury, husband of Mary Blaney, but have been unable to determine his parents beyond doubt. There are two pairs of candidates for his parents. Josiah and Mary Bowen would be the obvious parents with their son Samuel born in Brookline in 1737 except that this birth date is 10 years too early for Samuel of Roxbury who died at age 56 in 1802. On the other hand Samuel's Roxbury proximity and connections to the family of John and Mehitable seem too intimate to be a coincidence, but no reference can be found naming him as a son of the couple.

In one respect the answer to this riddle is of small importance. John and Josiah were 1st cousins, both grandsons of Henry Bowen, himself a son of Griffith Bowen who immigrated from Wales in 1638. So the ability to trace my heritage back to and through the Great Migration is not hindered by the uncertainty of Samuel's parentage. But it is still maddening to have the uncertainty of which line is correct, as well as posing the conundrum of how to enter the known data into WikiTree.

The problem would be resolved if evidence could be found in some document directly tying Samuel in his Roxbury years to either set of parents. Otherwise Samuel of Roxbury can not be the son Josiah and Mary unless evidence can be found contradicting the 1937 birth date or the age of 56 at death to align Samuel's birth and death dates with his age.

On the other hand, and this is my favoured solution, there are no records that deny the possibility of Samuel being the son of John and Mehitable. There is simply a lack of final proof. The problem is that no birth record has been found for a Samuel son of John and Mehitable, yet clear records exist for the birth of their first three children Mehitable, John and Penuel. It would seem strange that the first three births would be registered and a fourth not. Yet that is exactly what happened, as John and Mehitable did have a fourth child, Joshua, for whom no birth record exists. In his profile I have listed information from two contemporary documents that prove Joshua is the son of John (and Mehitable). Of course this simply means that, since no record exists of Joshua's birth, it is not unreasonable that there might be another child born after who also left no record. It in no way suggests that another child exists or, if one did, who it might be.

So, although as stated previously, no definitive evidence exists that Samuel is the son of John and Mehitable, what evidence is there that suggests he might be? Several facts suggest the possibility.

  • The first is family naming. In this time and culture the use of family first names used again and again was the norm. John and Mehitable's own names were common in their families. Their first 3 children, Mehitable, John and Penuel all bear family names. Joshua appears to be an outlier, but both Mehitable May and her grandfather John had a brother named Samuel. It would be no surprise if she passed this name on to a son of hers.
  • Additionally Samuel himself named his two children John and Samuel - a family name from each of his parents if they were John and Mehitable. Neither name is common in Josiah's or Mary's family. (A pity that Samuel did not have a daughter to name Mehitable, which would have pretty much ended the uncertainty.)
  • The records of the First Church of Roxbury also suggest a connection for Samuel with John's and Mehitable's family. In the 17th century several descendants of Griffith Bowen were members of the church, but by the early 18th century most had moved to Woodstock or Brookline. By 1750 the only Bowens listed as church members were John Sr, Mehitable and their children Mehitable, John Jr, Joshua and wife Abigail ... and Samuel with wife Mary and son John.
  • Significantly Samuel appears twice in probate records of the family. John Bowen Jr died in 1775, and his probate was administered by his father John Sr with Samuel a co-signer of the probate bond. Likewise, when John St died his probate was administered by his son Joshua with Samuel again a co-signer of the bond.
  • And finally, in the late 1700's Mary Bowen, widow of Josiah, appears at least three times in the town records of Muddy River (Brookline) over matters of the town council budgeting funds to pay for her boarding and care. Could this have been the case if the nearby well-known, well-off saddler Samuel of Roxbury were her son?

The bottom line is that there are really three possibilities for the identity of Samuel of Roxbury: 1) He is the son of John and Mehitable of Roxbury, 2) he is the son of Josiah and Mary of Muddy River or 3) he is an entirely different Samuel Bowen for whom no evidence can be found. I believe option 1) is the answer. I will continue to search whatever documents I can access online and hope that one might surface that establishes the truth of the matter.

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