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Who was Elizabeth ( ) Gatchell by Lillian Seebohm

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Date: [unknown] [unknown]
Location: District of Mainemap
Surnames/tags: whitaker gatchell
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Seebohm, Lillian. "Who was Elizabeth (__) Gatchell?" Downeast Maine genealogical newsletter, undated, reprinted at Gatchell/Getchell Descendants, pp. 18-20:

The case for Elizabeth's maiden name was researched and eloquently and convincingly espoused in an article in the Downeast Maine genealogical newsletter many years ago. It was published as follows:


by Lillian Seebohm

Undoubtedly, one of the greatest challenges to a genealogist tracing family lines is to be able to discover the surname which belongs in the (_________) which so frequently follows the given name of an early ancestress. I have sought to meet this challenge in one case; and I here set forth the conclusion I have reached regarding the maiden name of Elizabeth Gatchell, the wife of Capt. John³ Gatchell (Samuel²-¹), of Salisbury, Essex County, Massachusetts and Scarborough and Brunswick, Maine. My research into the Gatchell family has shown me that there are still a large number of descendants of John³ and Elizabeth Gatchell in Maine, several of whom are actively tracing their ancestral lines. I should like to submit my hypothesis for their consideration and for consideration by any other person who may find it of interest.

The first child of John³ and Elizabeth (_________) Gatchell was John⁴ Jr., born at Scarborough, April 25, 1719. On November 7, 1742, he married Mary Barbour of Falmouth. In his History of Durham, Maine, Everett Stackpole lists the twelve children of John⁴ and Mary Gatchell (although he ascribes them to John³). The eleventh child and youngest daughter was Elizabeth W., born February 15, 1764, who married Samuel Tracy. The International Genealogical Index to the Latter Day Saints' (Mormon) genealogical collection contains this entry: "Gatchell, Elizabeth Whitecar, married Samuel Tracy at Brunswick, Cumberland County, Maine, May 28, 1783." Here was a woman bearing the given name of her grandmother; and her middle name was certainly a surname, possibly her grandmother's maiden name. In several of my family lines, I had encountered instances where a female child was named for her grandmother, with the grandmother's maiden surname being the child's middle name. I felt, therefore, that here was a possible clue to the identity of Elizabeth (_________) Gatchell.

"Whitecar" somehow did not seem to be an actual surname, but rather a corruption or misspelling of a name. Broken into syllables and spoken, it can become "Whi-te-car" or a common surname "Whitaker". Assuming that this was the name, I looked for other instances of the spelling "Whitecar". In Massachussetts Soldiers and Sailors of the Revolution it appears among a large number of variant spellings of the name Whitaker. In the 1820 federal census, a Moses Whitecar appears in Montville, Maine. The index to volumes 1-50 of the New England Historical and Genealogical Register lists a dozen different spellings under the heading "Whitaker" - among them "Whitacar", "Whitacer" and "Whiticar". The vital records of Beverly, Massachusetts, show the marriage in 1716 of Abraham Whitticer and Lydia Stone. Subsequently, Lydia "Whitecar" owned the covenant and had a child baptized in 1718; and in 1724, a Lydia "Whitecar" married Edward Whittington of Marblehead. I was satisfied that "Whitecar" could well be "Whitaker". The problem, then was to find an Elizabeth Whitaker who could feasibly have become the wife of John³ Gatchell.

Savage's Genealogical dictionary of New England has the following entry in Volume IV, page 507: "WHITACRE, WHITTACRE, or WHITAKER, Abraham, Haverhill, had prob. Abraham, born about 1657; William, about 1659; and with son Abraham took oath of allegiance November 1677." The mention of Haverhill in connection with the name Whitaker was my cue to consult the Haverhill vital records.

Of the Whitaker (Whiticker, Whitticker) families I found there, I list only the two, which pertain to this study:

I. Abraham, married 19 March 1656 to Elizabeth Simmons; Children:

  1. Abraham Jr., born 28 February 1657
  2. *William, born 21 December 1658
  3. Isaac, born 30 July 1661
  4. Hannah, born 15 April 1664; died in infancy
  5. Jacob, born 26 May 1665
  6. Hannah, born 16 September 1668; died young
  7. Henry, born 24 September 1672
  8. Hannah, born 19 March 1674/5
  9. John, born 27 August 1679

II. William, son of Abraham and Elizabeth (Simmons) Whitaker, married 15 January 1684 Sarah Emerson, daughter of Robert; Children:

  1. William, born 4 December 1685
  2. Sarah, born 5 June 1687
  3. Mary, born 14 May 1689
  4. Ruth, born 11 June 1691
  5. Hannah, born 7 August 1693
  6. Priscilla (twin), born 13 March 1696
  7. Steven (twin), born 13 March 1696
  8. Elizabeth, born 7 April 1698
  9. Daniel, born 14 December 1699
  10. Thomas, born 21 January 1702

(William Whitaker married a second time in January 1703, his wife Sarah having died in August, 1702. The children of the second marriage are not of importance to this story.)

It is my belief that Elizabeth Whitaker (or Whiticker, as it is spelled in the Haverhill records) becamethe wife of John³ Gatchell circa 1718. I advance the following facts as support for this assertion:

1. In the NEH&GR, Volume 63, page 265 et seq., appears an article on "The Family of Samuel Getchell of Salisbury, Massachussetts", by Everett Lament Getchell and Frederick G. Getchell. In this article, Elizabeth Gatchell is said to have been born in 1697 and to have died on 10 May 1771. However, the gravestone of John³ Gatchell, in the Gatchell graveyard, which is located on what isnow the Naval Air Station at Brunswick, bears this inscription: "Here lies ye body of Capt. John Gatchell who Died May ye 10th In ye 74th Year". This would indicate that he was born in 1697. It seems highly improbable that John and Elizabeth were born in the same year and died on the same day. The Elizabeth Whitaker born in Haverhill on 7 Ap 1698 would surely have been of a suitable age to have married John³ Gatchell.

2. Haverhill is very close geographically to Salisbury, and there seems to have been a great deal of social and commercial intercourse among the towns of northern Essex County. John Gatchell's brother Nathaniel married a Haverhill woman and resided there for several years before moving to Maine.

3. Perhaps the most convincing evidence is the appearance among the children of John and Elizabeth the names borne by members of Elizabeth's family which do not appear in the earlier generations of John's family nor among his siblings. Their seventh child was Ruth; Elizabeth had a sister Ruth. The eighth child was Stephen; Elizabeth had a brother Stephen. The ninth child was Sarah; Elizabeth's mother was Sarah. The eleventh and youngest child was William, Elizabeth's father was William.

The Haverhill vital records provide no information regarding the marriage of Elizabeth Whitaker. Charles Pope, in his The Haverhill Emersons lists the children of William Whitaker/Whiticker and Sarah Emerson without further comment. In an article "Early Whittlers, Widgers and Whittakers in Essex County" which appeared in the Essex Institute Historical Collections, Vol. XLIX, David Hoyt shows whom each of the children of William Whitaker married, with the exception of Hannah and Elizabeth. He states that Hannah probably died young; of Elizabeth, he says nothing further.

Since I have not yet been able to find proof in the official records to which I have access, and since such information apparently has also eluded others, I invite other Gatchell descendants to join me in seeking to either prove or disprove my theory regarding the identity of Elizabeth (________) Gatchell.


(Not all cited by the article)

  • Brunswick (Maine). Town Clerk. "Town and vital records, 1737-1911." FHL film 10,598. "Maine Vital Records, 1670-1921," database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:3Q9M-C9BJ-J9YG-P : 28 November 2018). image 284 of 500. Brunswick, Maine, page 538, line 1, marriage intention of Samuel Tracy and Elizabeth Wheticar Gatch[ell], May 8, 1783.
  • "Maine Vital Records, 1670-1921," database with images, FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:Q28Q-LQRP : 22 July 2021), Saml Tracy and Elizabeth Whitecar Gatchell, 28 May 1783; citing Brunswick, Cumberland, Maine, United States, multiple sources, Maine; FHL microfilm.
  • "Maine Vital Records, 1670-1921," database with images, FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:Q28Q-L9H2 : 24 February 2022), Saml Tracy and Elisabeth Wheticar Gates, 08 May 1783; citing Brunswick, Cumberland, Maine, United States, multiple sources, Maine; FHL microfilm.
  • "Maine Vital Records, 1670-1921," database with images, FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:Q283-PXX8 : 22 July 2021), Samuel Tracy and Elizabeth Whitecar Gatchell, 28 May 1783; citing Brunswick, Cumberland, Maine, United States, multiple sources, Maine; FHL microfilm.

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