Friday, January 22, 2010

Widow Sarah Cummings

The short description of William and Sarah Cummings mentioned in my previous post was jam packed with genealogical information. What I find even more interesting, when searching the various genealogical websites (which I will mention in another post), the only information that is returned has Winfred as a daughter. Some of the posts have even gone as far as to call ‘her’ Winifred. See, there goes that ‘Doubting Thomas’ smile again!

It has always seemed incredible to me that incorrect family information has a life of its own. It’s almost like a virus. The correct information is contained in the census record and the short biographical snippet, again shown on the right. All of the genealogical compilations however have the incorrect information. Always, always, always verify your information. Ask yourself this question, "Does it make sense?" In the case of the History of Plymouth, New Hampshire, my guess is the authors probably were intimately familiar with William and Sarah Cummings. The compiler of the Cummings genealogy on the other hand was most likely a distant cousin who probably never had met our couple. If you think about it, he probably conducted his research just like Sarah did. William probably received a letter asking him to list his children and ancestry. If he didn’t specify the sex of his children, you could see why someone might assume Winfred was a female.

The 1910 Federal Census, shown above, finds Sarah listed as a widow. This means William H. Cummings must have died between 1906 (when the History of Plymouth, New Hampshire was written) and the date of the 1910 Federal Census. Remember, William is listed in the History as alive. A rather curious entry has Sarah listed as the mother of three children of which three are living. I guess time will tell if this is accurate or not. She has a farm in the outskirts of Manchester and three boarders living with her. Her place of birth is also listed as New Hampshire instead of Massachusetts. The more I look at this census record, I am thinking that Sarah may not have been the individual giving the information to the census taker. Perhaps one of her boarders answered the door and gave what they thought was accurate data.

1920 Federal Census, shown above, finds our Sarah living with her son, Winfred Cummings and his family. She is 78 years old and listed as being born in Massachusetts. Sarah is living in Plymouth, New Hampshire still. I can't locate Sarah in the 1930 Federal Census and will assume she died before it was taken.

The collection of letters I purchased came from New Hampshire and I wonder if they descended in the family of Winfred Cummings. I'll bet those letters were safely tucked away in Sarah's belongings in 1920. There is very little correspondence dated after 1903. She evidently lost interest in her family tree project, but must have thought it important enough to keep all of those letters safe and sound.

I'll close this entry with a photograph of Main Street, Plymouth, New Hampshire. I found this image at the Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division, Detroit Publishing Company Collection. I'll bet it is a view that Sarah Cummings would recognize instantly.

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