Saturday, January 30, 2016

Who Was the Father of David Sukeforth's Wife Abigail? Part 1

Tracing a woman's maiden name in mid-19th century Maine can be tricky, especially when the woman married more than once. Marriage records rarely include parents' names, and death records (if they exist at all) only occasionally do so. And whatever records you do find can be misleading and contradictory.

When I first started piecing together the Sukeforth clan several years ago, a good deal of my initial material (births, deaths, spouses, children) came from the Maine Old Cemetery Association (MOCA) compilation of gravestone inscriptions. One such listing was for David G. Sukeforth (my first cousin 4x removed) and his wife Abby J., whose inscription was followed by the parenthetical and cryptic comment "See Daniel R. GRINNELL Lot".1 Such notations in the MOCA compilations usually just mean the graves are located within the referenced lot, and might indicate anything from close relatives to distant relations or longtime friends. At the time I didn't find any obvious connection between the Grinnells and either David or Abby, so I disregarded the note.

So who was Abby? The first step was finding a marriage record. According to the town records, David married "Abagail J. Fossett" on 27 Dec 1855. Their marriage intentions were a bit more specific, however, naming the prospective bride as Mrs. Abagail Fossett, presumably a widow.2 And indeed, the Grafton Suckforth household in 1860 included not only Abagail Suckforth, 36, but also one Lydia E. Fossett, age 12, obviously Abagail's daughter from her previous marriage.3 I would need to hunt further for Abby's maiden name.

Marriage intentions, Mr. David G. Suckforth and Mrs. Abagail Fossett, 27 Dec 1855, Appleton, Maine

David G. Suckforth-Abagail J. Fossett marriage, 27 Dec 1855, Appleton, Maine

1860 U.S. census, Appleton, Knox County, Maine, Grafton Suckforth household
The obvious route was by way of her first marriage; searching for a Fossett marrying an Abigail, I soon located the 1845 marriage (intentions) between Thomas C. Fossett of Union and Miss Abigail Overlock of Liberty.4 I also located an entry on Ancestry's One World Tree for an Abigail Jane Overlock (b. 11 Jan 1824, South Liberty, daughter of Michael and Sophronia (Bagley) Overlock) with two husbands, Thomas C. Fossett and David Suckforth,5 but I am cautious about online trees, especially considering both men were supposedly born in Liberty (definitely not true for David Sukeforth, and questionable for Thomas Fossett who was "of Union" in 1845).

If they married in 1845, they should be in the 1850 census, where I found a Thomas Fossett household in Liberty, with Thomas, 38, Abigail, 28, and Lydia E., 2.6 Although Abby's age is off by two years, and Thomas has no middle initial given, this seems almost certainly the same Abigail and Lydia E. found in David's 1860 household.

1850 U.S. census, Liberty, Waldo County, Maine, Thomas Fossett household
I also found two other 38-year-old Thomas Fossetts in the general area. The one in Bristol, with wife Mary, 23, and children Mary E (4), and Thomas N (2), seemed too far off the mark to worry about, but the other one was a different story: this Thomas is listed with middle initial C, lives in Union, and with him is a probable wife named Abigail.7

1850 U.S. census, Union, Lincoln County, Maine, Henry Fossett household
However, Abigail is listed as 33, which is quite a bit off, and the child listed with them is named Ellen, age 1, so I had to assume the Abigail Fossett in Liberty was the one who married David Sukeforth. Still... perhaps the one in Union was Abigail Overlock, and David married a different Abigail altogether. Also troubling was the fact that both of the Thomas-Abigail couples disappeared from the census after 1850; the only Thomas Fossett born about 1812 found in subsequent censuses in the area is the one in Bristol.

More recently, I discovered Royce Miller's Appleton Register of Deaths, which states that Abigail Jane Sukeforth, wife of David Grafton Sukeforth, "was dau. of Michael Overlock". By then I had found that the Overlocks are buried near the Sukeforths in Miller Cemetery, so that relation certainly seemed plausible. However, Miller goes on to say that her first husband was "Thomas C. Fossett, son of Henry."8 That set me back a bit: the Thomas C. Fossett in Union in 1850 is in the household of Henry Fossett, age 67, most likely Thomas's father. What were the chances that two Thomas Fossetts the same age, both sons of Henry, would both marry an Abigail? Yet the daughter of Thomas in Union was Ellen, not Lydia, and Abigail's age is wrong. I finally put this mystery aside and moved on to research other relatives.

Then, just the other day, while hunting Sukeforths in FamilySearch's Maine Cemetery Collections, I ran across an entry in the relatively recent Nathan Hale Cemetery Collection for "Abby J Grinnell Sukeforth." This struck me as odd, since I didn't recall any Abby Grinnell marrying a Sukeforth in the 1800s. Pulling up the card image, I found it was for the "wife of David G Sukeforth" and "dau of Daniel B Grinnell" (emphasis added).9

Abby J. Sukeforth card, Miller Cemetery, Nathan Hale Cemetery Collection
Was that the reason for the MOCA reference to the "Daniel R. GRINNELL Lot"? (It turns out that the cards in the Nathan Hale Cemetery Collection index were actually compiled by MOCA, so the two references are almost certainly from the same source.) Were Miller's Register of Deaths and the OneWorldTree entry wrong about Abby being an Overlock?

This demanded further investigation.

To be continued...

  1. Maine Old Cemetery Association, comp., Maine Cemetery Inscriptions: Knox County, MOCA Special Pub. No. 16, Edition No. 1: Series 1, 2 and 3, digital images (pdf), CD-ROM (Rockport, Maine: Picton Press, 2006), p. 43, David G. Sukeforth lot, Miller Cemetery, Appleton, Maine.
  2. Original Records of Maine Towns and Cities: Town of Appleton, 1729-1892, digital images (pdf), CD-ROM (Rockport, Maine: Picton Press, 2005), pdf p. 93, marriage intentions between Mr. David G. Suckforth and Mrs. Abagail Fossett, 27 Dec 1855, and pdf p. 126, David G. Suckforth-Abagail J. Fossett marriage, same date.
  3. 1860 U.S. Census, Knox County, Maine, Appleton, p. 38-8 (?), dwelling 258/58, family 270/61, Grafton Suckforth household; digital images, Ancestry ( : accessed 12 Jun 2012).
  4. Original Records of Maine Towns and Cities: Town of Union, 1774-1899, digital images (pdf), CD-ROM (Rockport, Maine: Picton Press, 2005), pdf p. 337, marriage intentions between Mr Thomas C. Fossett and Miss Abigail Overlock, 12 Jun 1845.
  5. “OneWorldTree,” database, Ancestry ( : accessed 16 Jun 2012), entry for Abigail Jane Overlock.
  6. 1850 U.S. Census, Waldo County, Maine, Liberty, p. 48 (stamped), dwelling 635, family 682, Thomas Fossett household; digital images, Ancestry ( : accessed 12 Jun 2012).
  7. 1850 U.S. Census, Lincoln County, Maine, Union, p. 40/528, dwelling 286, family 296, Henry Fossett household; digital images, Ancestry ( : accessed 29 Jan 2016).
  8. Royce Miller, ed., Register of Deaths From the Beginning Until 1950, Appleton, Maine, updated 6th ed. (Gloucester, Mass.: Appleton Historical Society, 1999-2001), p. 183, entry for Abigail Jane (Overlock) Sukeforth, d. Jan. 30, 1877; compiled from town records and histories, gravestone inscriptions, obituaries, Bible records, and many other sources. I don't give any credence to Miller's added comment that "we now believe there were two Abigails: one, the sister of David Grafton Sukeforth, who married Thomas Fossett, and one, his wife, formerly Abigail Overlock", because I have seen no evidence at all of an Abigail Sukeforth in the entire generation of which David is a part, let alone in his immediate family.
  9. "Maine, Nathan Hale Cemetery Collection, ca. 1780-1980," database and images, FamilySearch ( : accessed 24 January 2016), card for Abby J Grinnell Sukeforth, 1877; citing Miller Cemetery, Appleton, Knox, Maine.

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