Molyneux Critique Molyneux Critique


by Dr. Philip E. Converse

[This critique was originally written as part of a draft version of Preface to the eight-generation genealogy, The Eatons of Salisbury and Haverhill, Mass., authored by the Rev. William H. Eaton (1818-1896) and myself, Philip E. Converse, which will be published by the Heritage Press of Bowie, Md., probably in 2004. I soon decided that this critique was far too long to fit comfortably there. So I shortened the coverage from ten pages to two for Preface use. While this degree of shrinkage was appropriate, I also preserved this longer critique against the possibility that some readers of the publication version might be put off by my rude dismissal of Molyneux's work where the Salisbury Eatons are concerned, and would prefer to study this more extended "chapter-and-verse" discussion of the shortcomings of Molyneux (1911).

A major treatment of the Eaton clans of the Great Migration to New England was authored by Nellie Zada Rice Molyneux (1911). I encountered her volume 20 years ago, and on very brief examination, decided it was sloppy and untrustworthy, although at that moment I knew so little about any of the New England Eatons that I had nothing very serious to compare it with. The good news was that it seemed far-ranging and erudite, in sort of fits and starts at least. It includes other New England Eaton lines, as well as numerous fragments of Eaton lines still in old England. But at the same time it seemed hopelessly confused in many of its details. It also seemed self-impeaching in its casual linkages of these Eatons to medieval English or Scotch royalty like Banquo and Fleance. That much smelled of some enterprising "researcher" in England fabricating a path back to royalty, knowing that for many gullible colonials in America, this would be the main payoff of the hunt. Briefly I tried to use Molyneux to forward my own research; but I very rapidly decided that it was next to no help for me on the line of John and Anne of Salisbury, by comparison with the four-generation genealogy already published by the Reverend Eaton, or the manuscript material he had carried on to the eighth generation, that I was trying to resurrect. Thus discounted, I did not even glance at Molyneux for most of the twenty years I have by now spent on this project.

In late 1999, however, I felt that before publishing this volume from the Reverend's materials, I should reconnoiter the few thousand family group sheets bearing on the Eaton family accumulated over the 20th century by the Latter-Day Saints Family History Archive in Salt Lake City. This is an notoriously unabridged collation of work from any persons willing to send in the forms. The returns have submission dates stretching back into the 1930s. Submissions come by and large from amateurs with highly variable hours of solo research experience. I did not expect to learn a great deal from this trove, but there was always a chance of finding some exquisite missing piece to one of my many puzzles. And it seemed an issue of responsibility at least to check these submissions for hypotheses I had not entertained, and for Eatons I had never heard of, in my two decades of research.

In this reconnaissance I was struck by the fact that the source most frequently cited by these Eaton sleuths, and by a huge margin, was Molyneux (1911). This immediately gave me pause: I could not responsibly bring out a major Eaton book without yet another delay. I must stop to check our proposed copy against the Molyneux text I had long since avoided. So I spent some weeks in a stitch-by-stitch comparison of my material with Molyneux's. This would have taken less time had my comparisons been limited to the 190 pages that Molyneux devotes to the John and Anne line. But as mentioned elsewhere, I had felt it necessary, in disambiguating New England Eatons since 1620, to get under control the other main lines in New England, including those sired by Francis Eaton of the Mayflower, John Eaton of Dedham, and the Reading Eatons, William and Jonas. So I had spent many months reconstructing those lines as best I could, starting from Eaton Family Association materials on them. I had not even peeked at Molyneux during these several lengthy reconstructions, chiefly because I had forgotten she had covered these other New England lines as well as that of John and Anne. Therefore I wanted to compare her solutions with mine for these lineages as well.

It is hard to catalogue in any brief compass just how atrocious the Molyneux text is, from any perspective of serious genealogy. Or perhaps more appropriately, it is amazing how uneven the quality is. There are significant stretches, sometimes for dozens of pages at a spell, where the text reads quite admirably. But then it collapses into disorganization and confusion for lengthy stretches which of course is the "atrocious" part. I was for a long time rather confounded by this variability. But when I reviewed the work page by page, especially for the Salisbury line I knew so well, I suddenly realized what was going on. When Molyneux had a reliable genealogical text to work from, she was quite good---not perfect, but quite good--at copying off others' work verbatim. When she lacked this crutch, and had to do some genealogy of her own, things dissolve into confusion and witlessness. This is what I call atrocious genealogy. We shall see this in some detail as I proceed, especially where I know exactly what texts she is using for crutches; and where they run out, meaning that suddenly she is obliged to wing it on her own.

Let's start with the easy part, where she has somebody else's text as a crutch. Here all she has to worry about is converting from the text she is using to her own stylebook. But the published version is a minefield of silly errors, especially in the handling of numbers, in a degree which often defies credulity. Some errors are easy to catch, such as a date like "April 43, 1762." But most are not, except as one has independent copy for comparison. The author's stylebook cross-references Eatons with a system of number pairs, such as "48 5," which means the 5th child of Eaton #48. She introduces each new biographical summary with the cross reference in this form, announcing that the subject of the sketch is (e.g.) 149 3 James, son of (48 5). She does not aid the reader by offering the given name of Eaton 48 5, so the numerical system itself must be perfect. It is not. Sometimes the error is quickly apparent, as when there is no 48 5 to be found because Eaton #48, as it turns out, only had three children. More aggravatingly, sometimes, the number pair exists but after considerable perplexity and ferreting, it becomes obvious that the person at this address has no conceivable connection to the alleged son or daughter from whom the back-reference is made. One or another of the bold-faced digits is in error. Since there is not even a given name for whoever 48 5 was supposed to have been, search is almost hopeless. Of course the carelessness with numbers equally afflicts all presented dates. Perhaps as many as one in ten are botched in one way or another. Some of these errors are systematic: for example, armed with an independent and generally correct version for comparison, I came to realize that in the Molyneux text "8s" and "3s" are often interchanged. If 1738 makes no sense in context, try 1788 instead, and then 1783. Perhaps in manuscript the author's 8s and 3s were easy for the printer to confuse. But if so, it is pretty clear that the text was never competently proofread in galley form.

There are other signs of gross carelessness even in the broad architecture of the volume. For example, the book is divided into "Parts" which advance by Roman numerals, each representing a different branch of the Eaton surname. Within these main Parts, there are usually divisions into chapters numbered by generation for that branch. So far, so good. However, the first and longest Part is given over to Molyneux's own branch of Eaton out of John of Dedham. And here the organization proceeds through "Seventh Generation" and then hops to "Ninth Generation." So what happened to the eighth generation? Fortunately, it was not lost. Indeed, the back half of the seventh generation should have been set off as an "Eighth Generation," since everything before line 5, p. 241 belongs to the seventh generation, and everything subsequent in the chapter belongs to the eighth generation. Somebody putting in the titles just forgot to set it off as a distinct subchapter, to fit the stylebook.

A more insidious problem, however, arises because the author's provision of "context" is hopelessly inadequate. The simplest determinants of context in genealogy are a time and a place for every event. Yet Molyneux can go through several generations of a branch just listing sires and begets without any dates or places attached at all. This is not done as a general procedure: especially when she is copying competent genealogy, time and place are more often than not (but not always) copied too. But there are any number of instances where such information is missing for shorter or longer stretches of a given lineage. And in many of these stretches it is inconceivable that some limits on timing and place of residence were unknown to the author as she wrote. More infuriating still is the fact that when she does supply time or place, it is not infrequently inaccurate in one sense or an-other. She is capable of introducing a father listed as born in 1790, with children all of whom were born before that date. This sets off alarm bells, of course, but it does not in-spire confidence in reading anything about children that lacks any dates at all. She assigns child numbers casually, and in some of the occasions where she does have at least some birth years across the child roster, it is touch and go whether she will put the children in birth order or not.

It might seem hard to be as misleading with places as with dates, but she tries. Her capitalized title for the Reading Eaton involves the "EATONS OF READING AND FARMINGHAM," because a major branch of the Eaton out of Reading were settled for a long period in Frmmingham, Mass. From then on, the reference is interchangeably to Framingham or Farmingham for these Eatons. Worse yet, when she gives community names now and again after stretches of silence about geography, she often fails to supply what state the community is in. Thus the text may suddenly localize some event in "Concord," or "Northfield" or `Bristol" or "Plainfield" or "Sutton" without any indication as to which state is involved (and for each of these towns, multiple states are possible in New England). When she does give a state, the town name may be garbled enough to cause further problems. "Farmingham, N.H." finally turned out to be Farmington. "Camden, N.H." was Candia. And so on, through a long list of garblings, which cannot include the ones I failed to detect, which may well be more numerous. In the section on the Dedham Eatons (her own line, so presumably the most carefully done), she follows a branch which removed early to Tolland and Windham counties in Connecticut. After two or three generations there, one son removed to a small community in the middle of Long Island. Some years later, one of his own sons named Jacob Eaton was listed as having removed to "Hempstead, N.H." Now technically, there is no such place. But there is a Hempstead, N.Y., and moreover it is in New York, in the middle of Long Island, and only a couple of dozen miles from the original Long Island settlement of the family. Given the general state of proofreading, it seemed most plausible that the "H" in N.H. was a typo-graphical error, intended as a "Y," even though Molyneux could have meant Hampstead, N.H. After wasting time on this N.Y. hypothesis, I suddenly remembered that there was a Jacob Eaton who had settled for some years in Hampstead, N.H. in the appropriate period around 1750. Of course this Jacob did in fact fit the Molyneux personage in terms of age. But he was a well-known character featured in the local Hampstead history, and the problem was that he was unquestionably an arrival from Reading and Lynn, Mass. (by way of Haverhill, MA), and a card-carrying member of a totally different Eaton line. He was just not from the Dedham line at all. Apparently Molyneux had run across the name and since the timing was right, assumed that this Jacob must have just migrated from Long Island up to southern New Hampshire, a highly implausible move on the face of it. The Dedham Eatons, centered to the southwest of Boston town generally pushed the frontiers westward and southwestward from Boston; the Reading Eatons to the north side of town (at least those whose first hop was not to Framingham) generally moved north and northwest, as had this Jacob in Hampstead. (Jacob's own children settled early in Meredith, N.H.)

Perhaps the most frightening thing is that Molyneux, operating on her own, seems to grab for any name to fill a spot, however implausible the context might suggest the assignment to be. She lists, for example (pp. 320-2 1), a family headed by one John Eaton whom I happen to know was out of the Reading line as well. She indicates that as a young man he removed to "Hollis Road, So. Souhegan river," without bothering to mention what state or town this is. I know it is a location in Amherst, N.H., and I know this John Eaton well. She lists his children with wife Sybil. She only has birth years for the fifth child of the first seven, and that date is 1783. She also provides birth dates for the parents, both of which are in the early 1750s, which nicely maps out to the timing of the child progression. I happen also to have a more complete set of dates, and know that the roster is the usual stair-step child every-two-years progression from the early 1770s into the mid-1780s. As usual, there is room for confusion, given the author's lack of precise birth dates or birth order; but she does have several marriage dates over the seven children, where the latest marriage is 1814. These children all fit my more complete list, but then the author adds an eighth child, a Harrison Eaton born in 1817, after a birthing gap of nearly 30 years, when the putative mother is well into her sixties. Harrison is also born forty miles away, whereas the John/Sybil family had spent its adult lifetime in Amherst. I know who this Harrison is, and of course he had no connection with the Amherst family at all, genetic or otherwise, as best one can tell. Now stories can be concocted to "explain" just about anything. Perhaps this was an illegitimate grandchild being taken in; or a dalliance of father John with some younger woman. (Wife Sybil outlived him in Amherst.) But Molyneux just tacks this birth onto the roster, in part because she has Harrison and wife and their next-generation child roster, and is obviously eager to plug it in somewhere, however implausible. She apparently feels no need to provide any explanation of the multiple oddities involved.

A final example. This is a case where there is almost maximal confusion, but I shall simplify matters somewhat for purposes of brief exposition, since even a simplified version is not easy for any casual reader to follow. The author is working with that branch of the Dedham line that settled in northwestern Connecticut in the early 1700s. On page 139, she lists the children of a David [4] Eaton, who himself was born in Connecticut in 1706. Twelve children are given, and all were apparently born and grew up in Ashford, CT, in the 1733-59 period, to a succession of David's three wives. Her child roster corresponds in a general way to the child roster I have. (My list is 13, but four of these children died in infancy; and the nine survivors have given names matching hers.) Here we focus on some surprising detail provided for three males on the list:
"79 2 Ephraim m Lydia Fowler and settled in Vt.
80 3 David b 1736; D.D. Epis. Ch. Hanover, N.H.

83 6 Simeon d Mar. 28, 1851, at Seabrook, N.H. aged 84 yrs. 6 mo."
My problem with these details is several: First, #2 Ephraim did in fact remove to Vermont in due time, although with a stop in Hinsdale, N.H., where his children grew up. But by my data, before he removed northward, he had married a Eunice Sanger and they lived for some years at Woodstock, CT, near Ashford. So who is Lydia Fowler, an earlier wife, or what? I had no sign of a second marriage; and moreover, the name Lydia Fowler had a Seabrook, N.H. ring to me. I checked to find that indeed, a Lydia Fowler married an Eaton in the Salisbury/Seabrook area in 1756, which is the right general time frame, but it was to a David Eaton, not an Ephraim. Yet David is the next name on this Ashford, Conn. child roster! Could this account for the apparently inaccurate linking of Ephraim with the Fowler lady? And how does Seabrook get into the history of these Ashford, Conn. folks anyway? (Slowly, we shall answer this question.)

Moving on down the list, the entry for #3 David has two elements, one a surprise and one not. I already knew that this David had removed northward early in his adult life, residing for a while at South Hadley, Mass. on the Connecticut River, before proceeding further up the river along with many other denizens of the Nutmeg State to establish himself at Hanover, N.H., a few years before the Revolution. The other element in the description--implying that he was a clergyman at Hanover--was new to me, and bears investigation by students of the Dedham Eaton line. The entry for #6 Simeon adds to the confusion. Here is a fellow who grew up in Ashford, Conn. and resided for his adult life a dozen miles or more to the west, in the town of Tolland (Conn.). Why would he have gone to Seabrook, N.H. to die? Certainly not because there were dozens of Eaton households in Seabrook at the time: he was of a totally different Eaton line--as best we know, not even old-world cousins n times removed--and there had been no known contact between these families in the whole century since their respective arrivals in Dedham south of Boston on one hand, and Seabrook considerably to the north on the other. Moreover, we know a great deal about the Simeon Eaton who died at Seabrook on Mar. 28, 1851. He was the son of Wyman Eaton, in an Eaton lineage out of John/Anne that had resided in the Salisbury/Seabrook microcosm for (by 1851) well over two centuries. Again, what is this bizarre mix of Ashford, Conn. and Seabrook, N.H.? The Simeon record in Seabrook is very easily found: did Molyneux ever look?

For further enlightenment, we forge ahead from these brief descriptions on the child lists to the actual life histories Molyneux gives for these three brothers, Ephraim, David and Simeon, in the next generation. As it turns out (p. 161), there is no further material on Simeon, by the earlier text now carried to death. The Ephraim item reads exactly as be-fore, with the addition of two children: a son Ephraim and a daughter Lydia, no times or places. My own data show three children at Woodstock, Conn. and two more born at Hinsdale, N.H., with precise birth dates for all, ranging from 1765 to 1781. The Molyneux item for David now reads completely differently:
"80 3 David Eaton, son of (22 5)" [*Ed.: the same David[4] as before]" b 1736, m David Eaton was a Revolutionary Soldier. He d at Seabrook, N.H.; Nov. 23, 1850."
No need to fuss further about the fact that this David, by Molyneux's account, dies at the ripe old age of 114. Numbers, as we have seen, are not that author's strong suit. What is interesting here is Molyneux's implication that David, like his brother Simeon, while growing up in Ashford, CT, has moved to Seabrook for his last years. Again, however, we know to a reasonable approximation who the Revolutionary pensioner David, dying around 1850, at Seabrook actually was. We do not have exact proof as to his parentage, but it appears he was born in the proto-Seabrook area late in 1756 or in the first half of 1757; and died in Seabrook Nov. 13, 1848 (according to his pension file). The latter is not exactly Molyneux's date, but it has some of the usual vague resemblances. It is almost certain that this David was the unrecorded eldest child of the David Eaton and Lydia Fowler we have just mentioned, mainly because a son David is a prime beneficiary of the elder David's will in Seabrook, proved in 1795. Most importantly for this account, the David fils was one of Seabrook's rather small handful of "famous" Revolutionary War pensioners in the first half of the 19th century. His pension application of Aug 1832 (when he re-ports an age of 75) testifies that not only had he enlisted in Revolutionary service from Seabrook, but he had been born in Seabrook and had always lived there (Abstract of Revolutionary War Pension Files). If he actually had been born and grown up in Ashford, CT, he was for some reason bent on keeping this intelligence from the authorities. Given Molyneux's track record, it seems easier to assume that she was making up connections whole cloth.

In short, this mishmash of Ashford, Conn. Eatons out of John of Dedham with Seabrook Eatons out of John of Salisbury is one more pathetic commentary on Molyneux's skills at genealogical inference at points where she could not just copy other's reconstructions and was obliged to fend for herself. As best we can reconstruct, she probably began to be misled on learning that the David out of Dedham and Ashford, Conn. had, after arriving in Hanover, N.H. in 1770, done a tour of duty in the Revolution patrolling the headwaters of the Connecticut River against secret British thrusts from the north. Therefore she began to look for what happened to the Hanover David thereafter. She missed that he had removed to Calais, Vt. and died there in 1820. But she did ford among some list of Revolutionary soldiers a David Eaton at Seabrook, N.H., who might fit the bill. Better yet, he was a retiree in the same town as a Simeon Eaton, which may have clinched the identification in her mind, since the Ashford David had a brother Simeon too, and the latter name was somewhat uncommon. If Molyneux had been focusing exclusively on the Dedham line of Eatons, she might have had no realization that Seabrook, N.H. contained one of the two or three most dense local populations of Eatons in all New England for well over a century, albeit a population of the totally-distinct clan out of John and Anne. But she knew this perfectly well, as her coverage in the 1911 volume specifically included these very same but genealogically-distinct Seabrook Eatons. Given this fact, it is quite incredible that she, hunting for a Dedham Eaton name around the countryside and, fording one in Seabrook, would then fail to consider whether the assignment of the Seabrook record to a distant clan of Dedham Eatons was or was not a safe inference.

Before we leave the Molyneux volume, we should return to her skills as a copyist. When I sat down to compare her texts with my own Eaton data inch by inch, I did the other Eaton lines--Reading, Dedham and Francis of the Mayflower--first. Most of the above examples arose during this part of my examination. When I moved finally to her text on the Salisbury line, I was first put off by her primary label for this as the ` Elmwood or Nova Scotia Branch" of Eatons. It is true on one hand that the important implantation of Eatons in Nova Scotia was launched about 1760 by a David Eaton of the fifth generation out of John and Anne of Salisbury. But it should not be thought that the Nova Scotia crew represents enough of this line to dictate an "Elmwood" title. The founder David was, after all, only one descendant out of nearly 200 Salisbury-line Eatons reaching adulthood in his fifth generation of descent. And while he was one of the more prolific as well as more entrepreneurial of that generation, it is obvious that the Nova Scotia Eatons have been a limited minority of the offspring of John and Anne in all generations down to the present. Hence using "Nova Scotia" as the main denotation for this whole line is somewhat peculiar, save as a way of signaling that she will give heavy focus to this one Nova Scotia branch out of Salisbury. It is our guess that she arrived at this emphasis within the Salisbury Eatons exactly because she was a better copyist than a genealogical sleuth. The reasons for this judgment follow.

I naturally compared our texts on the Salisbury Eatons chronologically. From early on I found it unsettling that while my biographical sketches for the first four generations were almost invariably longer, and usually much longer, than hers for the same individuals, I would also repeatedly hit patches where our texts matched absolutely verbatim for spans even as large (in a few instances) as 80 or 100 words. It did not take a moment's thought to know why this was happening: after all, these duplicate passages were ones that I had very intentionally copied verbatim out of the biographical sketches of Eatons in the Rev. W. H. Eaton's four-generation treatise on the Salisbury line published in the later 1880s. What was new to me, of course, was the degree to which Molyneux had also done a great deal of verbatim copying from that publication as well. But it did give me pause to consider the possibility that my Eaton volume begun by the Reverend, but not yet quite published, could be charged with plagiarism of the rankest sort from Molyneux (1911). I soon realized my honor was safe, however, since of course I had long since decided that the Rev. Eaton should be the posthumous senior author of the volume exactly because I wanted to use large swaths of his text--both the four-generation publication and the manuscript covering generations five through eight--in the new volume. This could hardly be called plagiarism, legally or otherwise, especially for the published four-generation material. Of course Molyneux stands in a rather different relationship to the four-generation publication. She copies large amounts of it verbatim, and rarely adds any text of her own. Nor does she ever use quotation marks or, for that matter, even mention that she is borrowing, as best I can see anywhere. Indeed, she includes a rather long listing--some 125 items long--under the title "Authorities for Eaton Genealogy" in the front of her treatise (pp. 7-11). This listing is a mix of sources of "data," along with a larger number of apparent books. The books are somewhat under-identified, often titles without authors, and never described by date or publisher. (This in itself becomes highly frustrating. In one passage on another Eaton line I found a whole nest of major discrepancies with my own reconstructions. Therefore I was extremely eager to check her sources at that point. Only one was cited: a "History of Bond, Vt." with no author, date or publisher. As it turns out, there appears to be no such place in Vermont, at least in the period since 1800. There is an unpopulated protrusion called Bond Hill; a Bond Island in swampy ground in another part of Vermont entirely; and a Bondville well to the southwest, a tiny hamlet of a hundred souls that is unlikely to have been the subject of any full-blown history. Here as elsewhere, her bibliography is sort of a joke.)

The important point is that nowhere in these vague references is any title that I can associate with the Rev. Eaton's four-generation publication. She has generously cribbed many passages from it verbatim, but conceals the fact by not mentioning her actual source, or even that her "work" on first four generations of the Salisbury branch involves almost none of her own words. In view of this, her skills as a copyist take on a new dimension.

By now I was entertaining a new fear. So she had mined the four-generation publication of Rev. Eaton's assiduously. Since she did not publish until 1911, and the Reverend's much larger manuscript on the later Salisbury Eaton generations had already been deposited at the New England Historic and Genealogical Society in Boston in 1904, could she possibly have found this manuscript and mined it as thoroughly also? Here my fear was less about being charged with plagiarizing from her plagiarisms, than the possible absurdity created for my own enterprise. That is, over the 1980s I had slowly come to the conviction that the later Rev. Eaton manuscript covering Gens. V thru VIII should be brought to broader attention, spending many hundreds of hours toward this goal. Could Molyneux have already published much of it under her own name? This could have happened, because as mentioned above. I had long ago decided that the Molyneux was an inferior source before I found the Reverend's manuscript myself; and I had never looked back at Molyneux with that manuscript in mind until January, 2000.

Working through the later stages of Molyneux's copying out of the Reverend's Generation IV, I received my first ray of hope that this had not happened. The general skeleton of our two treatments of four generations out of John and Anne, as well as major pieces of text, had been almost everywhere identical, although formatted somewhat differently and, of course, lacking the extensive further copy I had added to Rev. Eaton's biographical sketches. But suddenly while finishing Generation IV I found a point where Molyneux stated that a certain Nathaniel Eaton had no progeny, whereas my own text had a limited child roster for him. I hastened back to see where I had drawn this roster from the Reverend's original. Now in covering the first four generations, he had planned to send the printer merely a master copy of his earlier publication, generously marked up with sub-sequent corrections. I found the printed statement Molyneux had copied about lack of issue for Nathaniel; but this statement in the Reverend's subsequent master copy had been struck out, with a marginal note penciled in giving the corrected detail about children. This suddenly explained the few earlier occasions where our texts were discrepant, such as an occasional child or two added or deleted. She had not used the hand-corrected version of the four-generation publication, although it had been with the other manuscript copy that Reverend Eaton had assembled "for the printer."

This discovery was, of course, no guarantee that she had not first copied the four-generation publication, and only later found the large manuscript in Boston, never returning to correct the copy for her first four generations. So I arrived at Generation V with some trepidation. There was no problem. Suddenly lacking the Reverend's published text as a crutch, her work collapses into something resembling a zoo, with one or two classes of exceptions. Actually, she inherited from the four-generation publication a list of fifth-generation children which could have served as a basis for new research. Instead, she drops most of these branches, especially the Salisbury/Seabrook ones, wholesale. Of the first ten biographical sketches in my text for Generation V, eight are ignored by Molyneux. The two which remain are an interesting contrast. The first is a Benjamin Eaton, a long-term Seabrook resident, although he had married a girl from Kittery, Me. The marriage is correctly represented, but two children only are listed. Actually, Benjamin and Jane had five children who as adults were major players on the Seabrook scene for years. The two children Molyneux lists are both wrong. End of seven-line bio for Benjamin. The other remnant is a considerably longer sketch of a Maj. Wilham Eaton, who founded the first permanent settlement on Deer Isle in Maine, and launched a population of Eatons on the Isle that grew rapidly enough to rival the Eaton concentration in Seabrook/Salisbury.

It is easy to see what is going on here. Losing the crutch of Rev. Eaton's text, Molyneux had very little fix on the main lines of the fifth generation in the Salisbury/Sea-brook area. Her dependency switches to Maine sources, which are for the most part well-done for the several parties of Salisbury Eatons who removed to that state. Actually, her account of Maj. William Eaton's children is quite partial and at points incorrect as well. But the latter problem surely arises because she missed the more definitive and accurate Maine sources on him (her Maine sources are virtually as invisible in the listing of "Authorities" as is the Rev. Eaton's four-generation publication). The important fact is that when the four-generation crutch runs out, her field of vision shifts almost completely to Eatons in Maine. Her abortive treatment of lifelong Seabrook resident Benjamin occurs primarily because he married (in New Hampshire) a young lady from Maine. And she to-tally misses the fact that Maj. Eaton later in life returned to Seabrook for an extended time and had at least one further wife there; and that one of his sons, Samuel Wardwell Eaton, married in Seabrook and resided there over a decade before also returning to Maine.

In the handful of cases where she does try to follow a Seabrook line, it often leads to disaster. Her next effort as we proceed through Generation V is a sketch about the Seabrook David Eaton who married Lydia Fowler, a case already discussed above. Now we are told that this David became an early settler in Sutton, N.H., and she cites the local history of that town as her source. I have not bothered to see just what that latter volume has to say, but it is true that a David Eaton was an early settler in Sutton (by 1782). However, his wife was Eleanor, not Lydia, and he was from the William of Reading line, whose father Rev. Benjamin Eaton had migrated into southern New Hampshire (Dunstable, Chester) a generation earlier. It is also true that an Eaton line out of John and Anne of Salisbury did indeed after 1800 start a major implantation of Eatons in Sutton. But this colony was basically led by a Nathaniel Eaton, who stems from the Haverhill branch of John's descendants, not the Salisbury branch. And none of Nathaniel's brothers or immediate progeny in this enterprise was named David.

The problems compound as she provides the child roster for the David/Lydia she feels are in Sutton. She gives two children, both of who are among the eight known children of the Reading David and his wife Eleanor. As luck would have it, the first of the two children she cites is a David, Jr., who as the actual first child of David/Lydia in Seabrook, is the Revolutionary War pensioner who spent his residential life in Seabrook just as did his parents; and whom Molyneux has earlier assigned to the Ashford line out of Dedham, where the soldier went to Seabrook to die. (The Reading David, Jr., while born in Sutton, fairly early in life proceeded on to settle in Vermont.) In short, we have here another riot of confusion here.

We have by this point only reviewed the first two pages of Molyneux's treatment of the fifth generation of Eatons out of John and Anne. There are some 25 pages in all. The bulk of the next five pages deal with Maine Eatons, although some few Eatons who stayed in New Hampshire are mentioned. Then she arrives at David Eaton, the fifth-generation scion from the Haverhill branch who led the emigration to Nova Scotia. Here she has a new crutch in the previously-published work of the second Reverend, Arthur Wentworth Hamilton Eaton, the primary genealogist of the Nova Scotia colony, and can begin to re-deem her promise that this major section of her Eaton volume is focused on the Nova Scotia Eatons, and not the line of John and Anne in the general sense. In this spirit, the next 12 pages of the 25 are given over to David the founder, much of it to a long copy of his will. The chapter closes with a few more pages on the rest of the Haverhill fifth generation.

Thus the Molyneux text relevant to the John and Anne line is as derivative of the second Nova Scotia Rev. Eaton as it was of the first. She borrows here with attribution from the early published Nova Scotia work by the Rev. A.W.H. Eaton entitled The Elmwood Eatons (1895). This volume was printed locally and did not, apparently, receive wide currency outside Nova Scotia. Indeed, the author was negotiating with the senior author of this volume to have his Nova Scotia work folded into the prospective eight-generation tome that Reverend William Hadley Eaton was preparing at the time, the better to reach a wider U.S. audience. He only wished to do this, however, if his material could be kept intact as a distinctly-separate and bylined part of the senior Eaton's treatise. We do not know what stage the negotiations on this matter had reached by early 1896; but the younger scholar was undoubtedly very disappointed on learning that the death of his senior cousin had occurred before the manuscript could be completed.

I have long found it sadly ironic that Molyneux is generally considered in this country to be the reigning expert on the Nova Scotia Eatons. She certainly got her publication before the broader audience that A. W. H. Eaton had sought. Although she does make substantial attribution to his work, the success of the dissemination associated with her name must have galled the good Reverend in later years. I have not laid her treatment of the Nova Scotia Eatons against his own original in any detailed way, but all the signs suggest that her text is entirely derivative, in the sense that she did no primary research in Nova Scotia at all. Judging from her relationship to the elder Rev. Eaton's work, my guess is that her main contribution to the enlightenment of Nova Scotia Eaton progeny has been a limited capacity for the organization of information and the undoubted injection of numerous transmission errors, relative to the A.W.H. Eaton's original work. Therefore, it seems important to point out that the 1895 work was not A.W.H. Ea-ton's last statement on Nova Scotia Eatons. That material was published when he was a rather young man; and he continued to revise and expand his understanding of the Nova Scotia line for much of the rest of his life, which means long after the Molyneux volume had entered the literature. His last public statement on the subject came out in 1929 under the title The Eaton Families of Nova Scotia, 1760-1929. I strongly urge readers interested in the Nova Scotia Eatons to consult this volume rather than Molyneux. I would wager that it is not only much more complete, but also that most discrepancies that may be found between the two sources can with a clear conscience be decided in favor of the 1929 work.


Some weeks after completion of my stitch-by-stitch review of Molyneux (1911), I had a sudden illumination that may put a somewhat more charitable light on her work. Nobody can review her 1911 volume without being impressed by the sheer volume of the raw materials assembled for this publication. This is especially true if we keep in mind the glacial pace at which the ferreting out of genealogical data was forced to proceed before 1900, especially for a woman with family obligations living in Syracuse, N.Y., well over 200 miles from most of the sites where the several clans of Eatons she is treating had resided for much of their history in America. Not to mention the materials from England, which must have required either some residence abroad or, as is more likely, the hiring of re-searchers there under conditions of what we now call "snail mail" by ship, no less. Even though the simple copying of other people's genealogical writing could go rapidly enough once those sources were located, Molyneux does try to do some genealogy on her own. In short, it seemed to me that it would probably have taken a part-time researcher two to three decades to assemble and organize all that information from disparate sources, under the primitive research condition of the times.

Now Nellie Molyneux declines to reveal her birthdate, at her spot in the genealogy. I had taken for granted that she would have been in her sixties or seventies by 1911, when her volume was published, since most adults do not begin to take interest in their deeper forebears until they are age 50 or more. But reading of her mother's marriage to Edward Rice in Aug. 1854 (Molyneux, p. 252), Nellie was almost certainly not born before 1855, and perhaps two to five years later. This means that she was unlikely to have been much over 50 when she deposited the completed manuscript with the printer. How could she have completed 20 or 30 years of genealogical research by that time?

This led to a sudden illumination. Perhaps she had not herself launched this research, although she may well have been an accessory in the later stages of data collection for it. Who then had launched it? It turns out that there is an ideal candidate close at hand: her mother. Young Nellie was a Rice by birth and a Molyneux by marriage. But her mother Ellen Amy was born an Eaton, and was the keeper of the Eaton flame in the Rice household where Nellie was reared. Mother Ellen also appears to have had a remarkably advanced education for a young lady of her era: study at a "Polytechnic Hall" in Chittenango, as well as at Canadaigua Female Seminary. Quite possibly she had had a more elegant education than her daughter Nellie. This mother died in 1903, age 70, when Nellie was probably in her forties. It is easy to imagine deathbed scenes in which Nellie, eldest child, was exhorted to preserve the fruit of her mother's genealogical research at all cost, by publication if possible, along with instructions as to what remained to be done before a publisher could be approached.

As we have said, this can put a more charitable light on the enterprise, because Nellie may well have been little more than a naive bystander in most of the preparation of this volume. She may have had little feel herself for genealogy. More important still, she may have had no way of knowing that lengthy descriptive passages in her mother's hand had been simply copied from other published material; and mother Ellen herself may have had every intention to document these copyings more properly for any final publication. Nellie's inexperience could also explain the total lack of proof-reading of the final manuscript, and any number of other oddities which escaped even a quick-and-dirty editing.

This scenario does leave one matter unexplained. We have been unable to find sign of any acknowledgement from Nellie as to a contribution to this enterprise from her mother or, for that matter, from anybody else. If such appears, it is not in the place where one would nowadays expect to find it. Then again, if Nellie was an unschooled amateur, even this gracious touch may not have occurred to her.

(Originally drafted, Summer 2000)

Copyright 2000 Philip E. Converse