Solomon DecodedAug 26th, 2009 | By Leonard Legends & Legacies | Category: Questions & Ancestors
Let’s face it, most of us are in this genealogy game for the intrigue. Why did so-and-so disappear? Why did he/she change his/her name? Where the hell did those people come from? Who among us didn’t love Dan Brown’s Da Vinci Code? (The book, not Ron Howard’s lame-ass movie.)
So. In the spirit of discovery, I set out to untangle a couple of perpetual misdirections in the story arc of one Solomon Leonard, American progenitor.
If you surf enough family trees on Ancestry.com, RootsWeb, or even the IGI, sooner or later you’ll find Solomon Leonard called “John Solomon” Leonard, married to “Mary” rather than Sarah Chandler. “Blasphemy!” I say, as the Bible of all things Mayflower, The Mayflower Families Through Five Generations, Vol 15, p8, clearly states that:
SARAH CHANDLER3 (Isabella2 Chilton, James1)… m. Duxbury ca. 1640 SOLOMON LEONARD (LENNER or LEONARDSON), b. prob. Monmouthshire, England ca. 1610; d. Bridgewater bef. 1 May 1671.
So how did these erroneous factoids become so widespread? Well, in a word, laziness. Name collectors aren’t known for checking their sources and the sources, in this case, appeared to be valid. It all started with noted historian/judge Nathum Mitchell, who penned The History of the Early Settlement of Bridgewater, MA. in 1840. He noted, on page 244, that Solomon died in 1686, leaving a widow “Mary.”
In point of fact, Solomon died before 1671 leaving a widow Sarah, but his son Solomon died in 1686, leaving a widow “Mary.” Further complicating the story, it’s entirely possible the two of them were living on land that belonged, at one time, to Roger Chandler, leaving the impression that “Mary” must’ve inherited her “father’s” land. In actuality, it was Sarah (Chandler) Leonard who inherited land from Roger, which she and Solomon Sr. then left to their children, including son “John.” (See where this is going?)
In the settlement of Solomon Sr.’s estate in 1675, son Samuel confirmed that son John, coincidentally married to a woman named “Sarah,” got the 50 acres of land originally left to Sarah, his mother. Around and around we go.
James Savage, who wrote A Genealogical Dictionary of the First Settlers of New England in 1860, simply repeated Judge Mitchell’s error without much thought.
By the time Manning Leonard came along to write the most comprehensive history of Solomon’s line to date, he was well aware of some unintentional errors in The History of Bridgewater. So, too, was the original author, Judge Nathum Mitchell. Manning and Mitchell in fact collaborated, to some degree, on Manning’s Memorial: Genealogical, Historical, and Biographical of Solomon Leonard 1637 published in 1896. The two of them agreed that errors are inevitable “from frequent repetition of Christian names in different families.”
Manning Leonard, according to his Preface, “had some acquaintance with Hon. James Savage and sought to have in his great work, which was then in manuscript, a correction of the published errors in regard to our progenitors. Many of them, however, it will be seen, have been perpetuated.” That’s a left-handed compliment if ever I saw one.
Manning was the first to notice that the Solomon Leonard estate settlement of 1675 happened before Solomon Jr. had passed on. So he did untangle the Solomon-Solomon confusion, but he still had Solomon Sr. married to a “Mary” (presumably Chandler). It would be years before the editors of MF5G (Mayflower Families Through Five Generations) would track down the real spouses of the three Chandler daughters and set the record straight. To wit:
- Sarah CHANDLER m. Solomon LEONARD ca 1640
- Mary CHANDLER m. Edmund BRUFF
- Martha CHANDLER m. John BUNDY bef 1649
The moral of the story? CHECK YOUR SOURCES. And don’t assume that because three-out-of-four
dentists gynecologists genealogists agree, they are right. Keep looking, until you find the most recent source, who comes closest to using primary, rather than secondary evidence.
Now, if I could just determine whether Solomon was a member of the Knights Templar….