Thursday, November 15, 2007


I’ve written before about my 3x great grandfather, John Cutter
West, who I refer to as The Elusive John C. and gave a
brief rundown of some of the problems in trying to find any
record of him here in Massachusetts. In many ways it's like
working on one huge genealogy jigsaw puzzle. I'm still
working at it.

John supposedly was born in Plymouth, Ma. 8 Oct 1802, yet
none of us who’ve researched that have been able to find
any records in the town of Plymouth. So perhaps it was
meant as Plymouth County? There are at present 28 towns
or cities in it, but there were fewer back at the time of
John’s birth since some of the present towns split off from
others. For example, I live in Abington. The neighboring
towns of Rockland and Whitman split off in the late 19th
century. The town of Norwell once was part of Scituate
and the towns of Marion, Mattapoisset and a section of
Eastham were originally part of the town of Rochester.

About 15 or 20 years ago in the pre computer days I did some
driving around to some of the various towns in hopes of turning
something up. I began in Plymouth and then moved to towns
that bordered it, then expanded the search to towns where my
other ancestors had been born. My Packard ancestors were from
Bridgewater and most recently North Bridgewater (which is now
the city of Brockton). The Barrows family came from Plympton
and Carver as did the Dunhams and Bensons. and the Griffiths
(Griffiths) were from the town of Rochester.

I didn’t have much luck with the search. I then tried searching
some of the older local cemeteries but without knowing the names
of John’s parents it was a longshot which didn’t yield any answers.
Neither did several trips to the NEGHS, but to be honest I had no
idea what records I should be searching so I plan to return there
soon better prepared.

Vacation ended and I put the search aside for the moment, telling
myself that I’d go back to it another time.

That time came last year when I started surfing the internet.
Searching for John Cutter West certainly was easier but was just
as frustrating as doing it the old fashioned way. Apparently
there is an adult movie star who has the same name. But online
access to fresh material (to me) gave me a few new ideas on
where to look.

On the 1850 Census for Township Letter B(later Upton), Oxford
County, Me. there are three West families, one being John C.
West’s family, the other two being of an Eli West and another man
named John West. On the 1860 Census, Eli West’s family is gone
but there is now also a Cyrus West and his family listed. Could
there be any connection between thses families and mine? So far
I’ve found none although it seems that the second John West
moved to Errol N.H. where members of my family later lived.

I’ve googled on the name “John Cutter” on the theory that maybe
John C. was named after his grandfather but with no success. I
also googled names of various West siblings and here I thought I
found something. One of John Cutter’s granddaughters was
named Diantha West. I found a Dianthe West, daughter of a John
West and his wife Relief Kingman and with an older brother named
John. The major problem here is that a search on WorldConnect
indicated the family was from the town of Randolph in Norfolk
County, not Plymouth, and the date of birth for Dianthe’s brother
John was the wrong month and year (2 Sep 1801) for him to be
John Cutter West.

Last night I gave another try on Eli West on WorldConnect and
found several entries for that name listing place of birth as being
Rochester, Ma. Looking further I found that his family was also
known as “Wast” or “Waste”, and that he was descended from
Francis Wast(or West) and his wife Susannah Soule. There were
members of the Soule family in Oxford county as well. So could
John Cutter West have been a member of this family and born as
John Cutter Wast?

I’ll keep looking. Hope springs eternal.

After all, if the Red Sox could finally win the World Series twice,
then someday the mystery of John Cutter West will be solved.


Randy Seaver said...

Hi Bill,

I was looking for a challenge last night, so I decided to see if I could help with your John Cutter West research. I doubt that I advanced the ball any, but it was a fun two hours and got my mind off the other things I wasn't doing.

My first instinct was to see what families may have resided in Plymouth County in the 1750-1850 time frame.

Looking at the possible parents in Plymouth County MA, There were 3 West's in the 1790 census - Josiah in Kingston, Timothy in Bridgewater and Thomas in Rochester. I saw only one West in the 1800 census - Josiah West over age 45, with a male aged 16-26 in his household; that may be a candidate for JCW's father. In the 1810 census, there was only Tabitha West over 45.

The NEHGS has many town VRs before 1850. There were West families BMDs recorded in Kingston, Pembroke and Bridgewater. All or most of these families are in the Rootsweb WorldConnect families - see the Elisha West/Lydia Washburn and the Samuel West/Mehitable Ames families there. Unfortunately, there are few birth/marriage records in the 1770 to 1820 time frame. The families of Peter West/Lydia Keen and Peter West/Lydia Hall have several males that might be JCW's father. The Josiah West in the 1800 census is the one who died in Kingston on 15 Feb 1803, age 68, with a birth date of 10 May 1734, is not in the VRs. He is in the WorldConnect reports as son of Judah West and Bethiah Keen. If you haven't already contacted these submitters, you might want to see if they have probate or other records for the West guys who lived in Plymouth County.

I imagine that you've already sorted through all of this information, but at least it shows that there were a few West fmailies in Plymouth County around 1800.

The other problem is, of course, trying to find relatives in Maine before and after JCW marries there. I'll look at some of that next time.

Cheers -- Randy

PS. Mind if I blog about this on Genea-Musings?

Bill West said...

Please go ahead and post it to your blog, Randy!

I am grateful for the help and information and I'll look into some of those leads.

As you can see, old John C. is a very elusive man!

Apple said...

I couldn't find an LDS batch number for Plymouth, Plymouth Co, MA that would cover the year 1802. (That doesn't mean that there isn't one!)

It was a well known fact in my family that my great-grandmother was born in Syracuse, NY until I found records to the contrary. She was born in the town of Salina just outside the city and anyone from out of the area would never have heard of Salina, so it was easier to say Syracuse. So I would definitely search the surrounding area. Maybe one of the other batches will have a hit. Maybe they only have the same info as the NEGHS that Randy already checked.

The other place I would check is probate records of potential parents or grandparents. But that could get expensive :(

Randy Seaver said...


Before I comment on the Maine evidence, can you answer some questions?

1) How do you know JCW's birth date and birth place?

2) Do you have a marriage certificate or record for his marriage? If so, does it list his parents? If so, who were the witnesses?

3) Do you have a death certificate or record for JCW? If so, does it list his parents?

4) Does JCW have a probate record in Oxford County ME? If so, are any siblings or cousins named?

5) Have you checked the Oxford county ME probate records for all West people? JCW might be named as a son, nephew, sibling, cousin, uncle, etc.

6) Does JCW have any land deeds in the Oxford County ME records? Does the first grantee deed say where he was from previously? If so, who were the witnesses?

7) Have you queried distant cousins of yours (descendants of JCW) about papers, Bibles, or other records of JCW?

Frankly, most "elusive ancestor" problems like this are eventually solved by finding the families of the same surname, and/or the families that moved together, from one location to another. There may be some West families who moved from Plymouth County MA to Oxford County ME in the early 1800's. Read up on "cluster genealogy" and read the NGSQ magazie - it's full of problems like this.

Rest assured that you are not alone in having this type of research problem.

I'm probably not telling you anything you don't already know.

Cheers -- Randy

Bill West said...

1.JCW's DOB is listed in the Bible belonging to Clarinda Britton West
(his daughter) as transcribed by
her granddaughter Florence O'Connor
and I posted the image of the
transcription in "Grandmother's Bible" below.

2. I have a copy of a Certified Abstract of the Marriage Record of JCW and his wife Arvilla Ames who
were married 23 Sept 1827 in Sumner
Maine. JCW's residence is Canton, Maine. AgE and Birthplace are
"Not Noted".

That's all we have. My Aunt
Dorothy gave me the copy of the
Marriage Record. As for other descendants, such as Farell Stewart, they've had no luck in their research either, but they did most of theirs in the pre
computer age. I don't knwo if any of them researched court records or deeds.

On the other hand, back in my earlier looks up at the NEHGS,
I didn't know about such things as probate records. I plan to go up there but probably not until after the first of the New Year.

I'm hoping that the other West families in Upton on the Federal Censuses might provide some clues as well.

Sorry about the writing. It's late and my brain is swiss cheese tonight after working.

Randy Seaver said...

Hi Bill,

Thanks for your timely responses - I'm afraid I dropped the ball yesterday on this.

It sounds like, and looked like in my brief online tour through the message boards, that there are several researchers with the same dead end. Do you know if any of them have pursued deed and probate records to at least eliminate them as possible resources? If no one has done that, then someone needs to do it - it's probably the only way you (or the others) will ever solve the problem.

If you go to NEHGS, please be sure to ask about the deed and probate records for both Plymouth County MA and Oxford County ME. They will probably point you to a published index book for Plymouth County probates which you may find very useful. I doubt that there is an index book for Oxford County ME anything (you probably should check the USGenWeb sites to find out).

Your best bet to find these records, short of going to the repository that holds them (probably easy for you in Plymouth, it's a bit of a drive for Oxford, but a pretty one in the summer), is to find them on microfilm available for loan from the Family History Library in Salt Lake City. The LDS site has a Family History Library Catalog that will help you order the correct films. The NEHGS people can help you with this.

If you go to an LDS Family History Center near you, they can also order the films and help you figure out what needs to be ordered in the correct sequence.

You didn't tell me how you know his death date and location. My guess is that's in the Bible record. Have you pursued a death record from Oxford County ME? It may tell you his parents names (his children likely knew their grandparents names, even if they were deceased when they were young).

Along with that thought is a newspaper obituary for him. It might provide his parents names or sibling names.

I will get around to the Oxford County ME census records - I need a little more thinking time.

Regards -- Randy

Janice said...

Hi Bill,

I even spent some time researching Plymouth NH thinking maybe the STATE was wrong but the place was right. I did find a West family there... Nason West who was married twice and potentially could have had a son the same age as your John C. If you want my notes let me know.


Bill West said...

Thanks for the ideas. I think that at least one of the others who were researching JCW has passed on snd my queries on the West bb's didn't get much response. I'm taking all these suggestions you've given me when I vist the NEGHS and see if I can make any

Janice, yes, please pass the info along if you could when you have time but no rush. I can wait until after the holiday or longer.

And thank you both for yout help and efforts!