As per my original question(s) here: How accurate do late 20th century Genealogical histories of New England in early 19th century tend to be?

I am searching for a birth record for Lucy P. Stowell (N.B. my family generally notes her name as Lucy Pratt Stowell, but I don't believe I've ever seen the "Pratt" actually written out on "official" records)

  • According to the records I can find, she was born in 1813.
  • The first record I find of her is the intention to marry from January 1832, when she is noted as being 18.
  • According to STOWELL GENEALOGY: A RECORD OF THE DESCENDANTS OF SAMUEL STOWELL OF HINGHAM, MASS , the Stowells were generally born/lived in Hingham/Weymouth (towns adjacent to East Bridgewater)
  • On Lucy's death record, her parents are noted as Stephen Stowell and Lucy Pratt. Lucy Pratt was born in Weymouth and then married in and lived in Hingham (married Noah Stowell, father of 2 different Stephen Stowells, one died young)
  • The Stephen Stowell of the right age to be her father was married to "Mary" (according to Stowell genealogy book noted above, quick search of town records) and lived in Hingham.
  • Lucy is listed as a child of Noah in the Stowell book, but not further date is given about her. I have searched what Hingham materials ARE available online, plus East Bridgewater births, Plymouth County births, and Norfolk County births (all online at either FamilySearch or Ancestry.com) and cannot find a birth record for Lucy anywhere.
  • I've also searched americanancestors.org but nothing stood out as interesting enough to get me to pay for a subscription :)

I am aware that Hingham records are comparatively (for New England) difficult to tackle, and perhaps the answer lies in those books/visiting Hingham. Short of that (I am currently in California!) does anyone have any suggestions for how I might further research Lucy's birth record? I should also say that her first "documented" child was born in 1834, and given family history, I'd be open to considering her as being born as late as 1820, but since I have a marriage intention from 1832 and she was subsequently very consistent about her birthday, I think 1813 is correct (I have searched 1810-1820, though, to be clear).

Specific Records:

  • Intention of marriage to Joseph Gannet, January 2, 1832, age given as 18 = (calculated) birthdate 1813 (East Bridgewater town records)

  • Marriage to William Holbrook, July 6, 1845, age given as 32 = (calcluated) birthdate 1812 (East Bridgewater)

  • Death in Quincy, 1888, age given as 74 = (calculated) born 1813/1814 (Massachusetts death records as found on Ancestry.com)

  • States and Federal censuses from 1850-1880, all ages given correspond to a 1812-1814 birthdate.

Less Concrete

  • A cousin of mine (I know, I know, not a "record") has noted her birth date as 13 June 1813; he has the family records, which obviously do not include accurate birth information for Lucy :), and access to family graves, which I do not; I've asked him where this super exact birthdate comes from to no avail, but it corresponds with other date, so possibly useful.

  • According to the Stowell Genealogy book listed above, Lucy Stowell who married Joseph Gannet was born in Scituate, Mass., 21 Sept. 1810. In all other records her birthplace is noted as Hingham, and the date is pretty off in comparison. Also, odd that a Lucy Stowell dau of Noah and Lucy Pratt would have been born in Scituate when the family lived in the same home inhabited by Stowells for ~100 years by 1810, and all other children born in Hingham. Additionally, in reviewing Scituate birth records here, I find no mention of any Stowell births.

  • I've edited the question lightly to fix some formatting problems and a typo, and added a few things for clarity. If I've changed the meaning of anything, please edit it again.
    – Jan Murphy
    May 26, 2015 at 16:53

1 Answer 1


A birth record simply might not exist. Not everyone registered their children's birth with he town clerk, even though that was the law.

I'd recommend broadening the question. Instead of looking for a "birth record," frame it as looking for "date of birth, place of birth and parents" with understanding that these facts can come from any number of sources, not necessarily all from one record.

I notice you did not mention probate records among the sources you consulted. Maybe try locating the probate of Lucy's father, Stephen Stowell? That might list Lucy and confirm him as father. Tax records might show where the father was (or at least where he owned land) in the years around the suspected birth.

Also, try researching all of Lucy's siblings and see if you have better luck finding their birth records. That can help in two ways: 1) It might lead you to Lucy's birth record, and 2) It helps you see where in the birth order she might have fit. For example, if another child was born in December 1811, and survived (signifying mother was still nursing and not fertile again) then it is unlikely Lucy was born in 1812. Similarly, you can use the dates of all of Lucy's known children, especially the first and last, to get another estimate of her birth year.

In general, don't get stuck on the lack of a given record. There is almost always more than one way to resolve a given genealogical question.

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