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  • Proved, Probable, Possible, Likely or What? Claimed Descendants of Reuben Paddock of Yarmouth, Massachusetts, a Case Study

    Alicia Crane Williams

    In the compilation of any circumstantial case, terms such as possible, probable, and likely are often used.  Researchers preparing a case need to be aware of the subtleties among these terms.  By definition, no circumstantial case is proved, since it is the lack of hard documentation that makes it circumstantial. 

    In a circumstantial case, one first needs to show that something is not “impossible.” From there it is often fairly easy to show that something is possible – that it could have happened.  The next step is to demonstrate through a reconstruction of all findable facts and associations that something probably happened – that it is more likely than not to be correct.  This last step is the hardest to achieve because all circumstantial cases are subjective, and what one genealogist might accept, another is just as likely to debate.

    Even experienced genealogists can become confused over a genealogical puzzle such as the claimed descendants of Reuben Paddock of Yarmouth, Massachusetts.  The account in Mayflower Families Through Five Generations, Volume 16, John Alden, Part 1, pp. 618-619, lists four possible children for Reuben and his wife Rebecca Hand, Reuben, William, Jonathan and Ebenezer.  In the process of preparing the treatments of these children for publication in the next Alden volume, I discovered that it would have been prudent to look more deeply into the claims for these possible children before the initial publication.1

    The birth of Reuben Paddock, son of Judah and Alice (Alden) Paddock, was recorded at Yarmouth, Massachusetts, 27 December 1707,2 but beyond that, there are no known surviving records for Reuben.  Neither Judah nor Alice Paddock left probate records, and the destruction of early Barnstable County land records is a constant problem for researchers in this area. It certainly seems possible that he is the father of the Reuben Paddock (b. ca. 1746 from his age at death) of Harwich who was married at Yarmouth, 20 October 1768, to Hannah Hall of that town.3 This younger Reuben was presumably the soldier of that name from Yarmouth who served as a private in the Revolutionary war during 1777.4

    Young Reuben

    Young Reuben and Hannah had five children baptized at Harwich, Massachusetts, between 1770 and 1779.5 They eventually moved to Holden, Massachusetts, where they had two more children recorded.6 The youngest of these children was a daughter named Grace Sears Paddock, who was, it would seem, very likely named after Grace (Paddock) Sears, sister of Reuben Paddock (b. 1707).7 Young Reuben also used the names of Nathaniel and Rebecca for his children, both of which were names of siblings of Reuben (b. 1707).

    Records for the other sons of Judah and Alice (Alden) Paddock – Samuel, Judah, and Nathaniel – clearly show that Young Reuben is not a son of one of them.8 While this still leaves the possibility that young Reuben was the son of some other Paddock of Yarmouth or Harwich, extant records have not suggested a better alternative than the above identification based upon naming patterns – particularly the name Grace Sears Paddock.  The name Grace does not appear in the Sears family prior to the marriage of Grace Paddock to John Sears in 1734 and no other woman has been found for whom Young Reuben might have named his child at a time when middle names were not common.  Grace (Paddock) Sears died in 1780. Young Reuben Paddock’s daughter Grace Sears Paddock was born in 1787.

    So in this case it is my opinion that it is not only possible that Reuben (b. 1707) is the father of Young Reuben, it is more likely than not correct and thus he will remain in the Alden genealogy until that opinion is changed by a superior argument or new documentation.

    William, Jonathan and Ebenezer

    The other three purported sons are a much different story. Here we need to retrace the trail of “evidence” for the origins of their claims.

    The Paddock family has not been well treated in print. A 1977 typescript states (italics added), “Little is known about Reuben other than he had a son Reuben. He could have removed from the New England area. It is possible he was the Reuben Paddock who m. Rebecca Hand and had a son William, b. abt. 1749, who m. Sarah Little (WdG). His known son Reuben had two daughters named Rebecca, the first having died in infancy.  William was claimed to have had brothers Ebenezer and Jonathan. A Revolutionary War record of Ebenezer, b. 1740, who m. Keziah Case, mentioned, in turn, that he was in service 1775 with two other Paddocks – William and Jonathan. Ebenezer had a son William, a daughter Rebecca, two grandsons Jonathan and a great grandson Reuben.”9 The author goes on to list a few scattered details about Ebenezer, Jonathan and William, using for each the qualifier “perhaps son” of Reuben Paddock.

    Clearly, the Paddock Genealogy author was not convinced of the connections between Reuben and any of these three “sons,” but this book is often quoted as proof for these claims.  When one begins to dissect the information behind this account, it is evident caution is appropriate. 

    The source given in the Paddock Genealogy for this family is “WdG,” listed in the bibliography as “Letter, Mrs. Glenda Wood, Monticello, Utah 2 July 1974.”  Her address gives us the clue that Mrs. Wood’s sources were likely Mormon church membership records, and, indeed, we find proxy baptisms for Keziah (Paddock) Hendrickson of Kentucky and her son Jordan P. Hendrickson, which together state Keziah’s parents were William Paddock and Sarah Little, her paternal grandparents were Reuben Paddock and Rebecca Hand, and that she had a brother Reuben Paddock and uncles named Jonathan, Reuben, and Ebenezer Paddock.10

    The problem is that none of these records gives any dates, places of residence, or identifying details for Keziah’s relatives.  The assumption that Keziah’s grandfather, Reuben Paddock, was the man born in Yarmouth in 1707 has apparently been based purely on the coincidence of the name and the lack of another candidate in published records.  This is possible, but insufficient to be termed probable without some additional supporting material.

    An attempt to gather supporting material was made (probably influenced by the Paddock Genealogy and/or by the same sources used by Mrs. Wood) by gleaning secondary sources for any mention of individuals named Ebenezer, Jonathan, and William Paddock.11 A Revolutionary War soldier named Ebenezer Paddock, allegedly born in Maryland in 1740, died in Vigo County, Indiana. This man is said to have married in Pennsylvania about 1774. The history of Vigo county states that Ebenezer and brothers John and William came there in 1818 from Ohio.12 The names Ebenezer, Jonathan, and William Paddock were found in records in Pennsylvania and Virginia, including a military payroll for soldiers who fought at Fort Pitt. Census records show an Ebenezer Paddock in Nelson County, Kentucky, in 1792, and a Jonathan Paddock in Hardin County in 1800, as well as William Paddock in Mercer County. And so forth.  However, none of these records has been tied together to prove that any or all belong to one set of men – and in this case, while it is possible some refer to Keziah Paddock’s father and uncles, it seems highly unlikely that they can all belong to them.

    No primary records appear to have been consulted outside of the Mormon membership records.  No probate, deeds, church, cemetery, or other records have been investigated to place Keziah (Paddock) Hendrickson’s paternal grandparents in time or location.  A circumstantial argument requires demonstration that all relevant records have been researched and incorporated into the argument, none of which has yet been done here.


    In the end there are no documents to prove that Reuben Paddock (b. 1707), son of Judah and Alice (Alden) Paddock survived to adulthood or that he was connected to any of the other Paddocks discussed in this problem.  Naming patterns suggest he could be the father of Young but it remains a subjective decision to say whether the connection is probable.

    The claimed connection between Reuben Paddock (b. 1707) of Yarmouth and the ancestors of Keziah (Paddock) Hendrickson of Kentucky, while possible, is based on nothing firmer than coincidence of names and cannot be accepted as probable on that alone.  Relationships among the Paddock men of Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Kentucky, and Indiana have not been documented, and the wide ranging and sporadic citations are unlikely to all refer to the same men or prove that any of those men had any connection to Reuben Paddock of Yarmouth.

    Circumstantial arguments are difficult and very time consuming both to construct and to analyze.  Many good lineages may be rejected for the lack of a well prepared argument, and many bad lineages may be perpetuated if care is not taken to properly assess the support behind the argument.  Often researchers avoid the work involved in circumstantial cases because it is difficult, but a good circumstantial case can be a work of art and very rewarding to complete.

    In upcoming articles in this series, we will look at some more circumstantial case histories and discuss what goes into making a good argument.

    1Esther Littleford Woodworth-Barnes, Alicia Crane Williams, ed., Mayflower Families Through Five Generations (hereinafter MF), Volume 16 (John Alden), Part I, 1999. A correction will appear in Part 4 of the series, covering the fifth generation descendants of Ruth (Alden) Bass.

    2MF, 16:1:171, 618 (a descendant of John Alden through his mother, Alice3 Alden, David2, John1);Robert M. Sherman and Ruth Wilder Sherman, Vital Records of Yarmouth, Massachusetts, to the Year 1850 (hereinafter Yarmouth VR), 1975, 1:35; The Mayflower Descendant (hereinafter MD), 13:233.

    3Yarmouth VR, 1:202, 309.

    4Massachusetts Soldiers and Sailors in the Revolutionary War. A Compilation from the Archives…17 vols., 1896-1907, 11(MOR-PAZ):752. Reuben left no pension record.

    5 MD, 13:99-100, 135-37.

    6 Vital Records of Holden, Massachusetts, to the End of the Year 1849, 1908, 69.

    7 MF, 16:1:171, 621-622.

    8 MF, 16:1:171, 619-626.

    9 Robert Joseph Curfman, The Paddock Genealogy, Descendants of Robert Paddock of Plymouth Colony, Blacksmith & Constable, 1646. Fort Collins, Colorado, 1977.

    10 “Nauvoo Baptisms for the Dead, Mississippi River, First Recorded: Sept. 1840, Mississippi River, Change to Nauvoo Temple Font: 21 Nov 1841.” Patriarchal Blessing 39 Dec 1841, Nauvoo, IL, Jordan P. Hendrickson. Young Reuben Paddock’s use of the name Rebecca for his children has been claimed as proof that his mother must have been Rebecca (Hand) Paddock, but it is also the name of a paternal aunt.  Unfortunately, although the parents of Rebecca Hand are mentioned in Keziah’s blessing, their given names are not.

    11 Affidavit submitted to the Mayflower Society in Reject File #1244 (1984).

    12 Dorothy J. Fox Clark, Revolutionary War Soldiers of Vigo County Indiana, 1981; History of Vigo County, Indiana

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