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  • The Family of Rev. Richard Mather: A Genealogical Database

    Virginia N. Wood, Ph.D.

    Published Date : February-March 1988
    While tracing my ancestors during these past three years, I became interested in genealogical databases and decided to experiment with one. After looking at several alternatives, I selected Horace E. Mather’s (henceforth HEM) exhaustive compilation of Mather information, The Lineage of Rev. Richard Mather (1890), as a set of test data and Ashton Tate’s dBase III PLUS database management computer program. The purpose was to summarize the vital statistics - date and place of birth, date and place of death, marriage data, etc. - and analyze other demographic data on this population sample.

    With all the data entered and checked I developed a few descriptive statistics that may be of interest to others, but first the data and assumptions should be described.

    All descendants listed by HEM are in the database, including those to whom he did not assign a number. Because not all descendants were numbered, I superimposed my own numbering system on HEM’s in order to provide a unique identifier (ID) for each person. The database consists of two linked files: a descendant/spouse file and a marriage file. The two files are linked by an identifier which attaches each descendant to the parents’ marriage, and vice versa. This linkage makes it easy to distinguish among multiple marriages by male descendants - something HEM did not do. The descendant file contains an identifier, the sex, name (first and last), parental ID, date and place of birth, date and place of death, and age at death. Of course, some of this information is not available for all descendants. There are 6750 descendant/spouse records, of which 4716 identify descendants of Rev. Richard Mather, and 2087 describe marriages (including cousin intermarriages).

    With this sketch of the data structure, I present the following elementary analysis of the Mather descendants.

    The average life span for all descendants was 37.2 years. Twenty-nine percent died before age 18 (males) or 15 (females). Of those males who lived past 18, the average life span was 53 years, and of the women who lived past 15, the average life span was 49 years. Of those who died young, males died at age 4.8 years and females at age 3.6. On the average, husbands were five years older than their wives. The average age at first marriage was 26 for men, 23 for women. These figures were computed using the available birth, death, and marriage dates for this family group.

    The sex ratio of births is not significantly different from 50-50: 2271 females (48.4%); 2418 males (51.6%). There were 27 births listed as “infant” which could not be assigned any sex.

    The following table demonstrates the growth of the clan.

    66 descendants born prior to 1700
    185 born from 1700 through 1749
    782 born from 1750 through 1799
    2126 born from 1800 through 1849
    1552 born from 1850 through 1890

    In this last group, 1041 were born in 1860 or later; hence they may not have been married or may have produced only one or two children at the time Horace was collecting his data. The size of families began to shrink in the latter part of the 19th century. On the other hand, large gaps of 18 months or more between siblings may mean an unsuccessful pregnancy not reported to HEM.

    Of the 2087 marriages HEM lists children for 1099. These marriages averaged 4.3 children per marriage. One cannot assume, however, that the 988 marriages for which no children are listed [p.17] were all childless, only that no data was provided for them. Also, particularly in the 11th and 12th generations, many children are listed with no birth dates or other information. It is safe to assume that many of these had grown, married, and had children without notifying HEM. Childless marriages here also include those in which none of the children survived. For example, Rev. Dr. Cotton Mather’s third marriage was truly childless, and Gad Mather’s entire family died of consumption (HEM, Lineage, p.267).

    Of the 1070 marriages for which the wives were not Mather descendants, there are 690 distinct surnames. Of the 1005 marriages for which the husbands were not Mather descendants, there are 649 distinct surnames. In 12 of the 2087 marriages, both spouses were descendants. There are fewer than 1339 distinct surnames in all marriages, since some of the same surnames occur in both the male and female spouses - Royce, for instance. The data files are now in such order that I can trace either descendants or ancestors of any person in the Mather family. What is left is to correct errors or add missing data. With a more complete geographical information, migration patterns would emerge.

    I should add that in the process of developing these files, I have also produced a comprehensive index to HEM’s book, including an index of marriages, which is available for $12.50. I would be happy to hear from anyone with additional Mather data or who is also interested in genealogical databases.

    Reference: Horace E. Mather, The Lineage of Rev. Richard Mather (Hartford, Conn.: Case, Lockwood & Brainard, 1890), available from NEHGS Photoduplication Service for $88.00, plus $5.50 postage and handling.

    The author may be reached by mail at 11621 Village Place Drive, Houston, TX 77077. NEXUS would like to know about other genealogical database projects. Send us the names of the families or groups you are computerizing, the software you are using, and your name and address if you would like to be contacted by NEXUS readers.

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