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  • Migrations and “Nodal Points”

    Philip S. Thayer

    Published Date : December 1987
     As in many family histories, there is a pattern of migrations in the families of my father’s ancestry, though on a much smaller scale than for those families which participated in the opening of the West. Even within the narrow confines of Massachusetts and Connecticut, there existed quite distinct geographical groupings of families and migration patterns.

    The Thayers of our line did not leave Braintree and vicinity for the first five generations in this country, until Reuben6 went all the way west to Belchertown!  Thus the story of the early Thayers and their wives is largely a story which took place in one narrow area.  There they so intermarried that I have four lines from Richard1 Thayer and two from his putative brother, Thomas1, as well as multiple lines from other early residents of Braintree, including three each from Moses1 Paine and Quinton1 Pray and four from John Hayden.  Once the Thayers arrived in Western Massachusetts, they married women with other origins and lost some of their inbred character.

    This observation introduces the point of this essay, the concept of “nodal points,” marriages which represent the fusion of different migratory streams. Such marriages are the major influence in breaking out of the local breeding pool.

    If one goes outside the strictly Thayer ambit, and looks at other families which eventually contributed to my ancestry, more migrations are evident.  The most distinctly different one is the stream of Connecticut families (Gunn, Root, Marsh, Belden, Gillett, and associated minor families, including Governor Webster of Connecticut) who moved up the Connecticut River from Hartford, Wethersfield, and Windsor, Connecticut, to Northampton, Hadley, Hatfield, and Sunderland, Massachusetts.  Mary Gunn (1783-1854), was a fifth generation “end-product” of this migration, and one of my great-great-great-grandmothers.

    Her 1804 marriage in Montague, Massachusetts, to Elijah Hoar represents a merger of migrations, since he was the product of another group of families (Hoar, Wilbore, Staple, and others) which had been in the Taunton area for several generations.  Their daughter, Lucretia Hanson (the surname was changed in 1818), married Clark Sampson.  He, in turn, was the product of a group of Plymouth County families, including Hodges, Standish, and Alden. Their daughter, Vironne Antoinette Sampson, married Luther Bruce Leonard, the product of another group of Taunton families which include the Leonards themselves, and the Hodges, Morse, and Caswell families.  Leonard’s grandfather, Archelaus Leonard, Jr., had married Phebe Watson, with a family history from Essex and Middlesex Counties through her mother, Phoebe (Garfield) Watson, and grandmother, Phoebe (Worster) Garfield.  The Essex County origins of Phebe Worster were the Parrott, Cheney, Jewett, Osgood, and Carlton families, and her marriage to Samuel Garfield linked her with the Middlesex County families of Garfield, Bowman, Bridge, and Danforth.  Some of these relationships are seen in the Ahnentafeln (ancestor tables) for Mary Gunn and Elijah Hoar which show not just persons but birthplaces.


    Each of the marriages just mentioned represents a “nodal point,” at which the products of different “breeding pools” marry.  Their offspring are thus a new mixture, an “outbred hybrid,” if you will.  These marriages not only typify the migration processes, but, more importantly for us descendants, provide a broadening of the genetic base of further generations.

    To visualize this concept, imagine a 10-generation fan chart with all one’s known ancestors on it, with a different color for each area of origin.  The resulting multicolored pie would show slices of two different colors meeting at each nodal point.

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