Another genealogical puzzle with my research and conclusions.
The Problem of Jonathan Stoddard Wightman’s Wife
There are two men named Jonathan Stoddard Wightman in my family tree. One, who was born May 22, 1830, in Bristol, Hartford County, Connecticut, and died on September 9, 1893, in South Meriden, New Haven County, Connecticut. On April 26, 1855, he married Olive Fidelia Davis, born April 26, 1833 in Meriden, died March 13, 1903, in Southington, Hartford County, Connecticut, daughter of Zina and Amanda (Stevens) Davis. There’s work I could still do on this family, but I’m happy with what I have.
His parents were Elbridge M. Wightman, born about 1800 in Southington, died April 14, 1875 in Bristol. On June 17, 1829, in Bristol, he married Ursula Perkins, born 1812 in Southington, died August 7, 1889 in Bristol. She was the daughter of Elijah Mark Perkins and Polly Yale, who has an interesting line of her own.
The problem comes with Elbridge Wightman’s father, the first Jonathan Stoddard. He was born July 17, 1765 in Groton, New London County, Connecticut, and died April 18, 1816 in Southington. His second wife was Hannah Williams, who had married, first, Dr. John Hart of Southington.
His first wife, the mother of all but one of his children, is the unknown.
- Wade C. Wightman, The Wightman Ancestry, including "George Wightman of Quidnessett, RI (1632 - 1721/2) and Descendants" by Mary Ross Whitman (Chelsea, MI: Bookcrafters, 1994), pp. 96-97.
- The American Genealogist, New Haven, Connecticut: D. L. Jacobus, 1937-. (Online database. AmericanAncestors.org. New England Historic Genealogical Society, 2009 - .), v. 25, Donald Lines Jacobus, "The ‘Other’ Gilletts” pp. 174-191.
- Bertha Bortle Beal Aldridge, Gillet, Gillett, Gillette families, including some of the descendants of the immigrants Jonathan Gillet and Nathan Gillet...also of the descendants of Barton Ezra Gillet, 1800-1955 (Victor, N.Y:, 1955), p. 25.
- Esther Gillett Latham, Genealogical data concerning the families of Gillet-Gillett-Gillette : chiefly pertaining to the descendants of Jonathan Gillet... (Somerville, Massachusetts:, 1953), 70.
- Lorraine Cook White, The Barbour collection of Connecticut town vital records (Baltimore, MD: Genealogical Pub. Co., 1994), Colchester 103 (Gillett), Farmington 55-56 (Gillett).
- Ancestry.com. Connecticut, Church Record Abstracts, 1630-1920 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: 2013., Southington v107 p17, Gillet.
- Ancestry.com. Connecticut, Wills and Probate Records, 1609-1999 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2015., Hartford Probate Records v1-3, pp196-197 Zachariah Gillet. Also Hartford Probate Packets, pp 916-933 Zachariah Gillet, and Hartford Probate Packets, pp 81-82, Nehemiah Gillet.
- Personal conversation with genealogist Gary Boyd Roberts of the New England Historic Genealogical Society, Boston, Massachusetts.
- Family notes of Elinor (Wightman) (Fredrickson) Fisher, 3rd great-granddaughter of the Jonathan Stoddard Wightman in question.
From Ellie Fisher’s Notes
Jonathan Stoddard Wightman’s first wife was Patty Hillet.
From the Wightman Ancestry
He married first, Mercy (Patty) Gillet, baptized 1768, daughter, probably, of Zachariah Gillet. (No date given, but their first child was born about 1789.)
From The ‘Other Gilletts’ TAG article
Donald Lines Jacobus presents an ancestral line from William Gillett of Somerset, England, through his son Jeremiah, ending with a daughter of Zachariah Gillett and his third wife, Sarah: Mercy, born at Southington, baptized September 4, 1768.
From Gillet, Gillett, Gillette Families
Bertha Bortle Beal Aldridge presents a different ancestral line from William Gillett of Somerset, this one through his son Jonathan, ending with a daughter of Nehemiah Gillet and his second wife, Martha Storrs: Martha, no dates given.
From Genealogical Data Concerning the Families of Gillet-Gillett-Gillette
Esther Gillett Latham presents the line through Jonathan and Nehemiah m. Martha Stoors, showing daughter Martha born April 12, 1767.
From the Barbour records
Colchester: Martha, daughter of Nehemiah and Martha, born April 12, 1767.
Farmington: several of Zachariah and Sarah’s children are listed, but several are missing, including Mercy.
Southington: there are no Gillets mentioned at all.
From Connecticut Church Record Abstracts
Records the baptism, on September 4, 1768, of Mercy Gillet, daughter of Zecheriah, in Southington.
From Connecticut Wills and Probate Records
Zachariah’s will, although it names Mercy as his daughter, mentions no married name for her. The will was written in November 1789. The probate papers show that she is still unmarried in March 1791. Also that Zachariah’s wife is named as Rhoda, and in March 1791 is known as Rhonda Frisbee.
Nehemiah’s will, written in July 1807, names his daughter Martha, still single at that time.
From a conversation with Gary Boyd Roberts
He mentioned that Jonathan Stoddard Wightman’s first wife was Martha Gillet.
What was her name?
I respect personal information in the memory and records of family members, but am inclined to conclude that “Hillet” in the Ellie Fisher notes was, somewhere along the line, a misreading of “Gillet.” That settled, all sources agree on her last name. Her first name is a different story.
Ellie Fisher names her Patty; Wightman Ancestry has Mercy (Patty). According to the published lines from William Gillett, if her father is Zachariah, her name is Mercy; if he’s Nehemiah, she’s Martha. Unfortunately, both of these lines stop with Mercy/Martha; no marriage is recorded for either of them. But I have found no other reasonable suggestions for the parentage of Jonathan Stoddard Wightman’s wife.
In favor of the Nehemiah line (Martha): “Patty” is a common nickname for Martha, but uncommon for Mercy. My admiration for Gary Boyd Roberts as a genealogist is great, and he said her name was Martha. On the other hand, it was a very short, casual conversation and the information was off the top of his head, so I don’t want to rely too much on his memory.
In favor of the Zachariah line: The only printed source that records her marriage to Jonathan Stoddard Wightman (Wightman Ancestry) calls this line “probable” and mentions no other. But the most significant factor, I believe, is that this line places her in Southington (Hartford County), where all their children were born, whereas the other line is in Colchester (New London County).
When was she born? With the Nehemiah line, I have a birthdate: April 12, 1767. For the Zachariah line, there is only a baptism date: September 4, 1768. To say “about 1768” hedges my bets nicely.
When were Patty Gillet and Jonathan Stoddard Wightman married? Wightman Ancestry gives the birth of their first child as “about 1789” based on a death date of July 13, 1864 and an age at death of 75. This is consistent with census and gravestone data. Yet Zachariah’s probate records show Mercy as unmarried in March of 1791. (She signs her name “Mercy Gillet” and there is no mention of a husband.) Even if she was married that year, the timing is a little uncomfortable for the Zachariah line.
But the Nehemiah line is worse: Martha was still single when her father wrote his will in 1807, by which time all nine of J. S. Wightman’s children had been born.
Why didn’t these girls get married before their fathers wrote their wills? It would have made things so much clearer. But I think, after all, it is clear enough. The evidence of the wills, combined with the evidence of the location convinces me that Patty Gillet, wife of Jonathan Stoddard Wightman, was Mercy Gillet, daughter of Zachariah and Sarah Gillet of Southington.
One more question: What about Zachariah Gillet’s wives? Donald Lines Jacobus gives him three, the first two totally unknown, and the third known only as Sarah. Bizarrely, however, he claims that Zachariah’s will names his wife Sarah, whereas the wife in both copies I found of the will seems clearly to be “Rhoda.” Jacobus gives no death date for Sarah, but it’s a good assumption that she predeceased Zachariah, who married a fourth time. After Zachariah's death, Rhoda married someone named Frisbee.
I found a will for a Sarah Gillet, dated and probated in 1776, witnessed by Zachariah Gillet and Elizabeth Gillet. In this will, Sarah Gillet leaves everything she has to “my Nephu Sarah Andrus wife to Ichabod Andrus.” Sarah Gillet, daughter of Zachariah and his first wife, did marry Ichabod Andrus (Andrews). At first I thought this might be the will of Sarah, Zachariah’s wife. But Donald Lines Jacobus says it’s the will of Sarah, Zachariah's sister, daughter of Abner Gillet. That makes more sense, though I'm still confused by “nephu."
Pending new evidence to confirm or debunk my conclusions, this is what I believe:
Jonathan Stoddard Wightman was born July 17, 1765 in Groton, New London County, Connecticut, and died April 18, 1816 in Southington, Hartford County, Connecticut. He married (1) Mercy (Patty) Gillet, born about 1768 in Southington, daughter of Zachariah and Sarah (surname unknown) Gillet. Jonathan married (2) Hannah Williams, widow of Dr. John Hart of Southington.
The ancestry of Zachariah Gillet, taken from “The ‘Other' Gillets” by Donald Lines Jacobus, published in The American Genealogist (see above), is, in an abbreviated form, as follows:
- The Reverend William Gillett, Rector of Chaffcombe, County Somerset, England.
- Jeremiah Gillett, born in England, emigrated to New England, lived in Wethersfield, Connecticut, and fought in the Pequot War of 1636-1638. Later he returned to England, but because of his service was granted land in Simsbury, most likely tended by his brother, Nathan of Simsbury until Jeremiah, Jr. arrived.
- Sergeant Jeremiah Gillett of Simsbury, Connecticut. He was probably born in England, about 1650, and he died in Simsbury on March 24, 1707/8.
- Abner Gillet, born perhaps 1684-88, died March 12, 1762 at Southington, Connecticut. He married, at Farmington, Connecticut, September 6, 1710, Mary Higginson, who was baptized at Farmington January 10, 1691/92 and died at Southington on February 8, 1766. She was the daughter of William and Sarah (Warner) Higginson.
- Zachariah Gillet, born at Farmington March 31, 1721, died at Southington in 1790. He married (1) at Southington, July 6, 1741, an unknown woman, (2) at Southington, April 3, 1750, another unknown woman who died September 1757, and (3) Sarah (surname unknown). According to my own conclusions, based on probate evidence, he also married (4) Rhoda (surname unknown) who later married someone named Frisbee.