Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Alexander M. Thatcher of Massachusetts

I have been pursuing information on my great-great-grandfather Alexander M. Thatcher for a long time with few results.  His birth date has been given as 18 July 1818.  The information on his death certificate doesn’t seem to be true.  I haven’t found a Thomas Thatcher in Pennsylvania who could have been his father.  He first appeared in documents when he married Huldah BISHOP, 14 Aug 1844, in Tyringham, Berkshire Co., Mass.  The marriage record said he was a resident of Northampton, Mass., at the time.  The family lived in Lee and Housatonic in Berkshire Co., Mass.  There is another Thatcher family in the Lee area that I haven’t found a connection to.  Alexander died from typhoid fever on 13 Jan 1880 in Great Barrington, MA.  The death notice in the paper was two lines long and gave no helpful information.  Although I don’t have census information entered into my computer program, I know I have the existing census records for him and there was no information that was helpful.

Children of Alexander Thatcher and Huldah Bishop:

Julia Maria Thatcher, b. 7 July 1845, MA, d. 11 June 1855.
Eugene Stephen Thatcher, b. 19 Aug 1848, d. 23 Nov 1899, m. Alice Cordelia Rewey 6 Sep 1879
Agnes Jane Thatcher, b. July 1850.
Susan Evaline Thatcher, b. ca 1852, died 31 Aug 1875
Albert L. Thatcher, b. ca 1854, d. 12 Oct 1857
Spencer W. Thatcher, b. ca 1856, d. 8 Oct 1857
Cora Leona Thatcher, b. 30 Sep 1858, d. 18 Jul 1892, m. Henry Franklin Winchell 11 Aug 1857
Arthur L. Thatcher, b. 1861, d. 1944
Caroline Thatcher, b. 1 Sep 1863, d. 28 Dec 1943

I think of the state as unknown because three different states have been given. Although his father's name was listed as Joseph Thatcher on his death certificate, he doesn't fit with the family of any known Joseph Thatcher. I have marriage, death and census records, as well as a deed and an obituary.  They give very little information.  There are few photos of family members.

I have developed four hypotheses about his family background.
  1. Alexander came from somewhere along the Atlantic seacoast in Massachusetts.  So far I haven't found him in any available Massachusetts records.
  2. Immigrants to Northampton also came from along the Connecticut River Valley. I learned that some Thatchers in New Hampshire and Vermont originally came from southern Connecticut.  I need to go to the library of the Connecticut Valley Historical Society in Springfield, Mass., to search through its records.
  3. Alexander's real last name was something else.  In upstate New York and New England it's common for French-speaking people to move down from Canada and change their name to something English. This was especially common if the individual also had Native ancestry.  My great-great-grandfather's real last name could have been LeChaume, Chaume or Chaumet.  For this I also have to go to the Connecticut Valley Historical Society since they have border crossing and other French Canadian records.
  4. I'd almost forgotten the era that Alexander was born in.  Slavery was still an institution in the South.  It is possible that he was a light-skinned black who escaped on the Underground Railroad going along the Mid-Atlantic and took the last name of a conductor who helped him.  The Thatchers in eastern Pennsylvania and New Jersey were Quaker, who were early abolitionists.  DNA testing of a male relative may help here.