I’m doing this post solely to get it out there in Google results, to possibly affect the collective thinking with respect to my 7th Great-grandfather, Marshall Stanley (c.1730-1796), and to the mother(s) of his children.
Marshall Stanley is generally shown to have had one wife, Thamor or Tamar – maiden name sometimes unknown, sometimes given as Thomas. She is shown as the mother of all his children. But it is my belief that Thamor was Marshall’s second wife – and while she probably did raise his younger children, she was not necessarily their biological mother.
I believe his first wife was Lydia Westbrook, born c.1740 in Nameneck, New Jersey, near Port Jervis, New York. The town was one village in a larger Dutch settlement in the Minisink Valley, down the Old Mine Road from the older settlements on the Hudson, Kingston and Esopus. To complicate matters, Minisink was comprised of portions of New Jersey, New York, and three or four Pennsylvania counties.
So – records are scattered and scarce. The best ones that exist are from the Reformed Dutch Churches in the area, written in Dutch and/or very sketchy English.
The Thamor Theory comes mostly from two sources: (1) An American General, The Memoirs of David Sloan Stanley (great-grandson of Marshall Stanley), and (2) the Bible of Stanley research, The Stanley Families of America: as descended from John, Timothy and Thomas by Israel Perkins Warren. As it happens, Gen. Stanley relied on family legend for his story pertinent to this post. And Warren, in turn, referenced Gen. Stanley.
I offer here a series of quotes from Mr. Warren’s book. Taking one at a time, let me call out some issues I have.
[Marshall Stanley was] born about 1730, and married Thamor _____. His name is on the records of Windsor, Conn., under date of July 30, 1783, as “late of Windsor, now removed to parts unknown.” He is believed to have gone with his family before that year to Mifflin County, Pa.
Nothing here to dispute, really. Born 1730-ish, check. Yes, he married Thamor. I believe she is named as Marshall’s widow in his estate papers, circa 1796 – which I’ve never seen. I’ve never found any other mention of her in church or governmental records. But yes, they married.
Yes, he did leave Connecticut and, yes, he was in current-day Mifflin County by 1783. But (1) I don’t think he had a family when he left Hartford, and (2) I think he was in far-Eastern Pennsylvania well before 1783. Perhaps as much as 15 years earlier.
To illustrate, this is my single good piece of evidence: the baptismal record for Janneke “Jane” Stanley – my 6th Great-grandmother. Her entry is way down at the bottom. Born 26 June 1771; baptized 26 September 1771. Records of the Walpeck Reformed Dutch Church, Walpeck, Sussex County, New Jersey.
So – Michel Stendly (aka Marshall Stanley) was in the Minisink area in 1770-71.
“In confirmation of the opinion that Marshall Stanley was of Connecticut, Gen. D. S. Stanley says that it was always understood in the family that Nathaniel and William emigrated from Hartford.”
As genealogists learn over and over again, family hearsay is unreliable at best. We no longer need confirmation that Marshall was one of the Connecticut Stanleys – he was. As for his children though, we’ve established that Jane was born in Minisink. And she was born between the births of her brothers Nathaniel and William.
While opinions differ on William’s exact birth year, Marshall is documented in Pennsylvania during the mid-1770s. He sold a 230-acre farm to Lydia’s brother-in-law in 1776. And he joined the county militia as a Lieutenant in 1780. That goes a long way toward placing William’s birth in Pennsylvania.
More on Nathaniel, the eldest, in the final blurb – but that’s a solid NO on the General’s “emigrated from Hartford” claim.
“Mrs. Thamor Stanley appears to have married again after her husband’s death, for Nathaniel is said to have had a half-brother, Ferdinand Vannata, who had a family of 21 children.”
Here, Warren jumped to a blatantly incorrect conclusion. Ferdinand Vannata (or Vannattan)’s mother was Lydia Westbrook. She married first Daniel Van Etten, and their son Ferdinand was born in Minisink in 1765. The couple split – and presumably divorced – when Ferdinand was very young.
Ferdinand’s wife (who may or may not have borne him 21 children) was Sarah Westbrook, Lydia’s niece and Ferdinand’s cousin. For the record, I have them in my tree with a grand total of seven children. I’ve never seen the 21-children claim anywhere else.
So what do we know?
- For Ferdinand Vannattan to be identified as Nathaniel Stanley’s half-brother, they each had to be sons of Lydia Westbrook. Nathaniel was born in November 1768, three-plus years after Ferdinand. And that places Marshall Stanley in Minisink in 1768, and likely a fair portion of 1767. It also seriously suggests Nathaniel was born in Minisink, because the family was still there when…
- Jane was born in Minisink, 1771, to Marshall and Lydia. (Don’t you love cold, hard facts?)
- Next, Marshall Stanley is well established in the area around Wayne, Pennsylvania (once Cumberland County, now Mifflin County) in the 1776-1780 time period. So while I can’t prove that’s where his son William was born, it’s a distinct probability. Sadly, the identity of William’s mother is much tougher to pin down.
- Marshall Stanley fathered a fourth child: Elizabeth Stanley (1779-1839). Again, her father is conspicuous in the Wayne area at the time of her birth, so she was probably born there. Probably. And yeah, the identity of her mother is unknown. Possibly Lydia, possibly Thamor.
I conclude that definitely two of Marshall Stanley’s four children were borne by Lydia Westbrook. My theory falls apart after Jane’s birth simply for lack of proof.
I know 19th Century birth records in Pennsylvania are as rare as silver-glittered unicorns, so that’s out – but it would really help to locate a marriage record for Marshall and Thamor to nail down the year of their union, if only for a clue as to Lydia’s death date.
And I’d really love to someday see Marshall’s estate papers. I understand they exist, but I can’t find them.
I’d also love to hear about any info anyone else has found on these questions. Seriously – anything. Drop me a note here!
But mostly, I’d love to see Lydia Westbrook begin to be named in the family trees that include Marshall Stanley and his children.