My Ancestry, from the diary of Adam Thompson Terrell (1818-1842)

by Elizabeth Paullin Terrell (email: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it ), 13 Dec. 2011

Click here for an image of the diary page (JPEG, 870 KB)

On the last page of his 1837-1838 diary Adam Thompson6 Terrell (Jeremiah5, Adam4, Adam3, Samuel2, Roger1), then of Belleville, IL, left notes concerning his ancestry, starting with the records for the family of his grandfather, Adam4._ Adam Thompson Terrell was born 27 June 1818 in Bourbon County, KY, son of Jeremiah Terrell (1773-1855) and Mary Christy/Christie (spelled both ways, ~1778-1820)._ He died 30 Aug. 1842 in St. Clair County, IL, at age 24._ Adam mentioned at one point in the diary that he had recently been laid off by a Mississippi River steamship company._ The diary is held in Special Collections at Houghton Library, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA._ It was donated in 1923 by Arthur D. Terrell, of Chicago, through the Chicago branch of the Harvard University Club (the Harvard Clubs had been mobilized to collect historical material) and contains lively descriptions of the author’s personal life, including love interests, as well as the economy, an account of the shooting of an abolitionist, the local weather, and family information._ The diary is currently on exhibit as part of “Wendell Phillips Bicentennial: Social Justice Then & Now,” because of its account of the murder of Rev. Elijah P. Lovejoy,_ This assassination significantly influenced Phillips (a Harvard graduate), as he was on his way to becoming an important social reformer and abolitionist._ Adam's diary sits next to a copy of Frederick Douglass's autobiography, Narrative of the Life ..., which includes a preface by Phillips. A,B,C

My special thanks to Peter X. Accardo, Curator & Coordinator of Programs at Houghton Library, for allowing me to examine the diary there last summer and for providing the digital image of the diary page.

At the lower left of the page, below "Belleville May 10 1838," Adam wrote: “* wife of her half Brother."_ This refers to "Aunt Long*."_ I believe Adam was mistaken in giving his grandfather’s (Adam4’s) place of birth as Rhode Island—I think he confused Rhode Island with Long Island._ I think he was also confused about Adam4’s father having been born in England._It is more likely that the family knew that their paternal line had come to America from England._ The Adam4 Terrill family appears to have moved from Brookhaven to southern New Jersey between 1749 and 1753, along with neighboring Long Island families including Dayton, Rose and others. D

It is interesting to note that Adam4 Terrell died in 1790, a year after his wife, leaving a number of children orphaned, in Bridgetown, NJ._ Some of the minor children could have been placed under the guardianship of 23-year-old Rebecca's husband, and some under 22-year-old Daniel, or they could have been assigned to relatives._ There could be Orphans Court records pertaining to this, but I haven't yet found any.

Transcription of the diary page

. . . . . . . . . ~~ My Ancestry ~~

. . . . . . . . . Adam Terrell was Born Sept 19 1742 Married to
. . . . . . . . . Mary Thompson Dec. 29 1765 who was Born Sept. 14.th 1740
. . . . . . . . . Grandfather Died April 27th 1790 Grandmother Oct. 28 1789
. . . . . . . . . . . . Rebecca was Born Nov. 17 1766 – Married to Uriah Paulin
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . April 13th 1786 and is at present alive. ~
. . . . . . . . . . . . Daniel was Born May 5 1768 Married in Sept 1794. living
. . . . . . . . . . . . James [was Born] Nov. 21 1770 Died Mar 27 1790
. . . . . . . . . . . . Jeremiah [was Born] June 26 1773
. . . . . . . . . . . . Ruth [was Born] Nov 19 1775 Died Aug 10 1805
. . . . . . . . . . . . Newcomb [was Born] Nov 7 1778
. . . . . . . . . . . . Mary [was Born] Dec 28 1781 Married to Ephraim Magee
. . . . . . . . . . . . Pheby [was Born] Dec 19 1788 Died young
. . . . . . . . . Grandfather lived near Bridgetown Cumberland County
. . . . . . . . . New Jersey, where all the children were Born. He was
. . . . . . . . . Born in Rhode Island, his Father in England. ~

. . . . . . . . . . . . . Mothers family name was Christy. She was
. . . . . . . . . born in Snow Hill, Worcester County Maryland, Either
. . . . . . . . . in 1788 or .89 we have no record of the exact Time
. . . . . . . . . nor does any of the Family recollect; Either her Father
. . . . . . . . . or Grandfather Emigrated from Ireland.~ She was
. . . . . . . . . married at Snow Hill to Edward Davis, by whom
. . . . . . . . . she had three children William Christy Chandler, Mary
. . . . . . . . . Elizabeth, and James Long, who at present all live in
. . . . . . . . . Belleville and are all married.~ Her husband died
. . . . . . . . . and she moved to Kentucky and was married to my
. . . . . . . . . Father in 1814 — She had Four Sisters, three of whom
. . . . . . . . . live in this state, Aunt Ennis, Aunt Steel and Aunt Crump
. . . . . . . . . and one in Missouri Aunt Long*, and one Brother
. . . . . . . . . William Christy who lives in Delaware. ~

. . . . . . . . . Belleville May 16 1838 . . . . . . . . . Adam Thompson Terrell
. . . . . . . . . * wife of her half Brother

 

Notes

A. Arthur Davis8 Terrell, born 18 Jun. 1877, appears to have been descended (James Jeremiah7, Edward D.6, Jeremiah5, Adam4, Adam3, Samuel2, Roger1), based on a trace through U.S. Census records.

B. The facts concerning the donation of the diary are from a cover letter, tucked in at the back of the diary, dated 19 Nov. 1923, from Walter R. Spofford (Librarian of the Harvard Club in Chicago), to a Mr. Potter (Alfred C. Potter (1867-1940), Assistant Librarian of Harvard's Widener Library).  Arthur D. Terrell, who attended the Missouri School of Mines and Metallurgy (now called Missouri University of Science and Technology), did not attend Harvard, and was in 1923 the general manager of the Mineral Point & Northern Railway Company in Chicago.  We can only guess at how he happened to meet Walter Spofford and donate the diary to Harvard.

C. Mr. Accardo, the present curator of Houghton Library, very much wanted me to see the diary in the context of the exhibit mentioned above. It was terrific to spend a day with the diaryit is charming to read.  I was touched by the pangs of love and indecision that were part of the writer's daily life, along with his concerns about daily news, politics and economic dilemmas._ I too am uncommonly interested in every-day weather, and found myself wondering if this might be an inherited trait.

D. See “Samuel Terrill of Easthampton and Brookhaven: Colonial Blacksmith,” by Audrey Terrill MacLellan (DOR-Teriill, PDF, 2.1 MB).  Although we have no direct evidence that Adam3 Terrill was a son of Samuel2, we do know that the yDNA of a descendant of Adam3 matches the yDNA of Roger1 Terrill as determined by DOR-Terrill’s YDNA Roger project, which all but certifies this lineage.