The Ancestry of Benajah Turrel, of Lanesborough MA in 1790

by Nancy Tyrrel Theodore, Spring 1995

This article was first published in the Spring 1995 Newsletter of the Corresponding Society, Descendants of Roger Terrill of Milford, Connecticut, Vol. VII, No. 1, pp. 7-1 and 7-2.


T H E    P A P E R    T R A I L

Thanks to a paper trail of church, guardianship and land records, we know the ancestry of Benajah5 Turrel who appears in the 1790 First Census of the United States in Lanesborough, Berkshire county, Massachusetts.

The connection was made when reading the film of the old, almost illegible, Newtown, CT First Congregational Church records.  Before being micrfilmed, these records evidently were not readily available for research as a notation on them cautions:  “To the Clerk of the Crts.  Please don’t let these old records go to any one except the pastor.  These records were carried away by the Rev. Zephaniah Smith in 1799 and found in Glosenbury, Conn in 185_ by the Rev. W. H. Moor.”

Included in this well-traveled treasure are records for the family of George3 (Daniel2, Roger1) Turrel including this entry:  “1762 — Benajah Child of Samll Turrel Bapt Feb 21.”

Now, how do we know that Benajah’s father, Samuel4, belongs to the family of George3 Turrel?  George settled in Newtown c. 1728 and Samuel was probably born there c. 1730-35.  Although no baptism records for this time period exist, as the first Newtown Congregational Church records date from 1743, there still is a written record for Samuel’s parentage.

George died between 10 May 1750 (date of will) and 25 June 1750 (date of probate).  In his will he mentions his wife and children, including Samuel and Jared, who received property.  Further clarification comes with guardianship proceedings held in the Danbury Probate Court 12 February 1750/1:  “Samll Turril son of George Turril late of Newtown in said District, Decd, being of lawful age for the choice of his guardian and having made choice of Ensn. Heth Peck of said Newtown...”

The statement that Samuel was of “lawful age” in 1750/1 is important in determining his age.  In those times children were generally considered “of age” at age 14 ... so from age 14 to 21 they could choose their own guardian, age 13 and under a guardian was appointed for them.  Further, as Samuel signed the property distribution document without a guardian in January of 1756, we assume he was by then at least 21 years of age.

In contrast, in 1750/1 the court appointed a guardian for Samuel’s younger brother, Jared.  His baptism records show:  “Jared child of George Turril Bap Aug 19, 1744”.  This meant Jared was c. 11 years of age at the 1756 distribution, and his guardian’s signature was required.

By deed of 6 February 1767, Samuel sold Newtown, CT land he had acquired as follows:  “I Samuel S. Terrill of Lanesborough in the County of Berkshire & Province of ye Massachusetts being in New England for the consideration of the sum of sixteen pounds laswful money in hand received to my full satisfaction of Jared Terrill of Newtown in the County of Fairfield & Colony of Connecticut ... two thirds of about sixteen acres of land lying in common with my brother Jared’s land at a place called the Great Brook ... bounded easterly on the Highway that goes up to Isaac Hawley’s ...”

The History of Berkshire County, Massachusetts, Volume II, Beers & Co, published 1885, for the “Town of Lanesborough”, p. 102, notes:  “Early in that year [1759] Nathaniel Williams, Samuel Tyrell ... had taken lots and begun to build.”  Since Benajah was baptized in 1762, it can be surmised that Benajah was baptized on a family visit to Newtown.  It is even possible that Samuel didn’t move the family to Lanesborough until he was firmly established there.