Thursday, May 14, 2015

There's A Way - Jedidiah Willet - 52 Ancestors #19

For this week's 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks writing challenge from blogger Amy Crow Johnson of No Story Too Small, the theme is There’s a Way. I am using this to explore the migration of a fourth great-grandfather from Connecticut to Georgia in the early 19th century.

My curiosity about my fourth great-grandfather, Jedidiah Willet, father of Frances Stanton Willet, whom I wrote about last week, comes from the fact that he has two FindAGrave memorials. One is in the city of his birth, Norwich, New London County, Connecticut, (memorial number 17478111, as Jedediah Willet) and the other is in the county of his death: Macon, Bibb County, Georgia (memorial number 124656608, as Jedidiah Willet). I know he was born in Norwich and his first wife died there, but I'm still trying to find out why he moved to Georgia when he was in his 50s.

So far, I have been able to find more about his early life than his later life in Georgia. According to Vital Records of Norwich Connecticut, 1659-1848, (Hartford, Society of colonial wars in the state of Connecticut, 1913) New England Historic Genealogical Society, Jedidiah was born on March 9, 1768, in Norwich, Connecticut, "as he sayeth." The transcribed and printed Vital Records of Norwich also names his wife, Frances Rogers, and their nine children, the eldest of whom was named for his father, along with their birth dates (and death dates of the two who died young).

Vital Records of Norwich, Conn., page 590 (partial)

The next page of these printed vital records show that on September 19, 1805, their youngest child was born, and Frances died.

Vital Records of Norwich, Conn., page 591


As I noted last week, I haven't found a primary source record stating Jedidiah's second marriage to Mary Stanton in January 1806, but there is a newspaper notice (see Wedding Wednesday) and I'm still looking to see if Jedidiah and Mary had any more children other than my third great-grandmother, Frances Stanton Willet, who was born in January 1807.

Jedidiah (or Jedediah) is not a common name in this time period, so I believe I have found him in those tricky U.S. Censuses between 1790 and 1840, when there were not many household details provided.

In 1790, I find Jedediah Willet in New London County, Connecticut. 1800 and 1810 find him in Norwich. In 1820, he is in Montville, a town next to Norwich.

At, I find newspaper references to the fact that Jedidiah was a ship builder in Norwich. One 1799 article includes wonderful descriptions of the launch of the Trumbull "sloop of war" from Jedediah Willet's Ship Yard.

Another source at, Biographical Souvenir of the States of Georgia and Florida (Chicago, F. A. Battey & Company, 1889), includes a biographical sketch of one of Jedidiah's grandsons, which includes a description of Jedidiah that noted that he was a ship builder at Norwich, Connecticut, and that "He repaired the English ship "Macedonian," which had been captured by the United States man-of-war the "United States," on board of which was his son Jedidiah." (I need to figure out how to confirm that, as well as the claim that this Willet line descends from Thomas Willet who arrived in Boston in 1630!)

In 1830, there is a Jedidiah Willet in New York City. I still have to explore New York City directories for these years to see exactly which years he lived in New York. This explains how his daughter (my third great-grandmother, Frances) may have met and married Joseph Rose in 1827!

In the U.S. Censuses for 1840 and 1850, I find him in Macon, Bibb County, Georgia, living next to or in the same household as his son (from his first marriage), Joseph Willet.

Jedidiah Willet died on July 3, 1850, in Bibb County, Georgia. I just found this death notice from the Macon Weekly Telegraph which states that he was 82 years old (confirming a birth year of 1768), that he was formerly of Norwich, Connecticut (yep - that's my Jedidiah), and for the last 19 or 20 years a resident of Georgia.

July 9, 1850, issue of Macon Weekly Telegraph from

Unfortunately, the death notice still doesn't explain WHY he went to Georgia. I'm still working on that! Going back to the fact that he has two Find A Grave memorials, I don't know if he was buried in Georgia, and has a memorial in Norwich, or if his body was moved at some point back to his birthplace to be buried next to his first wife.

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