#154 Adventures in Cousinland: Sisters Cutt


154.1  Today we look at 3 more Signers of the Declaration of Independence to see if they really married close relatives as Uncle Wiki claims here. And…surprise, surprise…a special guest star will emerge. We begin with the tale of the 3 Cutt Sisters.

154.2  William Whipple Jr. was a Signer representing the state of New Hampshire. His mother Mary Cutt’s sister Mehitable married Jotham Odiorne Jr., and it came to pass that William fell in love with his 1st cousin Mehitable “Hetty” Odiorne. As the family story goes, all were assembled for the wedding at the Odiorne mansion…but there was a problem…no bride.

154.3  Hetty was discovered upstairs, happily rocking in her rocking chair, her bridal ensemble laid out on the bed, untouched. She flatly refused to get dressed…saying today was not the day she was going to get married…and nothing and no one could change her mind, including her intended. It appears not to have been recorded why she was behaving that way, but Whipple was worked up enough to give her an ultimatum: now or never…she chose never.

chart 533

154.4  He eventually recovered from this setback and married another 1st cousin, Catherine Moffatt, daughter of another of his mother’s sisters, Catherine, as per Chart 533. Hetty also married and raised a family with some one else, so happy ending all around, and more power to them.

154.5  Next…William Ellery Jr. was from Connecticut, and most on-line sources say he married his 2nd cousin. A few hedge their bets by saying “distant cousin” which is completely appropriate. Certainly “2nd” doesn’t sound that distant compared to say “10th”…but with a Coefficient of Relationship of 1/32, you and your 2nd cousin share only 3% of your genes, which is to say, you’re 97% unrelated, and that’s a fact.

154.6  The sticking point is that so many present day commentators don’t know what a 2nd cousin is…further, they haven’t the slightest clue about removed cousins…so pretty much nothing can be taken at face value. A few sites say 1st cousin once removed, as does Uncle Wiki, and they are to be commended…because that was indeed the case…he married the daughter of his 1st cousin thru his father’s sister. Thus Ellery was the 1C 1R ascending, his wife the 1C 1R descending…or as they’d say in Spanish, they were 2nd uncle and 2nd niece.

chart 534

154.7  Back when I was a child, a local newspaper ran a column on local history called “Their Ways Were Not Our Ways”…and truer words were never spoken. I daresay the overwhelming majority of Baby Boomers will go thru their entire lifetime without encountering a single case of married cousins. And among younger folks, the “ick factor” is practically off the charts, be it 1st cousin or 10th. Yet as Adventures in Cousinland is meant to document, such was not uncommon, even into the early 20th century…and outside of the Western World, still occurs to this day.

154.8  And as bad as marrying your 1st cousin is viewed…despite it being legal in about half the states and virtually all of the rest of the world…1st cousin once removed seems even worse…altho the relationship is not as close…1st cousins 1/8…1C 1R 1/16. There is these days a fixation on “balance of power”…a 40-year-old is in complete control of a 20-year-old, the latter thought to have command over its life choices comparable practically to an infant. So the lecherous fiend who couldn’t corral his 1st cousin should find his 1st cousin’s daughter easy prey. Crazy, I know, but there you go.

154.9  Grown-ups understand that’s not how the ways of the heart work, but tongues will wag. Sure enough, in this case Abigail Carey was William Ellery Jr.’s second wife, and 15 years his junior. I say, mind your own business…yes, even 250 years later. Ironically, there is a silver lining here. If only the aversion to marrying your cousin’s child could be channeled into revising our kinship nomenclature…because this perceived “power imbalance” in marrying your 1st cousin’s child mirrors that of marrying your sibling’s child, where you are the uncle and they are the niece. Move this uncle/niece taboo one step sideways on the family tree, and you have a 2nd uncle marrying his 2nd niece. Saying it that way reaffirms why it’s so “terrible,” and at the same time dispenses with the whole “cousin removed” system, which is so confusing to so many people in the first place. I’m just sayin’…

154.10  Finally, we come to Stephen Hopkins, a Connecticut colleague of Whipple’s. My standard operating procedure, before actually identifying ancestors, is to do a quick google search and see what the web thinks…as I mentioned above, for example, they almost unanimously get Whipple wrong. And for Hopkins, I found not one mention of his marrying a cousin…uh oh. And about this time, I did something I should have done ages ago…I put together a blank pedigree chart to conveniently verify up to 3rd cousins, below. (Remember, the word “pedigree” means a chart where only fathers and mothers are given, but none of their siblings, hence no other collaterals…uncles, aunts, cousins, etc.)


154.11  The 2 individuals at the bottom are the groom and bride. Above them, their parents, then their grandparents, and finally their great grandparents, stacked on top of one another to save space. The legend to the right tells you what to look for…siblings in the parents’ generation…one on the husband’s side, one on the wife’s side…means the married couple are 1st cousin…siblings among the grandparents, 2nd cousins, etc. And as you can see when we fill out Chart 535  for Stephen Hopkins and Sarah Scott, no sibs show up…the top row includes 16 different surnames. BTW, Hopkins’ maternal great grandfather John Whipple is a different branch than William Whipple Jr.’s…no close relationship was found…perhaps there’s one in the Old Country much further back.

chart 535

154.12  But could there be siblings in the great great grandparents’ generation, making them 4th cousins? Sure, it’s possible, I just didn’t go there. Feel free to…you could investigate the Whipples while you’re at it…and I’d love to hear the results. But it’s now time to introduce our special guest star…

154.13  Because when I did goggle Hopkins and cousin, the name that repeatedly popped up was that of the infamous Benedict Arnold. Honestly, it’s difficult to imagine a genealogy buff not also becoming a history buff, if they weren’t already…you pretty much can’t help yourself. Turns out that our  Benedict Arnold…General Benedict Arnold…was actually Benedict Arnold IV…the “original” was an early governor of Connecticut, sadly, in the public’s mind anyway, tarred with the same brush as his notorious great grandson.

chart 536

154.14  At any rate, it is said that Stephen Hopkins and our  Benedict Arnold were “cousins”…some go so far as to say 1st cousins. As Chart 536 reveals, they were instead both 3rd cousins thru their 2G grandfather William Arnold, and 4th cousins thru 3G grandfather Nicholas Arnold. Done and done?

chart 537

154.15  Not quite…I happened to notice along the way that 2 of Stephen Hopkins’ female cousins married 2 Arnold brothers. Ah, just couldn’t resist, could ya, Stolf?  Of course not. Notice that in Chart 537, the orange lines of descent are only colored so as to not be confused with the black lines they overlap…otherwise, no difference is intended.

154.16  Where there’s a problem is up at the top, with Thomas Arnold on the right, great grandfather of Woodward (yes, his mother’s maiden name) and Joseph Arnold, who married Stephen Hopkins’ 1st cousins on his mother’s side, Ruth and Patience Wilkinson. Seems there may have been 2 different Thomas Arnolds. All agree that William Arnold, 2G grandfather of Hopkins and Benedict Arnold IV, had a half-brother named Thomas…and it is well documented that when William Arnold and family immigrated to the Colonies, there was a Thomas Arnold with them. What’s disputed is if this was the same Thomas Arnold…one school of thought says it was not, and that William’s half-brother Thomas stayed in England his entire life.

154.17  Both sides muster volumes of evidence, but so far the case is undecided. Genealogy’s like that. But for the sake of argument, let’s assume Thomas and William Arnold were half-brothers…how does that make Stephen Hopkins and the Arnold brothers related? Answer below…next time, we pick up a couple of stragglers…




Copyright © 2014 Mark John Astolfi, All Rights Reserved


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