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Tuesday, March 1, 2016

More on the Samuel Bonnells of Middlesex County


Here is the next New Jersey State Archives document that I was able to analyze and transcribe on the airplane the other day.  For this document, the Bonnells were on the right side of the law, for a change.  Samuel Bonnell is one of the jurors on this inquiry regarding Josiah Williams.  This case was multiple pages, but I could only find Samuel Bonnell listed on the last one, so that was the only copy I made in my haste.  Probably the most important thing about this document is that the sealed signature is the most likely of all the documents to have been Samuel's actual signature.  On many of the other documents, as George predicted, it is often difficult to tell whether the signature was that of the signatory or that of the scribe.  If we assume the side-by-side signatures on a 1756 document (which you haven't seen yet) are the actual signatures of Samuel Bonnell Sr. and Samuel Bonnell Jr. then the "Sam'el Bonnell" construction is more consistent with the senior Bonnell. Nonetheless, which of the several mid-1760s documents applies to the senior versus junior is still very unclear.  The courts began differentiating between the two as early as 1732, but then stopped doing so after the early 1760s.  The appearance of the adult junior in 1732 would match nicely if the Woodbridge documents demonstrate that a Samuel Junior was born in 1707.  The this would also coincide nicely with the removal from the tax rolls in
Loudon County in 1771, as this often appears to happen around age 65.  

Absent other evidence, the change to the differentiation between a senior and junior Samuel Bonnell might indicate the death of the Senior in the early 1760s.  However, this does not then fit with the fact that we need two Samuel Bonnells alive in 1768-1771 to account for the one in debtors prison in Middlesex County and the one with William in Loudon County.

John Bunnell  

This is one response to John's report:


I agree that the signatures at the bottom of the document appear to be actual signatures (complete with thumbprints).  They are not in the same handwriting as the body of the document and, within the document, the names are not written the same, e.g., Samuel Bonnell vs Sam'el Bonnel, Joseph Moore vs. Jos Moore, etc.

I'm not so sure about which Samuel was the one in Loudoun VA in 1771.  64 doesn't seem to me to be old enough to be considered "of great age" even in those days.  While statistical life expectancy was lower because of so many childhood deaths and deaths from accidents, many people lived well into their 80s. Since marriages were sanctioned at rather early ages, Samuel, Sr. might have been in his early 80s in 1771 if married in 1707.   And I don't think someone in their 80s would have been confined to jail for several years as a debtor, even in those days.  We don't have enough information to know for sure one way or the other yet.

I have found a copy of Rev. Joseph W. Dally's 1873 book about Woodbridge on-line at  Unfortunately his list of the records is also a transcription of the originals and the one particular record of most interest to us is identical to the one included in my email message on that subject - with the name transcribed as Burrell.

So I think the LDS mf images of the records is the only alternative to actually looking at the original record books.


Here's a link to Rev. Dally's book on That site is a real treasure trove.

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