b.25 Feb 1753 Westfield, Hampden, Massachusetts, United States
d.23 Nov 1787 Pittsfield, Berkshire, Massachusetts, United States
m. 15 MAY 1746
Facts and Events
The Pittsfield vital records show that Elizabeth, first wife of Stephen Phelps, died in 1776, making the un-named wife of Stephen Phelps Sr., who died in 1787, another person entirely. The widow Ruth Goodrich thus was Stephen’s third wife.
This leaves the unknown second wife as my GGGG grandmother, if my theory about Stephen Sr. is correct. The records for Pittsfield are very incomplete and disorganized, and no record is given for a second marriage for Stephen Sr. between 1776 and 1788.
Given Thomas Phelps’ middle name of ROOT, my current theory is that the second wife of Stephen PHELPS, Sr. was a ROOT daughter. Initially, I believed that she would have come from the Eli ROOT and Mindwell SACKETT family who lived in Pittsfield, or perhaps from one of Eli’s several brothers in Pittsfield. However, further research shows that she could not be Eli ROOT’s daughter, since the record of Stephen’s second wife’s death says she was 34, putting her birth year around 1753. Eli and Mindwell were not married until 1755. Amos ROOT (Eli’s brother) and Abigail SHELDON were not married until 1756.
In terms of the known ROOTs in Pittsfield, this left only two options -- Oliver ROOT and Ezekiel ROOT. I have not found family records for either man yet. However, the DAR records for the two show their birth years to be 1741 and 1736, respectively. On that basis, only Ezekiel could possibly be the father, since he would have been 17 in 1753, and she could be his first child. Oliver would have been only 12 in 1753, so is unlikely to have been a father at that time.
If we look at this ROOT woman being a sibling to one of these ROOT men, we can also eliminate Eli and Amos, based on the size of their families in 1772. It is doubtful that they had an extended family living with them at that time. Oliver ROOT still has no data. But Ezekiel was an elder brother in a large family, and his youngest sister, Grace, might have been born ca 1753, if we give a reasonable spread between siblings. One theory is that Grace and possibly other unmarried sisters were living with Ezekiel and his family in 1772. Records show them only to have 6 immediate family members, counting themselves, but 11 were in the household. I think it is possible that at least one of them was a sister, most likely the youngest, Grace. However, Grace ROOT was born in 1751, and married a fellow named John KENT, living with him in Oneida Co, NY. This makes it unlikely that she is the unknown ROOT woman.
Because of this I broadened my search to examine other ROOT women who were (1) born in 1753, (2) had no known marriage data in the ROOT family genealogy, and (3) who lived in Berkshire Co, MA or in adjoining areas. The ROOT family book shows only four candidates who meet these criteria. Of these, two (Ruth and Desire) lived in Westfield, Hampden Co, Massachusetts. Another (Lydia) lived in NE Connecticut, making her less likely. In addition, she is noted in the Root Genealogical Records as probably dying young.
Initially, I felt the most likely candidate was Naomi ROOT, daughter of Thomas ROOT, resident of Great Barrington and Sheffield, Berkshire Co, Mass.. These towns are reasonably close enough to Pittsfield to postulate that Naomi was either able to travel to the county seat with her father, to visit ROOT relatives there, or to have Stephen travel to Great Barrington. However, after some additional research, I think a more likely candidate is Ruth ROOT, from Westfield.
The key to this conclusion comes from finding that Ruth ROOT was the niece of Eli ROOT of Pittsfield. This leaves open the distinct possibility that Stephen, upon losing his first wife, is introduced to the niece of one of his neighbors, and soon-to-be father-in-law of his brother, Israel. It turns out that Desire ROOT is also a niece of Eli ROOT. However, we can rule her out, because one of the daughters that Stephen and his second wife have is probably named Ruth as well. We can also rule out Desire because I have found Westfield town records indicating that she died when she was 21.
Based on the aggregate of this information, I have come to the conclusion that Ruth ROOT is the mystery second wife of Stephen PHELPS, Sr., and have marked her as “likely wife.”, ,