Updated: May 6, 2020
When I first caught the genealogy bug in the year 2000 and started researching my Leonard roots, my grandfather, Robert Leonard was already deceased nearly two decades. No one could recall what his father's name was, since his parents had split up when he was a small child. The only clue was that he married a woman named Valentine.
A visit to the town clerk's office in Willet produced my grandfather's birth certificate, though, and on it was his father's name: Albert Leonard. Immediately I began researching men named Albert Leonard in New York and there were several. How was I ever going to find out which one was my great-grandfather?
That was in the early days of the internet and I tried a search on AOL and I came across a cemetery index containing the name of a man named Albert Leonard with a wife named Valentine, buried in Rose Cemetery in North Rose, Wayne County, New York. It was a 90-mile drive from where I was living at the time, so we took a trip to see what we could find! (You can see the photos and documents we found that day in my previous blog, here). We visited the Cayuga County Historical Society and found a book there, called "Memorial, genealogical, historical, and biographical, of Solomon Leonard, 1637, of Duxbury and Bridgewater, Massachusetts, and some of his descendants", by Manning Leonard, 1896. I was certain this must be my family, even though it contained no familiar names! Now you can find it online, free.
Through genealogy message boards, I got in touch with a few people researching Leonards in the area and with their help and clues provided in Dryer Family Photos, I learned that Albert's father was Lewis Leonard and Lewis' father was Charles Russell Leonard. Charles was believed to have been given his father's name and his mother was Sophronia Burrill (or Burlet, according to his death certificate). I checked Manning Leonard's book, but Charles was not found.
Although many people had been searching for years, we could find no information about Charles' father. Finally, a few years ago I found a newspaper clipping from 1834, which indicated his name was Russell, and he left to buy land in Michigan Territory on November 1, 1833, and hadn't been heard from since. Sophronia and her children were "suffering" and it was requested that anyone with information contact the postmaster at Port Byron, New York. Nothing further has been found and Sophronia was remarried to Thomas Knapp by 1840.
A search of Russell Leonards living in Michigan on subsequent censuses revealed a man by the name of Russell Leonard, born May 18, 1808, in Hampshire County, Massachusetts. He married to (Lydia) Leonard Forbes on November 19, 1833, in Townsend Township, Ontario, Canada - 200 miles west of Port Byron. Could he have deserted his wife and children to elope with another woman?
The other strong potential match is Russell, son of Joshua Leonard and Hannah Sylvester, also of Worthington, Hampshire County, Massachusetts. The family lived in the same towns as Charles and his mother. See my previous blog for the many reasons I suspect this is my line.
Both of these Russells were 4th great-grandsons of Solomon Leonard. They were 3rd cousins to each other! This explains why my father's DNA matches BOTH Russell of Burtchville and of Chesterfield. (It appears he has fewer results with the Michigan line, but additional comparisons will need to be made to make a positive determination).
In conclusion, after researching for the past nineteen years, and still having no definitive proof of either relationship, creating the chart shown above helped me see that Solomon Leonard is my 10th great-grandfather either way! Yes, there are some blurry links in between - my line is the green and either the blue or the pink, but Samuel Leonard (grandson of Solomon) was the 2nd great-grandfather of both of the Russells I have spent years researching! My initial hunch (and hope) was true!
Note: Brad Leonard is publishing an updated version of the Descendants of Solomon Leonard (1610-1671). Last I knew, it was 640 pages with the index! Stay tuned for more on that!
BONUS News! In light of this recent discovery, descendants of Solomon may be interested to know that his wife, Sarah Chandler, was the daughter of Roger Chandler and Isabella Chilton. Isabella was a daughter of James Chilton, Mayflower passenger! Click here to learn more!
If you have any information to contribute, please comment below or contact me! If you are in this family and have had your DNA tested, please upload the raw data to GedMatch and add your test info to WikiTree so we can compare! Note: WikiTree is a collaborative tree, where each person is allowed only one profile. No duplicates! We work together on each person's profile, adding information. Sources are required and changes are tracked. Join me in reconstructing the Leonard tree there! Find your place in the tree from Charles Russell Leonard (click here).