Eunice (Crocker) Way has long been a brick wall to researchers studying the family of Lt. Elisha Way of Lyme. There’s no doubt of her marriage or of her date of death. Eunice’s 1782 marriage to Elisha is documented in the Barbour Collection, while her dated tombstone is listed in the Hale. But everything before that was a mystery.
Who were Eunice (Crocker) Way’s parents? The Barbour Collection gave one hint. The town clerk, from whose material the Crocker-Way marriage was extracted, did not list a residence for either Elisha or Eunice. In most Connecticut towns, that’s a good indication that the bride and groom were both from that town. Eunice’s parents, therefore, most likely resided in Lyme.
That’s where we get stuck. There is no birth record or church record for Eunice Crocker, born Lyme about 1764. There are two birth records for Eunice Crockers born in other towns, but they can be demonstrated to have later married other men. The logical conclusion is that Eunice’s birth, for some reason, was not recorded.
However, it’s still possible to find Eunice’s parents. It just requires breaking a cardinal rule of genealogy: don’t assume people of the same surname are related.
If we break that rule, we start by assuming that Eunice Crocker’s father was probably a Crocker. The next step would be to locate any male Crockers living in Lyme at the time of her birth. The Hale Collection entry for Riverbend Cemetery in East Lyme indicates two male Crockers living in town around the 1760s. Mary Crocker, wife of Daniel, died in 1789. While the Hale Collection says she was 33, Find A Grave indicates she was 53 – and Daniel could very well be of the right age. There’s also Constant Crocker. The Hale Collection indicates that his daughter Mirus died in 1778 at age 8. There are, therefore, two good options for Eunice’s father: Daniel Crocker and Constant Crocker. Since wills often list the children of the deceased, the next step was to check out probate records. And that’s where we hit the jackpot: Constant Crocker’s probate file names one of his heirs as the “heirs of Eunice Way” (who was deceased by that time). Eunice’s father, therefore, was likely Constant Crocker.
By rethinking the “don’t assume the same surname is related” rule, we’ve made a connection between Eunice and her likely father – and more importantly, learned an important research technique for small Connecticut towns. Use the common surname to find locals who might be related. Just don’t forget to test the theory!