Very belatedly, I wish to take the opportunity to confirm that my last posting contained some typographical and factual errors. I thank Gene Zubrinsky for correcting the errors but reject his itemised claim that Martha the daughter of Thomas Bliss ofRehoboth could not be the wife of Nicholas Ide.
I accept his complaint that Dorothy Bliss buried at Holy Cross church in Daventry, England, was not described as the wife of Thomas Bliss, although my own note of the event states that she was thus described. I understand Mr Zubrinski had access to an LDS microfilm copy of the original Daventry parish register and I am happy to admit a mistake has occurred somewhere down the line. My note of the event has been corrected and I acknowledge it was wrong to suggest the record of Dorothy’s burial contained marital data. Apart from that concern about accuracy and fair-dealing, it seems fair to state there can be no doubt that this record does refer to Thomas Bliss’s first wife Dorothy nee Wheatley.
Mr Zubrinsky’s understanding of the duties of a churchwarden rather underestimate the nature of the position. The people’s churchwarden was elected by his peers in the congregation and the rector’s churchwarden was appointed by the incumbent priest. They were responsible for administering parish charities, they raised a rate upon the entire parish for the maintenance of church fabric etc and they dispensed relief to the itinerant poor among numerous other duties. They were held accountable for their activities at an annual meeting of ‘the vestry’.At the very least these would be men who could write and keep simple accounts. The office was usually filled by men who were property-holders such as yeomen, master craftsmen etc. These were the men who actually managed the social affairs of England at the grassroots and, as such, they were reputable people with some standing in the community. It is therefore not correct to state, as Mr Zubrinsky does, that “the position’s status implications would have been negligible”.
It appears we both accept that the widowed Thomas Bliss married Abigail Southam, though, as Mr Z adds, “there is no direct evidence”. Direct evidence is not exactly in plentiful supply for many other alleged relationships in the Seventeenth century: there is always an implied ‘health warning’ with these inferred connections.
Regarding alleged ‘deficiencies’ in my evidence, Mr Zubrinsky asserts “there is absolutely no evidence that Abigail Bliss buried at Daventry in 1681 was the former Abigail Southam....”and to make such a claim “involves a huge speculative leap.”To put this matter of identification in some sort of context, my database of Bliss events in England contains over 34,000 records from about 1180 to the present day. The database contains only 7 references to females named Abigail. Only 3 of these women lived in the Seventeenth century and our lady (or ladies) is the only one living in Northamptonshire. It is difficult to understand why it is ‘an unwarranted conclusion’ to presume the 2 women are probably the same person. It bears repeating that direct evidence may not be in plentiful supply and there is the usual implied ‘health warning’. It is simply not good enought to acknowledge that Abigail Southam married Thomas Bliss, bore him two children and then to conclude that she must have died at a time and place unknown because he then went off to marry, somewhere and sometime undetermined, the widow Ide (a person with no historically proven identity) - all the time maintaining that the burial of Abigail Bliss in 1681 at his home town of Daventry long after his death has no relevance to Thomas Bliss whatsoever.
I am content to acknowledge that The Genealogy of the Bliss Family in America by A. T. Bliss declares that Thomas Bliss’s ‘son in law’ Nicholas Ide was actually his stepson. It goes on to ‘explain’ that Bliss’s first wife Dorothy died ‘soon after the family’s arrival in New England.’ He then married a widow Ide, who was mother of Nicholas. It should be born in mind that the Genealogy was repeating attempts to explain the relationship of Thomas Bliss and Nicholas Ide made over a century ago, long before it became known that Dorothy died in England, that Thomas then contracted a second marriage to Abigail Southam and that she apparently survived her husband.In order to accept that Nicholas Ide was truly his stepson we have to believe that Thomas Bliss contracted a third, probably bigamous, marriage with a woman for whose existence there is no historical evidence.
The heart of this dispute centres on the interpretation of the word ‘sonninlaw’ in Thomas Bliss’s will. It is used twice to describe Thomas Wilmore, the husband ofBliss’s eldest daughter. Mr Z believes it describes a very different relationship when applied to Nicholas Ide. I find it odd that such imprecise use of language should occur in a will and testament which otherwise shows no sign of confused expression. In fact the will exhibits evidence of the testator’s concern that attempts might be made to subvert the terms of his will. In those circumstances one imagines he chose his words with care;it is not easy to see why he would employ the term ‘sonninlaw’ to describe 1) his eldest daughter’s husband AND 2) another man later identified with no evidence as his ‘stepson,’ ie the son ofBliss’s third wife, a woman unknown to history.
Which brings us to the identity of Nicholas Ide’s wife. At the time the Genealogy was revised and published, it was not known that Thomas and Dorothy Bliss had a child Martha born in Daventry 1822. However, in a footnote the Genealogy refers to the marriage ofNicholas Ide at Springfield, MA 16th May 1647 to a woman named Martha, ‘whose surname is supposed by some to have been Bliss’. Mr Z says no such marriage has been found in Springfield records but it is remarkable that a tradition of Ide’s marriage to a woman named Martha Bliss, with a precise date, persisted for so long. Mr Zubrinsky clearly implies that because the alleged marriage of Nicholas Ide and Martha Bliss was not found at Springfield it never happened, yet he is clearly persuaded that a marriage of Thomas Bliss and the mysterious ‘widow Ide’ did take place althought there is not a scintilla of evidence to prove it. In view of the tradition that a) Ide married a woman named Martha Bliss, that b) he was identified like Thomas Wilmore as a ‘sonninlaw’ in Thomas Bliss’s will, who was c) father to a girl named Martha born to his first wife at Daventry, there is surely a prima facie case for arguing that Ide married Martha, the third surviving daughter of Thomas Bliss of Rehoboth.
However, I agree that the way Bliss refers to the Ide and his son in his will, and the fact that there is no mention of a third daughter in the will or a form of words identifying Ide’s wife as his daughter are perplexing. Bliss appointed two friends as overseers to ensure the terms of his will were adhered to. He admonished his four children not to be troublesome or seek to defraud the others out of their inheritance. Clearly he foresaw problems. The dispositions of the will are interesting in their own right, but there is no space to discuss them here. I believe there is much we dont know about this family and perhaps things we think we know which we dont know! There are awkward and unknown factors in the background which make it impossible to arrive at a definite conclusion about the Ide/Bliss relationship.
Mr Zubrinsky’s concluding statement “.... to assert with anything remotely ressembling certainty that Nicholas Ide’s wife was Martha Bliss is indefensible” in fact misrepresents what I said. I do not claim with absolute certainty that Martha Bliss became Mrs Nicholas Ide. I do claim however, that the marriage of Thomas Bliss to the ‘widow Ide’ is a figment of somebody’s imagination and there is only the semantic interpretation of the word ‘sonninlaw’ in the will to support the notion that Nicholas Ide was Thomas Bliss’s stepson. I still maintain that it seems perverse to reject the claim that Martha, the wife of Nicholas Ide the ‘sonninlaw’ of Thomas Bliss, was the daughter of Thomas Bliss born in England in 1622, which is not the same as claiming without doubt that Martha Bliss was Martha Ide.