52 Ancestors: Irving Metcalf #9

This week’s theme is “When there’s a will there’s a way.” When I read it, my mind immediately focused on the word “will” instead of interpreting the phrase as overcoming adversity. As a genealogist, I love wills! Once you get through the legalese and the hard-to-read handwriting, wills can give a lot of insight into the life of the person who wrote it. Relationships are explained, land is described and you may even see an inventory of the person’s most valuable possessions.

My ancestor Irving Metcalf was born in 1779 in Bellingham, Massachusetts, a town that is now part of the Boston metropolitan area. His parents were Jabez Metcalf, an American Revolutionary War veteran, and Elizabeth Tenney. Sometime before 1796, Jabez moved the family to the town of Naples, New York in what we now call the Finger Lakes area. Irving later moved to Gorham, New York probably before 1807.

Irving’s family life was not very well-documented. New York state did not require official births, marriages and deaths to be officially recorded until 1880, 1881, and 1880 respectively. We know from their headstones in Baldwin’s Corner Cemetery that Irving Metcalf had three wives and at least one child with each. His first wife was Sophronia Blanchard, who was my ancestor and now is one of my current brick walls. They had at least two children, a son Jeremiah, born 1807, and Eliza, my 3rd great-grandmother born in 1809. Sophronia died in August 1810.

Irving’s second wife was Lucinda Morse. They married about 1811 and probably had one child together, maybe more. Lucinda died in 1818 and then Irving married his 3rd wife, the widower Fanny Learned Harkness. Irving and Fanny had at least three children: Henry born 1819, William born 1823, and Fanny born by 1829.

Here is where the will of Irving Metcalf can help. If you are looking for a connection from Irving to one of his children for your family tree or lineage application, the will contains several statements that prove it exists. The first child mentioned in the will is “my son William C. Metcalf.” The will states that “the said William C. Metcalf shall provide and finish all suitable and necessary sustenance suport[sp] and comforts to and for Fanny my wife his mother….” The other children named are Henry, Emily, Fanny, Theophilus, Eliza Douglass (Eliza’s married name), Sophronia and the late Jabez, father of grandson Irving.

An excerpt of Irving Metcalf's handwritten will
The start of Irving Metcalf’s will. Images available on FamilySearch.

Irving sealed the will on March 5, 1850. At that time Emily and Fanny were described as “live[ing] single” and that “they shall be entitled to make it their home with the said William so long as they may live single or they can agree.” According to his headstone, Irving died August 31, 1854 and his will was probated later that year.

I haven’t assigned all the children mentioned to the correct mother yet and that will probably require further research.


“New York Probate Records, 1629-1971,” images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.3.1/TH-1942-24580-15715-73?cc=1920234&wc=9VS4-FM9:213301301,214983901 : 28 May 2014), Ontario > Wills 1854-1862 vol L-M > image 53 of 826; county courthouses, New York.


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