Anyone having spent countless hours chasing a lead, or reference for proof to come to the conclusion no such proof exist knows the utter waste of time involved in the “red herring” aspect of genealogy. The Edson and Orcutt families long wrestled with the chief among our own, the myth of “Susannah ORCUTT”. Given a supposed connection between her and William Orcutt it was only logical to seek information in concert, as a record of either might provide the “smoking gun” as to the other.
Genealogy, I believe, is nothing less than a science, a systematically organized body of knowledge on a particular subject, that being finding and documenting history concerning collective groups of related individuals. Within that science is a hierarchy, actual records, documented circumstances, previous references rooted in facts, and also many times what persons have merely previously said, and written, and a great gulf exist between recorded proofs, actual evidence, and “hear-say”, the latter having a very limited use in meaningful genealogy. A fact that is wrong, no matter how many times it is referenced, and repeated, cannot and does not supplant what an actual record reveals. Such is the case involving “Susannah Orcutt”, the wife of Samuel Edson, who has positively been proven to have been named Susannah BICKLEY via the marriage record of her and Samuel.
“Follow the leader” from the mistake of a Historian named Nahum Mitchell that first referenced her as having been nee ORCUTT has long occurred, but those mistaken references do not rise to the level of the actual marriage record, nor to that of ANY accepted standard of actual genealogy. It has become incumbent upon any person still claiming Susannah was named Orcutt instead of Bickley to supply better proof, a marriage record, or perhaps a birth record for a “Susannah Orcutt”, and just pointing back to others that have stated it, no matter who the source, just doesn’t cut it.
In times past Edson and Orcutt historians have relied on the only information they have had, but that information can now clearly be determined to be the result of a faulty understanding of the true nature of the relationship of Susanna and William Orcutt, or perhaps even simply incorrect hear-say information passed along until it got to Judge Mitchell. Mr. John Brooks Threlfall, Madison, Wisconsin, author of Fifty Great Migration Colonist To New England & Their Origins, pointed these facts out very well in a letter to the Editor of the Edsonian.
THE EDSONIAN VOL.42 WINTER 1990-1991 NO.4
SEARCH AND RESEARCH
Pages 3 &4.
ONE MORE TIME
“Thanks for the kind remarks for me in the last Edsonian. I am still sorry that you won’t help lay to rest the myth of Susanna’s having been an Orcutt. There is no evidence that the Orcutts were in Salem where Samuel and Susanna must have been married. Admittedly, they might have met elsewhere and moved from Salem to Bridgewater because she came from near there. Whatever, there is absolutely no evidence to support her identity. There are far too many false identities floating around. Those that are true almost always can be verified. After all, where did Mitchell find such information? I suspect that someone told him it was family lore, or such, but family lore is more often garbled than not, especially when you get back beyond living memory as was the case of Mitchell. It is better to claim nothing, that is, leave a blank on a genealogical chart, then to encourage beginners with guesses. If I were to say her maiden name was probably Smith, I would have a better chance of being right, since Smith was the commonest surname. The odds are still very small that it was Smith, let alone Orcutt. When you have such a clue and can dig from both directions, that is search for clues among both Edson and Orcutt records, and one still can’t find any evidence, or even such a daughter to fit the picture, it is almost certainly wrong.”
In 1999 I came to the exact same conclusion, totally independently of Mr. Threlfall or anyone else, based primarily on the same logic. In 1995 Mr. Threlfall wrote another interesting letter to the Editor of the Edsonian.
VOL. 47 WINTER 1995 NO.4
The Letter Box
John B. Threlfall -Madison Ws
“The latest issue (Vol. 47 No.3) of the Edsonian arrived today. Let me offer a couple of correction for perhaps the next issue.”
“On page 8 you show Susanna as having been nee Orcutt. All future charts or statements re Susanna should show her maiden name as Bickley as your brother discovered. I could kick myself for not finding this fact years ago, for the marriage is recorded in the Mormon IGI for anyone to see. I got copies of several parish registers and tried to track down her parents, ect., but to no avail. I suspect that she was the daughter of Richard Bickley, that when his wife (her mother) died she was reared by a maternal aunt or such, whose name we don’t know, that she was indeed raised in Nether Whitacre, tho there is no record of her there in the parish register all we have so far is that her name was Bickley and her home parish.”
Oddly enough, it does not especially appear to be members of the Edson family that are most resistant to accepting the fact Susanna Bickley was not an Orcutt, but a few members of the Orcutts themselves. Unfounded statements, such as “Susanna Orcutt, the first Orcutt in America”, as one Orcutt related website states, (although the author of that statement obviously has full knowledge of the marriage record naming Susannah as “Bickley” previous to her marriage), would be wholly puzzling if not for the fact that a closer look reveals that the same person offers a personal theory in a fairly convoluted attempt to establish an Orcutt-Urquhart connection.
Her personal theory is that Rev. James Keith, having been a son-in-law of Susanna “Orcutt” would supposedly have been privy to in-depth information concerning the Orcutt’s ancestral background, known they were really descendants of the Clan Urquhart, and thus used the opportunity of a marriage record, that of William Orcutt Jr. to Hannah Smith, recorded as “William Urrohart” to memorialize the fact that Orcutts were really Urquharts. Obviously, if Susanna was not an Orcutt, but a Bickley, Rev. Keith would have known no more about the Orcutts than any of his other parishioners, and no reason to “memorialize” anything about them. For this theory to work at all for this theorist Susanna must have been an Orcutt, thus to face the fact that she indeed wasn’t also clearly means the person’s theory has no basis in fact from it’s very conception.
This theory, which has been offered as “circumstantial evidence” in regard to Orcutts having been Urquharts is not evidence of any kind, of anything. How anyone might build the circumstance that some people having been in the same place at the same time into a detailed scenario of a family being identified by an entry in a record book as some manner of a memorial requires imagination, and of course is of zero use in genealogy.
To attempt to establish a 400 year old genealogical connection of one family to another by use of what a person simply imagines was in the mind of a person making an entry into an ancient record is sketchy, to say the least, and rises to NO acceptable standard in the science of genealogy. It is perplexing as to why anyone might think it would.
The fact also remains that there is no proof that James Keith personally made the record in question, and not some clerk that had no prior knowledge of how to spell Orcutt. Rev. Keith, who is known to have been a well educated man, is said to have written a very beautiful, flowing “hand”, and the record, (that in fact is so hard to clearly deciper that there are still different renderings of the “spelling” commonly ascertained according to different people’s perception), coupled with the fact that having been Scotland born and well educated he would surely have known how to spell Urquhart correctly, all tends to be good indication Keith in fact had nothing whatever to do personally with this particular record. It would be an very easy thing to hire an expert handwriting analyst to compare some of Rev. Keith’s known handwriting with that marriage record, (which is the first thing I would have done if I were the person advancing this theory), but given the fact Susanna has been identified as having actually been someone other than an Orcutt, even this seems to be a moot point at this time.
Whether in fact Rev. Keith personally recorded that Urrohart marriage record or not, the fact remains that there is an official, and totally reliable record that names Samuel Edson’s wife as “Susanna Bickley”.
Marriage recorded Holy Trinity Church, Sutton Coldfield, Warwickshire
March 1, 1638 “Samuel Edson and Susannah Bickley of Whittaker were married In this church by virtue of a license.”
This marriage record can be viewed in the Sutton Coldfield record on FamilySearch.
As genealogy is about finding and proving who people were, and not proving who they weren’t, enough time has been spent addressing the latter. Any person claiming Samuel Edson married someone other than Susanna Bickley can simply provide the marriage record that proves it. Short of that, it isn’t proper, correct, or advantageous in any way I can imagine to continue to insist she was someone else based upon reliance of an obvious (and thoroughly proven to have been) mistake.