Content, Content, Content &…Content

It’s frustrating, sometimes: I have dozens–hundreds, even–of photos and stories and records pertaining to the men in my family tree, but as I trace further back, the stories of the women in my family become fewer and far between. I’m sure that’s every genealogist’s experience, though; if you took an account of the stories shared to each of our blogs, many–if not most–of them would be about the trials and tribulations of our male ancestors. And that’s not our fault; the records that exist–the photos and stories that have survived–seem to always relate to our male ancestors, and telling the stories of our female ancestors with as much depth and detail is sometimes impossible to achieve. But that’s what I’m going to try to do this week: despite the little information available, I’m sharing the stories of the four Content’s in my family tree.

This week’s 52 Ancestors prompt is “Namesake,” and weirdly enough, Content is the name that shows up the most in my family tree. The first Content is my 7th great-grandmother, Content (Sanford) Langworthy: she was born on January 11, 1709 in Portsmouth, Rhode Island to John and Content (Howland) Sanford. At the age of 17, Content married Thomas Langworthy–the son of Andrew and Patience (Brownell) Langworthy–on October 11, 1726 in Stonington, Connecticut. Thomas and Content had six children–Thomas (b. 1727), Mary (b. 1731), Amos (b. 1733), Anne (b. 1736), Sanford (b. 1738) and John (b. 1742)–and they lived on the Langworthy Purchase in nearby Hopkinton, Rhode Island. I don’t know much else about this Content, but I do know this: according to family legend, she lived to be 105 years old.

DIED, at North-Stonington, Con. on the 16th. Widow CONTENT LANGWORTHY, aged upwards of 105 years. In this long life, virtue and industry have been regularly combined, and her station in her family and neighborhood, perhaps has been filled with equal propriety. She lived with her husband 52 years–with her eldest son 86 years (who yet lives unmarried)–has lived at the place of her last abode about 90 years–has left a numerous progeny down to the 5th generation. If we compare the age of this person with that of the world we shall find that it fills up no inconsiderable part of the time since the Creation, it appearing by computation that fifty-five such lives in succession would have nearly reached down from that time to the present day…We are informed by the family, that this aged Woman has read the Old and New Testament twice through since she has seen an entire Century, and nearly the last words she uttered were those memorable expressions, 3rd chapter of John and 16th verse–“For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”

The second Content is her granddaughter–and my 5th great-grandmother–Content (Longworthy) Main: she was born on May 2, 1766 in Stonington, Connecticut to Sanford and Anna (Babcock) Longworthy, and she married Jeremiah Main, a descendant of John Mayne and Elizabeth Laurie. I can’t tell you where she lived, what her occupation was,  how many children she had, when she died or where she was buried; I only know a small portion of her story at present, but I’ll keep searching–fingers crossed I’ll find another clue to her past someday soon. Her daughter, on the other hand, left a more extensive paper trail; and that brings me to the third Content, Content Longworthy (Main) Merrill.

Portraits of Connecticut in the Nineteenth Century

My 4th great-grandmother, Content Longworthy (Main) Merrill, was born on August 7, 1801 in Bridgewater, New York, and she married Lyman Burton Merrill–the son of Allen Merrill and Tamma Smith–on January 31, 1825 at the age of 23. I’ve written about Lyman and Content before: Lyman was a blacksmith from Vermont who left for New York in search of work, and Content remained “at home” with their seven children: Content (b. 1826), Jane (b. 1827), Amy (b. 1829), Jeremiah (b. 1832), Joshua (b. 1834), Celestia (b. 1840) and William (b. 1848). I don’t have any stories to share that have been passed down from generation to generation, but I imagine my 4th great-grandmother as a tough and larger-than-life figure; at least, I hope that’s who she was, and that’s definitely who her granddaughter, my great-great-grandmother, grew to be.

And that brings us to the last Content: Content Almira Merrill. She was born on January 31, 1826 in Villenova, New York, the oldest of Lyman and Content’s seven children. The final Content–my great-great-grandmother’s aunt–is also largely a mystery; she passed away on October 26, 1842 at the age of 16, and she was buried in Arkwright, New York. The family later picked up and moved to nearby Pomfret, New York, and she is the only one buried in Arkwright–the only one not buried with the rest of the family. It makes me sad: sad that her life ended at such a young age, sad that I know so little about the time she did have and sad that her family had to leave her along the way. I just hope there is more to find, and if there is, I’m determined to find it; I’ll keep you posted.

So it’s not much; unlike my other stories, I don’t have enough information to tell you who each of these women really was. But I do know this: each Content–from 1709 to 1842–must have been tough. I mean, one lived to be 105 years old, one raised six children during the mid-1700s and one buried her oldest child before being forced to continue on to a new city. I cannot imagine the strength each of these women was forced to develop in the face of these experiences, and although there is very little information available on their lives, they all deserve to be remembered here. It’s frustrating sometimes, but we family historians work with what’s available, don’t we? Here’s to the four Content’s, and to all of the women in my family tree; until next time–Jamie

30 thoughts on “Content, Content, Content &…Content

  1. Great play and words and so true. Sometime we have to really dig for information and look beyond the available records and content… For lack of better words, “read between the lines “

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    1. Agreed–I’m reading between the lines most of the time. That’s part of the fun, even when it’s frustrating. Thanks for stopping by–it’s great to hear from you!

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    1. Anna’s parents were Oliver Babcock and Anna Avery, and that’s the furthest back I’ve traced on the Babcock line at present. There seems to be A LOT of them in Connecticut, though–I’m guessing there’s a good chance they all have a common ancestor!

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    1. I’m in North Carolina–I’ve never visited Connecticut, but I’d love to go someday. I’ve seen photos of some of the gravestones on Find-a-Grave (shout out to those awesome volunteers!), but Content (Main) Merrill doesn’t have a gravestone on her plot. I’m hoping to add one for her. Thanks for stopping by–it is such a weird name, right? But I love it!

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  2. You inspired me to work a bit on my CT and Massachusetts Babcocks. Expanded on Benjamin and Julianna (Judd) Babcock’s children and there was an Anna! Wondering if that matches yours and if so, we are probably 5th cousins.

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  3. You still managed to write a compelling story for these women despite the dearth of records. I ha not come across this name before, and like Liz, at first put the accent on the wrong syllable. Seems like a Puritan name, for sure. Wonder why they didn’t use so many names like that for the men? There are a few, but sparse, indeed. Imagine a man named “Chaste” or “Faithful” or “Does the Dishes”!

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    1. I did the same when I first found the name Content–it’s such an unusual choice! I haven’t found a Puritan connection yet, but that’s always been my guess. Who else would name their daughter Content?

      Thank you very much for saying that, too–this post was a tough one to write, and it felt more stilted to me than my other stories. I’m really glad everyone’s kept reading, though!

      And I think “Does the Dishes” is a BRILLIANT name. 5/5 stars!

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  4. I love the play on words! I agree, not enough is known about our female ancestors. It was, unfortunately, a male dominated world, and thankfully we are changing that from a certain point in time (at least from our generational memories), of the strong women that continue to build and contribute to our lives in so many ways.

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    1. Couldn’t have said it better myself! I love reading about all of the adventures the men in my family had, but I know there are similar stories of the women in my family tree that have been lost to time/weren’t recorded. It makes me sad–but you’re right, it’s good that things are changing!

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