Kelly/Verge Genealogy

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Kelly/Verge Genealogy


Was Joseph Verge, Sr. a Bigamist?

The Problem:

Some current speculation on the Internet regarding early Verge history in North America has Joseph Verge, Sr., the founder of the Verge family in Nova Scotia, as being married twice - at the same time. The theory is that Joseph married in England in 1753 and moved his family to Newfoundland, and then travelled to Boston and married again there in 1755. He supposedly had a family in each place. I have been told that letters in the possession of one researcher support this, but I have not seen this evidence. In the absence of that, let's take a look at what has been presented on this theory. This is complicated because what is there already mashes together the families of what as yet must be considered to be two Joseph Verges. As well, no documentation or sources are listed. Let me be very clear here: the following family arrangement is presented here, but it is not a scenario I am supporting at this time.

  • Joseph Verge, b. 1721 Hampshire, England; d. 17 Feb 1780 Liverpool.
    • m. Sarah Keay 20 Feb 1753 in Christchurch, Hampshire
      • Children of Joseph and Sarah:
        • John Verge, b. 1755 in Christchurch or Trinity Bay, Newfoundland
        • Joseph Verge, b. 4 June 1756 Trinity Bay, d. 21 July 1827 Liverpool, m. Abigail Dogget
        • Mary Verge
        • Susanna Verge, b. 1761 Trinity Bay
        • Thomas Verge, b. 1765 Trinity Bay
    • m. Mary Blewett 8 May 1755 Boston
      • Children of Joseph and Mary:
        • William Verge, b. 1758 Boston
        • John Bluet Verge, b. 1762 Boston
        • George Verge, b. 1764 Boston
        • Rebecca Verge, b. 1766 Boston
        • Sarah Verge, b. 20 Oct 1771 Port Mouton
        • Mary Verge, b. 25 Feb 1774 Port Mouton

My Thoughts:

For me, there are two things that don't sit right with this scenario:

  • During the 1750s and 1760s, Joseph Sr. would have been effectively living in two different places. Wouldn't anyone want to know where he'd been spending his time? Could he really have gotten away with saying, effectively, "Gone fishing"?
  • Joseph Sr., and Joseph Jr. moved to Nova Scotia, where Joseph Jr. lived among his half-siblings, marrying Abigail Dogget in 1779. His appearance surely would have brought up his parents' marriage, which occurred before Joseph married Mary. This would make all the children by Mary illegitimate. I have a hard time believing that no one had issues with this, in the late eighteenth century.

The Case Against Bigamy:

Now let's take a look at what we know about Nova Scotia-based Joseph:

From the Records of the New North Church, Boston, as transcribed by Robert J. Dunkle:

  • Joseph Verge married Mary Blewet on 8 May, 1755 (p. 121)
    • This is supported by the database Boston, Massachusetts, Marriages at Ancestry.com, which also gives the date April 18, 1755, which was presumably the announcement of intentions.

According to the records of Christ Church, in Boston, as published in the New England Historical and Genealogical Register (NEHGR) in 1946/47:

  • Joseph Verg, son of Joseph & Mary, baptised 26 Oct 1755 (Vol. 100, pg. 32)
  • William Verg, son of Joseph & Mary, baptised 15 Jan 1758 (Vol. 100, pg. 132)
  • John Bleuet Verge, son of Joseph & Mary, baptised 17 Jan 1762 (Vol. 100, pg. 135)
  • George Verge, son of Joseph & Mary, baptised 4 Nov 1764 (Vol. 100, pg. 136)

As seen in the Liverpool Town Records:

  • Joseph Verge, Jr. is stated to be the son of Joseph Verge and Mary his wife. See a scan and a transcription of the page in question here.

In L'Annuaire de l'universit´┐Ż Laval, 1896/7, Monseigneur J. C. K. Laflamme comments on the origins of the Nelson Verge branch of the family. Nelson was a grandson of Joseph Verge, Jr. and Abigail Doggett.

  • Paraphrased: The Verge family were natives of Christchurch but came to Massachusetts at the end of the 17th century because they were Puritans looking for religious freedom. After 1783, as Loyalists, they came to Chester, Lunenburg County, Nova Scotia.
    • This may or may not have bearing on the issue. Laflamme is incorrect about the time and place of settlement in Nova Scotia. Joseph Verge, Sr. and his family were in Liverpool, Queens County in at least 1771. Joseph's grandson, John Blewett Verge, moved to Chester where Joseph Nelson Verge was born. Nelson later moved to Quebec. However, if Laflamme is correct about the timing of the Verge emigration to Massachusetts, then this branch of the family never went to Newfoundland, and in any case, was present on the continent perhaps a half-century or more before Joseph Verge and Sarah Keay went to Newfoundland.

According to Simeon Perkins' Diary:

  • Joseph Verge died after lingering illness on 20 Feb 1780, Liverpool

My Conclusions:

From all this, the things that stand out particularly are:

  • The baptism of Joseph and Mary's son Joseph on 26 Oct 1755 in Boston. The Newfoundland-born version wasn't even born until 4 June 1756.
  • The Liverpool Town Records give Joseph Jr.'s mother as being Mary. It would be hard to support that if a full-grown Joseph had shown up after living his entire life in Newfoundland.
  • Laflamme's version of the family history most likely came from Dr. Charles Verge, great-grandson of Joseph Verge, Jr. What this means is that at the end of the nineteenth century, family lore puts our roots in Massachusetts, not Newfoundland. Laflamme does give the Christchurch connection, but I think this points to the two Josephs being cousins of some sort. There are at least two other Josephs in the known Christchurch family (a grandson and a great-grandson of Nicholas Verge), so it's entirely possible there were others.

It seems to me this is fairly strong evidence that there were two Joseph Jrs, and if this is true, then there is no reason not to believe that there weren't two Joseph Srs. So, until someone offers actual documentation to support that they are one and the same, I will continue to believe that the Joseph Verge who married Sarah Keay and settled in Newfoundland, is not the same Joseph Verge who married Mary Blewett and eventually settled in Liverpool.

This is how I believe the families should look:

  • Joseph Verge, b. 1721 Hampshire, England
    • m. Sarah Keay 20 Feb 1753 in Christchurch, Hampshire
      • Children of Joseph and Sarah:
        • John Verge, b. 1755 in Christchurch or Trinity Bay, Newfoundland
        • Joseph Verge, b. 4 June 1756 Trinity Bay
        • Mary Verge
        • Susanna Verge, b. 1761 Trinity Bay
        • Thomas Verge, b. 1765 Trinity Bay
  • Joseph Verge, d. 20 Feb 1780 Liverpool.
    • m. Mary Blewett 8 May 1755 Boston
      • Children of Joseph and Mary:
        • Joseph Verge, b. 1755 Boston, bapt. 26 Oct 1755 Boston, d. 21 July 1827 Liverpool, m. Abigail Dogget
        • William Verge, b. 1758 Boston, bapt. 15 Jan 1758 Boston
        • John Bluet Verge, b. 1762 Boston, bapt. 17 Jan 1762 Boston
        • George Verge, b. 1764 Boston, bapt. 4 Nov 1764 Boston
        • Rebecca Verge, b. 1766 Boston
        • Sarah Verge, b. 20 Oct 1771 Port Mouton
        • Mary Verge, b. 25 Feb 1774 Port Mouton


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