03 March 2023

The Saga Never Ends

In 1874, John Bearse Newcomb (JBN) published Genealogical Memoir of the Newcomb Family. His goal was to document "nearly every person of the name in America from 1635 to 1874". He found a lot of people, but, of course, there were many he missed. Without computers or telephones, he had to rely on whatever public records were accessible at the time, along with correspondence and interviews with informants whose memories, spelling, and pronunciation were not always ideal. Nevertheless, his achievement was impressive. It became the foundation for most Newcomb research.

JBN identified three major lines of Newcombs, each from an English immigrant ancestor. These were Andrew (1616-1686), Frances (1605-1692), and Baptist (1640-1693). The Andrew line was, and still is, the largest by far. There are a few smaller lines, also English, quite a few who originate in Germany or Switzerland, and many Newcombs whose origin is unidentified.

In 1923, Bethuel Merritt Newcomb (BMN) published Andrew Newcomb and His Descendants: A Revised Edition of "Genealogical Memoir" of the Newcomb Family by John Bearse Newcomb. As the title indicates, BMN restricted himself to the Andrew line. Half a century after the original work, the number of Newcombs in America had multiplied to such an extent that updating them all would likely have been impossible without resources BMN did not have, such as a large staff of researchers and the Internet, which would not be available to the general public for another 50 years.

Naturally, JBN and BMN made mistakes. They someimes conflated people with similar names, and were occasionally led astray by false assumptions, bad handwriting, or the distorted memories of informants.

Today, computerized archives of historical information have made genealogical research much easier than it once was. Unfortunately, onine genealogy has also been complicated by the proliferation of bad information, which is often perpetuated more readily than accurate information. Even so, it has been possible for today's researchers to continue correcting and adding to the work of our predecessors, and we know more than ever about the Newcombs and their connected families.

I used to think I would publish an updated history of the Andrew line, but I recently realized that all the material I have would fill a 3000-page book. I'm not going to do it. It is possible that at some point I will publish a less ambitious work, containing only my direct line. In the meantime, I have continued to make my research available to others by posting family trees in online forums.