As Elizabeth Shown Mills states, often we will never find the “smoking gun” – that single document which states the parentage of an individual. This is certainly the case with Cynthia (Day) Bursley, who was born in rural Maine in the early nineteenth century, in a place and time in which few records were kept. In fact, the first known record directly naming Cynthia was the 1850 Federal Census, in which she was enumerated in Bangor, Maine at the age of 37 with her husband, Benjamin Bursley.1 Despite this obstacle, however, using evidence-based reasoning, along with the genealogical proof standard, one can deduce Cynthia’s parentage with a high degree of confidence.
Cynthia (Day) Bursley
Cynthia Bursley died 13 May, 1874, in Santiago, Sherburne County, Minnesota, at the age of 60 years and 3 months.2 (We can thus extrapolate her birth as approximately February 1814.) The certificate of her death states she was born in Maine to parents simply listed as “________ Day.” This document also indicates her parents were natives of Maine as well.
Nearly twenty years later, in 1892, Cynthia’s daughter, Lavina (Bursley) Stanwood, began the process to probate Cynthia’s estate.3 These documents confirm that Benjamin Bursley, with whom Cynthia was enumerated on the 1850 and 1860 U.S. Federal Censuses, was in fact, her husband.
Probable marriage and birth of children in Lagrange, Penobscot, Maine
It is likely that Benjamin Bursley and Cynthia Day married about 1834 or 1835 in or near Lagrange, Penobscot County, Maine, where we find the following births recorded in the Lagrange Town and Vital Records:
- 18 Nov 1835 Julia A. Bursley4
- 5 Oct 1837 Arlette Bursley5
- 16 Sept 1839 Benjamin Bursley Jr6
- 10 Jan 1842 John Morris Bursley7
The oldest children appear to have died by 1850, when the U.S. Federal Census enumerated Benjamin and Cynthia with three children in Bangor, Penobscot County, Maine:8
- John W. (sic), age 8
- Susan H., age 6
- Lorina (sic), age 1
John Day, a close associate
John Day, a resident of nearby Kilmarnock (now Medford), Maine, was a close associate of Cynthia’s husband, Benjamin Bursley. Attested to by John Day on 23 March 1841, is the following, which appears in the Lagrange town records:9
Know all men by these presents that I Benjamin Bursley of Lagrange County of Penobscot and state of Maine Joiner, in consideration of hand which Stephen Danforth of the same Lagrange hold against me March 23, 1841 for Eighty Dollars payable in three years from next December with interest, do sell and convey unto the said Danforth one Brown mare….
The next year, on 28 September 1842, Nathaniel Hatch sold to Joseph W. Day10
Lot 1 – North end and part of lot numbered one – in said Kilmarnock, being the remaining part of said Lot not set off to said town of Kilmarnock, being part of the same lot now occupied by Aaron & John Day, containing twenty acres.”
By 1854, Benjamin and Cynthia had apparently relocated to Kilmarnock, where Benjamin was the town clerk, completing two entries in the town records on 17 June 1854 and 27 October 1854.11 After Benjamin’s move to Minnesota in November 1854, John Day assumed the role of town recorder, as his entry into the town records on 23 May 1855 follows Benjamin’s.
Tying it all together to determine Cynthia’s parentage
While Cynthia (Day) Bursley left behind no records to definitively state the names of her parents, and no document suggests siblings or other extended family members, multiple sources lead researchers to one conclusion: Cynthia was the daughter of Aaron Day and his wife Martha, and the sister of her husband’s close associate, John Day.
Supporting Conclusion #1: Cynthia’s husband Benjamin Bursley resides near Aaron Day
Geography was perhaps the largest factor in the selection of a mate for those living in the nineteenth century. Potential marriage candidates were generally limited to nearby neighbors. Cynthia’s marriage to Benjamin Bursley, the son of Lemuel Bursley and Lavina Spencer, clearly places her and her family in the region surrounding Farmington, Franklin County, Maine, where Benjamin was born about 1811 and where his family continued to reside.
Aaron Day and his family are found in and around the Farmington area in the early 1800s. A timeline is shown below:
|30 Nov 1807|| Starks
|Birth of Nathaniel Day to Aaron and Martha (?) Day12|
|24 Feb 1809|| Starks
|Birth of John Day to Aaron and Martha (?) Day13|
|Aaron Day enumerated on the 1810 Federal Census14|
|31 Dec 1810|| Starks
|Birth of Sarah Day to Aaron and Martha (?) Day15|
|31 Dec 1812|| Industry
|Birth of Harriet Day to Aaron and Martha (?) Day16,17,18|
|Resided on land referred to in Stark town records19|
|Aaron Day residence included on map of Readfield20|
Lucy N. Hutchins (1882-1969), the great granddaughter of Aaron’s brother John Day, wrote extensively about the Day family, providing intimate details of their lives. Lucy’s notes reveal that Aaron’s daughter Harriet was raised by his unmarried siblings, Nathaniel and Sarah, who resided in Winthrop, Kennebec County, about 30 miles south of Farmington.21 Cynthia may also have spent time with Nathaniel and Sarah, or with Lucy’s own great grandfather, John Day, who continued to reside in Starks, about 19 miles from Farmington. Since Cynthia’s presumed family resided in towns surrounding Farmington, she was provided the opportunity to meet Benjamin Bursley, her future husband.
After their marriage, Benjamin and Cynthia resided in Lagrange, Maine, just south of Milo and Kilmarnock (now Medford). The births of their first four children, Julia, Arlette, Benjamin and John are recorded there between 1835 and 1842. 22 Milo, a ten-mile distance from Lagrange, was the town where we next find Aaron Day and his sons, John and Joseph Warren:
|1823||Milo, Penobscot Co.||Aaron Day listed as taxpayer23|
|1827||Milo, Penobscot Co.||Aaron Day founding member of Free Will Baptist Church24|
|1830||Milo, Penobscot Co.||Aaron Day enumerated on the 1830 Federal Census25|
|1840||Kilmarnock, Piscataquis Co.||Aaron Day enumerated on the 1840 Federal Census26|
|1842||Kilmarnock, Piscataquis Co.||Aaron Day and son John residing on portion of lot adjacent to section purchased by son Joseph.27|
|1860||Medford, Piscataquis Co.||Aaron Day enumerated on the 1860 Federal Census in household of his son John.28|
After moving northeast to the Lagrange area, Benjamin and Cynthia remained in close proximity to her presumed family, and by 1854 the couple resided in Kilmarnock, the same town that Aaron and his sons John and Joseph called home.
Supporting Conclusion #2: John Day was the son of Aaron Day and his wife, Martha
John Day was born in Starks, Somerset County, Maine on 24 February 1809 to Aaron Day and his wife Martha. John was close to his father, inhabiting with his father one portion of Lot No. 1, the other half of which was purchased by his brother Joseph. Aaron continued to reside with his son in 1860, when he was enumerated on Federal Census in Medford. John was a close associate of Benjamin Bursley, attesting to the note Benjamin obtained from Stephen Danforth, using his mare as collateral. He also succeeded Benjamin Bursley as town clerk after the Bursley family migrated west to Minnesota in November 1854.
Supporting Conclusion #3: No other parental candidates
In 1814, Aaron Day was the only married male of the Day surname residing in the region by which Cynthia could have been fathered. His oldest brother, John, resided in Starks and had children born in 1811, 1814 and 1816,29 excluding him as a candidate. Francis Day, Aaron’s only other married brother, had his posterity recorded in the History of Monona County, Iowa, which states he “married Miss Elizabeth Hewins…having had only two children,” Franklin Augustus and Francis Jerome.30 Aaron’s two uncles, Daniel and David, also were not candidates: Daniel’s wife, Sarah Ross, was 53 years of age in 1814, and no longer of childbearing age.31 David Day, a widower at the time of Cynthia’s birth, is similarly excluded as a potential father for our subject.32
Supporting Conclusion 4: Five-year gap in birth of children
The known children of Aaron Day and Martha are:
- Nathaniel Day, b. 30 Nov 1807 in Starks, Somerset Co., Maine33
- John Day, b. 24 Feb 1809 in Starks, Somerset Co., Maine34
- Sarah Day, b. 31 Dec 1810 in Starks, Somerset Co., Maine35
- Harriet Day, b. 31 Dec 1812 in Industry, Franklin Co, Maine36, 37
- Joseph W. Day, b. about 181738
As demonstrated above, Aaron and Martha added a child to their family about every two years. However, there is an approximate five-year time span between the last two children, Harriet and Joseph, providing the window of opportunity for Cynthia’s birth about 1814.
Supporting Conclusion #5: Naming Conventions
Names have long been passed down from generation to generation. Such is the case with Benjamin Bursley and Cynthia Day, who named their fourth daughter after Benjamin’s mother, Lavina (Spencer.) Bursley. Not surprisingly, the two youngest children born to Benjamin and Cynthia were named Aaron Day Bursley and Martha Eliza Bursley, lending further weight to our argument that Aaron Day and his wife Martha are the parents of Cynthia (Day) Bursley.39 Additionally, Cynthia was presumably the namesake for her niece, the second daughter of Nathaniel and Eunice (Boobar) Day, who was born in 1838.40
Supporting Conclusion #6: A Shared Family Photograph
A photograph of a woman labeled Cynthia (Day) Lovejoy was listed on the “Scott Kentish and Border” Ancestry.com tree posted by user “devorguilla,” the great-great granddaughter of Cynthia’s presumed brother, Nathaniel. The photo provides another clue in tying Cynthia (Day) Bursley to her parents. An original of the same photograph is held by this author, contained in the photograph album passed down through the generations from its original owner, Lavina (Bursley) Stanwood, daughter of Benjamin Bursley and Cynthia Day. While the photo identification appearing on Ancestry.com seems incorrect (Cynthia [Day] Lovejoy died in Maine in 1867, age 29, and the photo was taken in Minneapolis, Minnesota in 1871 or later), it establishes an undeniable connection between the family of Cynthia (Day) Bursley and her presumed brother, Nathaniel Day.41 Not only does the photo provide evidence of the family connection, geography further confirms their relationship; Nathaniel and his family moved to Plymouth, Minnesota, and resided 45 miles from Benjamin and Cynthia, who lived north of them in Santiago.42
Studio History from mhs.org:
|Jacoby’s Art Gallery
Nicollet Avenue and Third
Dates of operation: 1871-1872
46 Nicollet Avenue
Dates of operation:1873-1874
250-252 Nicollet Avenue
| W. H. Jacoby & Son
252 Nicollet Avenue
Dates of operation: 1887-1888
Supporting Conclusion #7: Autosomal DNA evidence
Autosomal DNA testing has confirmed a relationship between this author, the third great granddaughter of Cynthia (Day) Bursley, and multiple other descendants of Aaron Day and his siblings:
- FamilyTree DNA Family Finder autosomal test links this author to D.W. with 63.8 shared cM’s. D.W. is the second great grandson of Joseph Warren Day, the youngest son of Aaron Day and his wife Martha.43 The AncestryDNA autosomal test also linked this author with D.W., providing a relationship estimate of 4th to 6th cousins with a “Very High” confidence level.
- The Ancestry autosomal DNA test links this author to Ancestry member G.G., providing a relationship estimate of 5th to 8th cousins with a “High” confidence level. G.G. is the fourth great granddaughter of Francis Day (brother of Aaron Day) and Elizabeth Hewins.44
- The Ancestry autosomal DNA test links this author to Ancestry member L.C., providing a relationship estimate of 5th to 8th cousins with a “High” confidence level. L.C. was the second great granddaughter of Nathaniel Day, the son of Aaron Day and Martha his wife.45
- The Ancestry autosomal DNA test links this author to Ancestry test user E.J., providing a relationship estimate of 5th to 8th cousin with a “High” confidence level. E.J. is the second great granddaughter of Nathaniel Day, the son of Aaron Day and Martha his wife.46
All available evidence indicates that Aaron Day and his wife Martha were the parents of Cynthia Day, the wife of Benjamin Bursley. Because women were not commonly mentioned in legal documents and were included in few records besides censuses during the nineteenth century, Cynthia’s life is largely traced through that of her husband. The identification of Cynthia’s parents is based on the seven documented conclusions detailed above. No evidence contradicts these conclusions.
- Cynthia Bursley, 1850 U.S. Census, Penobscot County, Maine, population, Bangor, 57A, 844; National Archives micropublication M432, M432_264.
- Cynthia Bursley, death certificate (1874), Sherburne County District Court, Elk River, Sherburne County, Minnesota.
- Cynthia S. (Day) Bursley, Final Decree, Sherburne County probate file dated 13 Nov, 1893, County Clerk’s Office, Elk River, Sherburne Co, Minnesota.
- Lagrange, Penobscot, Maine, Item 2: 48, Julia A Bursley b. 18 Nov 1835; FHL microfilm 11532.
- Lagrange, Penobscot, Maine, Item 2: 48, Arlette Bursley b. Oct 5th 1837; FHL microfilm 11532.
- Lagrange, Penobscot, Maine, Item 2: 48, Benjamin Bursley Jr b. Sep 16th 1839; FHL microfilm 11532.
- Lagrange, Penobscot, Maine, Item 2: 49, John M. Bursley b. Jany 10th 1842; FHL microfilm 11532.
- Benjamin Bursley, 1850 U.S. Census, Penobscot Co, ME, population, Bangor, 57A, 844.
- Note, Benjamin Bursley, grantee; Stephen Danforth, grantor; “one brown mare” collateral, 1832, pg 111; Town Clerk, Lagrange, Penobscot Co, ME. FHL film#0011532.
- Piscataquis County, Maine, Deed Book, 7:420, Nathaniel Hatch to Joseph W. Day, 28 Sept 1842; Register of Deeds Office, Dover-Foxcroft.
- Benjamin Bursley, Town Clerk, 1844-1891, 12; Family History Library, Newark, Delaware. FHL film #0011544; two entries by Benjamin Bursley, both on page 12, dated 17 June 1854 and 27 Oct 1854. The next entry is by John Day, likely his brother in law.
- Starks, Somerset, Maine, Town and Vital Records, 1830-1887. FHL microfilm 12060., Item 3, Page 90; “Nethaniell (sic) Day, son of Aaron and Martha Day born the thirtieth Day of November. D. 1807”.
- Starks, Somerset, Maine, Town and Vital Records, 1830-1887. FHL microfilm 12060., Item 3, Page 90; “John Day, son of Aaron and Martha Day born the twenty fourth Day of february. D. 1809”.
- 1810, Somerset County, Maine, Starks, 539, Aaron Day; NARA microfilm publication M252, 12.
- Starks, Somerset, Maine, Town and Vital Records, 1830-1887. FHL microfilm 12060., Item 3, Page 90; “Sarah Day, Daughter of Aaron and Martha Day born the thirty first Day of December. D. 1810”.
- Manchester, Kennebec, Maine, Vital Records, 1808-1908. FHL microfilm 11545., p 118.
- Ancestry.com, “Maine Death Records, 1617-1922,” database, Ancestry.com, Ancestry.com (www.ancestry.com: database online 12 April 2014), Helen Freeman Grant, d. 13 Nov 1920; mother Harriet L. Day b. Industry, Maine; citing Maine Death Records, 1617-1922. Augusta, Maine: Maine State Archives.
- Ancestry.com, “Maine Marriage Records, 1713-1937,” database, Ancestry.com, Ancestry.com (www.ancestry.com: database online 12 April 2014), William C. Grant and H. F. Freeman, m. 5 Apr 1892; mo. Harriet Day b. Industry; citing Maine Marriage Records, 1705-1922. Augusta, Maine: Maine State Archives.
- Starks, Maine town records, “March 1814 The Annuell Town Meeting…Voted to except a road as laid out from Thomas Lovejoys to the west line of Starks near Capt. Wests Mills and agreable to the following return as follows viz, laid out for the use of the town of Starks a town road as follows viz, Began at a hemlock stump on the end of the town road against Thomas Lovejoys house and run west seven degrs south to Aaron Days”; transcriber unknown; page unknown; copy provided by Cheryl Patten 28 Mar 2014.
- Survey Plat: Readfield, Maine, 1816; Map FF 921.13. Special Collections, Maine Historical Society, Portland, Maine.
- Day, David R., “Day Family Nine Generations: Special Library Edition,” copy held by Starks Historical Society, Starks, Maine.
- Lagrange Vital Records, FHL microfilm 11532, Item 2.
- Milo Historical Society, Milo Historical Society, “Milo Historical Society Early History,” (http://www.milohistorical.org/history/west.php : accessed 20 February 2014), Aaron Day, 1823 tax payer in Milo.
- Treworgy, Lloyd The Milo Story, Vol. II. (Milo: The Milo Printing Company, 1988), 372.
- 1830 U.S., Piscataquis County, Maine, Milo, 295, Aaron Day; NARA microfilm publication M19, 51.
- 1840 U.S., Piscataquis County, Maine, Kilmarnock, 56, Aaron Day; NARA microfilm publication M704, 151.
- Piscataquis Co., Me., Deed Book 7:420.
- Aaron Day, enumerated with John and Mary A. Day, 1860 US, Piscataquis County, Maine, population, Medford, 1075, 577; National Archives micropublication M653, 433.
- Day, “Day Family,” family detail for John Day and Elizabeth Skillings.
- History of Monona County, Iowa: Containing Full-Page Portraits and Biographical Sketches of Prominent and Representative Citizens of the County (Chicago: National Publishing Company, 1890), 517-518; images online, Mocavo, Mocavo (http://www.mocavo.com : database online 26 March 2014; Genealogy of Franklin Augustus Day, descendant of Robert Day of Ipswich.
- Find A Grave, Find A Grave, online database (www.findagrave.com : database online 3 May 2014), “Sarah Day, wife of Daniel Day, Dec 19, 1851, AEt 90.”
- Haskell, Jessica J., and Charles D. Townsend. Hallowell, Maine History, Tax List, 1850 Census, Marriage Intentions, Family History: From Newspaper Columns by Jessica J. Haskell Published in Daily Eastern Argus, 1916-1917. Sarasota, FL: Aceto Bookmen, 1995. 27.
- FHL microfilm 12060., Item 3, Page 90.
- FHL microfilm 12060, Item 3, Page 90.
- FHL microfilm 12060, Item 3, Page 90.
- Manchester, Kennebec, Maine, Vital Records, 1808-1908. FHL microfilm 11545., p 118.
- Ancestry.com, Helen Freeman Grant, d. 13 Nov 1920; mother Harriet L. Day b. Industry, Maine.
- Sawtell, William R. Medford Revisited. Dover-Foxcroft, Maine: D&B Printing Services, 1996. 34.
- Find-a-Grave.com, Find A Grave, digital images (http://www.findagrave.com : accessed 27 Oct 2013), photograph, gravestone for Aaron Day Bursley (1852-1915).
- Nathaniel Day, Jr, (Private, Co. L, 1st Maine Cav; Co. G, 1st D.C. Cav., Civil War) pension no. 972,501, Case Files of Approved Pension Applications, 1861-1934; Civil War and Later Pension Files; Department of Veteran’s Affairs, Record Group 15; National Archives, Washington, D.C.
- Find-a-Grave.com, Find A Grave, digital images (http://www.findagrave.com : accessed 2 February 2014), photograph, gravestone for Cynthia D. wife of Benj R. Lovejoy d. Jan 31, 1867.
- Final certificate no. 1589 (Sherburne County), in Benjamin Bursley (Itasca County) homestead file bearing final certificate no. 1590, Saint Cloud, Minnesota, Land Office; Land Entry Papers, 1800-1908; Records of the Bureau of Land Management, Record Group 49; National Archives, Washington, D.C.
- “Family Finder,” database, FamilyTreeDNA (http://www.FamilyTreeDNA.com : downloaded 17 Mar 2011), using the “Matches” and options to query for DAY surname; results from this dynamic database require the private passcode and kit number of this individual.
- “AncestryDNA database, AncestryDNA (http://www.Ancestry.com : downloaded 1 Dec 2014), using the DNA Circles options to query for matches with descendants of Aaron Day and Martha (?) Day; results from this dynamic database require the private passcode and kit number of this individual.
- AncestryDNA, 1 Dec 2014 DNA Circles query.
- AncestryDNA, 1 Dec 2014 DNA Circles query.