52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks: Matthew Cox

Generic picture of newspapers stacked on a table

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Welcome to Tenacious Genealogy! This is another post for the 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks challenge that I’m participating in this year. It is a challenge hosted by Amy Johnson Crow every year and I figured I’d get in on the fun. 

This is the week 13 prompt (which you can already tell I’m lagging behind on) and it is: ‘In the Paper’.

When thinking about this prompt, the first story that came to mind was that of one of my Cox ancestors. I’ve only just begun to scratch the surface, research-wise, of this particular Cox line (I have two unrelated Cox lines, it seems), but already the family seems to be an interesting one indeed.

This particular line stretches back to the 1600s in Massachusetts and this particular relative is noted ‘in the paper’ due to an unfortunate accident on his part – which led to his untimely death.

Matthew Cox and the Apple Tree

Matthew Cox was my 6th great grandfather, born in 1717 in Boston, Massachusetts. He and his wife, Elizabeth Russell had at least 9 children between 1740 and 1756. (There is a possibility of at least 2 more children, however, only 9 have been verified through genealogical records.)

While he was born in Boston, it seems that by the time he and Elizabeth were married, he had settled in Cambridge, Massachusetts and had some portion of farmland and/or orchards where his family lived.

On February 16, 1756 – roughly one month shy of his 39th birthday – it seems that he was pruning apple trees in his orchard, and toward the evening, fell and broke his neck. According to the news article in ‘The Boston News-Letter’, his death left ‘a sorrowful widow and eight young children and she in daily expectation of increasing the fatherless.’ (Benjamin Cox – the youngest of Matthew and Elizabeth’s children – was born three weeks later on March 7th, 1756.)

While the article in ‘The Boston News-Letter’ seems to be the most complete article (as has been found), multiple other newspapers in the Boston area also noted Matthew’s unfortunate demise.

A couple of interesting notes on this family: 1) There are family stories noting that all six of Matthew’s sons (including my ancestor Walter Cox) served in the American Revolution. One, William Cox, is noted as having been part of the Boston Tea Party as well.

2) Despite having eight young children and another one on the way, there is no mention of Elizabeth Russell remarrying after Matthew’s death. Her eldest daughter would have been 16 and her eldest son would have been 11, almost 12 when their father died. In many similar cases, a widow would have remarried, which makes me wonder if Matthew was not necessarily a poor farmer and that his family was secure financially even after his death. (Or perhaps Elizabeth had some kind of dowry or inheritance that allowed her not remarry after Matthew’s death)

3) The Boston News-Letter tended to write, even in their local news portion, about the births, marriages, deaths, and other activities of important or notable people in the community – which leads me to believe that Matthew Cox wasn’t just your average Massachusetts farmer.

Overall, it is an interesting story and it’s kinda cool to find out which family members were ‘in the paper’, even well over 200 years ago.

Questions & Comments?

Questions or comments about this post? Found any interesting articles about your ancestors? Curious about the 52 Ancestors in 52 weeks challenge? Let me know in the comments! And if you like what you’ve been seeing on Tenacious Genealogy – please subscribe to our email list. Not only will you stay up to date with the latest blog posts, but you’ll also get freebies such as ‘10 Tips For Starting your Genealogy’ and other fun ‘subscriber-only’ items.

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