Sunday, March 13, 2016

Researching The Patriarch

Samuel Wright was the father of two men in the Baseball Hall of Fame.  Harry Wright and George Wright.  He was also the father of Samuel Wright, Jr., who played in 45 games spread out over four years in the big leagues.

The Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Division of Art, Prints and Photographs: Photography Collection,
The New York Public Library. "Sam Wright". The NYPL Digital Collections.

So, who was Samuel Wright?  He was a cricketer, one of the first professional cricketers in the United States.

But what about his life?  I'll attempt to answer that question using a variety of documents and public records.  I relied on Christopher Devine's Harry Wright: The Father Of Professional Base Ball to guide me through the basics.  I utilized,,,,,, and the direction of Jimmy Leiderman to get me to this point.  Try to think of this post as a mess of annotations and less of a narrative and you'll do fine.

Samuel Wright was born on May 22, 1812 in England and christened the next month.

"England Births and Christenings, 1538-1975," database, FamilySearch ( : accessed 5 March 2016), Samuel Wright, 21 Jun 1812; citing , reference ; FHL microfilm 919,327.

Samuel's wife was named Ann.  I have not found a record of their marriage.  The christening of their son, William Henry Wright, also known as Harry, was recorded in 1832.  Devine states that Ann was Annie Tone, and they were married in 1830.

Harry, born William Henry Wright, was christened on November 8, 1832, at St. Peter, Leeds, York, England.

At some point the Samuel Wright family leaves England and travels to America.  I find them living in New York City at the time of the 1840 US Census.  There are five people in the household.  Two males under the age of 5, one male aged 30-40, one female under age 5, and one female aged 20-30.  Samuel would be the older male, Ann would be the older female.  According to the christening record, Harry would be in the second column, males aged 5 to 10.  From the 1840 Census we can't really tell anything else about the family, such as names or birth years.

"United States Census, 1840," database with images, FamilySearch ( : accessed 5 March 2016), Samuel Wright, New York Ward 11, New York, New York, United States; citing p. 75, NARA microfilm publication M704, (Washington D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.), roll 305; FHL microfilm 17,197.

Ten years later (1850) the family is still in New York.  And the Census Bureau does a great thing for future genealogists and researchers.  They include every name, age, sex, color, profession, place of birth, and a few other things.

"United States Census, 1850," database with images, FamilySearch ( : accessed 5 March 2016), Samuel Wright, New York City, ward 12, New York, New York, United States; citing family 631, NARA microfilm publication M432 (Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.).

In the 1850 Census we find:
Samuel Wright, 37, Joiner Tool Maker, England (est. birth year = 1813)
Ann, 37, , Ireland (1813)
William H., , 15, Silver Smith, England (1835)
Daniel, 12, , New York (1838)
George, 3, , New York (1847)
Samuel, 1, , New York (1849)

This is where it starts to get fun.  More children, missing child.  Date ranges.  If William (Harry) was born in 1835 in England, and Daniel was born in 1838 in New York, then we can assume that the Wright family came to America between those years.  I have not found any ship's manifest or immigration papers that shows when the travel occurred.

I've realized that I'm starting to open a can of worms for myself.  I easily get sidetracked.  In this exercise I will try to stay focused on Samuel, the father.  I guess I'll have to write up some posts on the children at another time.  If you stick with me I'll be recycling some of these items.

Trying to keep things in somewhat of a chronological order, here's an 1856 profile on "Veteran Sam".

New York Clipper - July 19, 1856
image from the University of Illinois UC Digital Newspaper Collections
From that profile we're shown a different birth date than the FamilySearch document above.

So, on to the 1860 Census.  The family is now living in Hoboken, New Jersey.

"United States Census, 1860", database with images, FamilySearch ( : accessed 6 March 2016), Samuel Wright, 1860.

In this Census we find:
Samuel Wright, 55, Cricketer, England (est. birth year = 1805)
Ann, 50, , England (1810)
George, 12, , New York (1848)
Samuel, 10, , New York (1850)
William, 8, , New York (1842)
David, 23, Clerk , New York (1837)

And then on to the 1870 Census.

"United States Census, 1870," database with images, FamilySearch ( : accessed 7 March 2016), Daniel Wright, New Jersey, United States; citing p. 16, family 117, NARA microfilm publication M593 (Washington D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.); FHL microfilm 552,360.

In the 1870 Census we find:
Daniel, 33, Clerk , New York (est. birth year = 1837)
Margaret E., 30, Keeping House , New York (1840)
Sammie Sr., 57, No Occupation, England (1813)
Ann, 50, At Home, Ireland (1820)
Sammie, 21, Works at Book Binding, New York (1849)
Mary, 20, At Home, New York (1851)
George, 5, , New Jersey (1865)

Samuel is no longer head of the house.  Still the Patriarch, but not the head of the house.  This will be the last federal census we find him in, as he dies in 1877.

New York Clipper - December 29, 1877
image from the University of Illinois UC Digital Newspaper Collections

And the official record we see he had disease of the kidneys (among other things), lived at Savin Hill, was a wood turner, and was born in England to Daniel and Sarah.

"Massachusetts Deaths, 1841-1915," database with images, FamilySearch ( : accessed 11 March 2016), 0960213 (004221428) > image 633 of 797; State Archives, Boston.
Another death record shows that he was buried at Forest Hills Cemetery in Boston.  It also shows that the cause of death was apoplexy, which could either be internal bleeding or a stroke syndrome.

Boston Record of Deaths, 1877; Vol· 3 (Jan-Dec) Source Information Massachusetts, Town and Vital Records, 1620-1988 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2011.

I called Forest Hills Cemetery in Boston, Massachusetts and spoke with Sally.  She was able to confirm that Samuel Wright was buried at Forest Hills Cemetery on December 21, 1877.  He is in Section 25, grave number 1790.  That section is known as the "Field of Manoah".  I asked if his wife, Ann (who died in 1887), was buried near him.  She said that they had no record for her.

image from

I've created a FindAGrave memorial for Samuel Wright and have requested a volunteer to take a photo of his grave marker.  Maybe when the weather in Boston becomes more mild someone will fill the request.

I've already started working on the next portion of Samuel's life, this time recorded in the directories of the cities in which he lived (Hoboken, Newark, and Boston).  Other bits will include some of his cricket history.  I've got plans to share similar posts about his wife and children and their families.