Plausible Theory

As a genealogy hobbyist, I have found myself drawn to a couple sub-specialties in the field of family research: helping people find Revolutionary War Patriots in their trees, and tracking down family lore. After spending some quality time helping others find more Patriots, I was suddenly without a project. I decided to apply what I’d learned about research to my own family and quickly discovered a new patriot! He is the father of one of my existing patriots, Levi Houston.

What about his wife, Dolly Schoolfield? Could I find some form of patriotic service for her father as well? To clarify, patriotic service does not have to be military in nature. It can take the form of paying a supply tax, swearing an oath of fidelity, serving on a jury, supplying food, clothing, transportation, medical relief, etc. This significantly raises the age of an individual who could be considered for recognition by the DAR. Someone far too old to bear arms could provide any number of allowed types of service with no limit to age. This is why I could contemplate looking for service for Dolly’s father.

Raise your hand if you’ve attached someone to your tree as a result of a shaky leaf hint without doing the research to support the relationship. *Raises hand*. I added Dolly’s parents and their parents years ago to my tree based solely on shaky leaves, then never gave them another thought.

The prevailing belief about Dolly Schoolfield’s parents is that they were John Schoolfield born 1730 in Worcester County, Maryland, and either Mary Richison or Richardson, no info. The vital stats on Dolly that have been accepted by the DAR are: born 25 Feb 1759 in Worcester Co MD, died 12 Feb 1836 in Bracken Co KY, married 1777 in Maryland. The closest I’ve come to a legit source for this data is the DAR. Earlier descendants of Dolly and Levi provided the information with no supporting documentation like a bible or baptism reference. The information had been handed down somehow to descendants of the first known child of Dolly and Levi: George Schoolfield Houston. One of these early applicants was the granddaughter of George Schoolfield Houston, making Dolly her great-grandmother. That’s good enough for me.

Using the year 1759 as a starting point, Dolly’s father needed to be at least 21, so he had to be born no later than 1738. The shaky leaf hint pointed to a John Schoolfield born 1730, son of Henry Schoolfield and Ann Bozman. I looked at the trees that had attached this person to see if I could track down the source. Nothing jumped out at me, so the search was expanded. Eventually I read a reference to a newspaper article that appeared on page 13 on 8 July 1906 in the Baltimore Sun. I highly recommend any Maryland Schoolfield researcher make the effort to find it on newspapers.com. Here is the part that matters to this topic:

Schoolfield, John b 1730 03

There he is, just like everyone said: John Schoolfield, son of Henry and Ann, b. 3 Feb 1730. Wait, what? Died 12 Feb 1720? Clearly he didn’t die 10 years before he was born; that is a typo. Still, he died when he was 9 days old. This article doesn’t mention the second John born to this couple, but records from Coventry Parish Church in Somerset, MD reveals this family had another son named John.

Schoolfield, John b 1747
Coventry P.E. Church, Somerset Co., MD Parish and Vestry Records, Vol 1 from familysearch.org

This John was born in 1747, making him too young to be Dolly’s (b. 1759) father.

Why are people so sure Dolly’s father is John Schoolfield and Mary Richardson (I have yet to find anyone in Worcester Co MD from that time period with the surname Richison.)? Time to look for any other John Schoolfield married to a Mary Richardson. There are two probable options.

John Schoolfield #1 is the son of Joseph Schoolfield (brother of the aforementioned Henry). His Will, written 13 Jan 1772, can be found on familysearch.org in Worcester Co MD Will Book 4 image 74. In it he acknowledges his wife Mary (Martin) and is very specific to state that she is to inherit any property that was hers before their marriage, and that no part of his estate is to go to pay any of her debts from before their marriage. This suggests that they were married later in life. Indeed, that seems to be the case given that when she died, her 1777 nuncupative Will (Worcester Co MD book JW4 images 203-4) only mentions children from her first marriage to John Richardson.  Neither document mentions Dolly.

John Schoolfield #2 was the son of John Schoolfield #1. He died intestate; a bond was filed on 1 Nov 1796. His wife Mary was named administrator. The documents for this time period were never filmed by familysearch.org. Someone on Facebook recommended I contact the Nabb Research Center for help finding the resolution to this estate. A researcher there found the partition of land for this estate in 1806 that names the heirs-at-law: Nancy, Harrison A, Mary Ann, John, William and minor son Robert. That this Mary Schoolfield is a Richardson is a guess on my part. On 18 Jan 1788 a Will for Robert Richardson was proven in which he names a daughter Mary Schoolfield (Worcester Co MD Will Book 13 image 105). There was a Benjamin Schoolfield who was also married to a woman named Polly. He died in 1799. Either way, that John Schoolfield isn’t Dolly’s father either.

I’ll admit that at one point I began to doubt Dolly was a Schoolfield. Yet evidence began to mount that she belongs in this extended family. Near as I can tell, there were three sons born to the original Maryland Schoolfield immigrant who might have been Benjamin Schoolfield. One son, Benjamin Jr. daughtered out. The remaining sons, Henry and Joseph represent the two branches of the Worcester/Somerset Schoolfield family. Members of both lines chain-migrated to Bracken County, Kentucky from about 1797 to about 1816. Joseph’s grandson Robert Schoolfield was the first to appear in the tax records in Bracken County. Eventually most if not all of the offspring of Henry’s grandson George Thomas Schoolfield followed. The family established the Bracken Academy in Augusta, KY. More than one teacher in the area bore the surname Schoolfield. Dolly and Levi Houston moved to Bracken County as well in 1812. At least some of their known children accompanied them. The question remains: who are her parents?

Well, I have a working theory. Since I’ve accounted for all of Henry’s sons/grandsons who could be of the correct age, that leaves sons and grandsons of Joseph. Robert Schoolfield, the anchor for the chain migration to Bracken Co was the son of John Schoolfield #1 from above. John Schoolfield #1 had a brother Joseph. Joseph died intestate in 1767. His widow Rebecca (Ennis) remarried to William Anderson Parker. Together they settled his estate. That final account leaves behind a tantalizing clue. In Worcester County Accounts Book Liber 60 page 340-1 presented to the court an accounting of the assets of Joseph Schoolfield in 1769 amounting to 71 pounds 15 shillings. After all the debts were paid, what remained was 39 pounds 19 shillings and 11 pence.

Schoolfield, Joseph account

It helps to know that the term infants was what we call minors. People up to the age of 20 could be called infants. As it happens, Dolly would have been 9 years old at the time of this accounting. Was she one of the two children of Joseph and Rebecca Schoolfield? There is no mention of her in the Will of William Anderson Parker. He names children, but not her. Dolly would have been married 11 years by the time William A Parker died in 1788. I’m still looking to see what happened to Rebecca.

What could account for the persistent belief that Dolly’s parents were John and Mary Schoolfield? Part of my theory involves the possibility that when Rebecca remarried to William A. Parker, she farmed her first two children out to Joseph’s family to raise. Like, say, for instance John Schoolfield #2 who might have married Mary Richardson? There are other options, of course, but this one, given what I’ve learned so far, is at least plausible.

Like all theories, they stand or fall over time based on new evidence. I’ll happily abandon this theory if better information appears. For now I can find nothing to support the belief that Dolly’s parents were John and Mary Schoolfield.

 

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The Click Bait of Its Day

I was recently contacted by the spouse of a cousin asking why I had someone listed as a spouse of E. H. Taft on my tree.  I looked and scratched my head. No earthly idea why I put that woman as his spouse, so she got removed. This was the first time a descendant of my William Watson and Annabelle Gibson had contacted me, so I jumped at the opportunity to learn more.

E. H. Taft is actually Charles H Taft. He was married to Rebecca Walker Watson. Rebecca Walker Watson was named for her maternal grandmother Rebecca Walker. Among the information I was given about Mr. Taft was a juicy tidbit about his death being reported on the front page of many newspapers because, it was claimed, he was a second cousin to President William Howard Taft. Intrigued, I scoured Newspapers.com for more information. At first I didn’t get any results, so I turned to the Colorado Historic Newspaper Collection. There I had better luck.

taft-charles-h-obit-san-juan-prospector-21-aug-1909-pg-1
San Juan Prospector 21 Jan 1909 page 1

The above piece was picked up by a number of Colorado newspapers. I realized from these that my search on Newspapers.com had the wrong parameters. Armed with a specific date, and dropping the middle initial, I began finding results.

The following piece caught my eye because it put the storm in context.

taft-charles-lead_daily_call_thu__aug_19__1909_-page-001

This one is the clincher, though. The Hearst News Service got their hands on this story and applied some creative license to make the story more sensational. A tactic we recognize today as click bait.

click-bait

Of course no one would have cared about any of this except for the claim that Charles H Taft was the 2nd cousin of President Taft. We know how common it is for these kinds of claims to be made by and about family. I have a biography of an ancestor published in a ‘brag book’ where the claim was made that the subject was related to Leonard Wood, and his wife a full 1st cousin to Samuel Houston. Neither panned out.

To be a full 2nd cousin, both people need to share a set of great-grandparents. I don’t know how well-vetted this is, but if it had glaring errors in it, I’m pretty sure some knowledgeable genealogist would have challenged it. Here’s a Wikipedia entry that outlines the ancestry of President Taft. His father was Alphonso Taft, grandfather was Peter Rawson Taft, and his great-grandfather was Aaron Taft (1743–1808).

Let’s take a peak-see at Charles H Taft. Charles married Rebecca 8 Jun 1904.1  As we see above, he died in 1909. He does not, then, appear in any US census as married to Rebecca. We learn from the 1900 Census that he was born Apr 1874 in Wisconsin to a father born in New York and a mother born in Pennsylvania.2  

1880-census-taft
1880 Census Whitewater, Walworth, Wisconsin, ED 239, pg 265A 3

There he is with his father H.L. Taft (born NY) and mother Mary (born PA), and widowed grandmother E.H. Taft (born CT).

1870-henry-taft
1870 Census, Whitewater, Walworth, Wisconsin, pg 295A 4

Now we learn that H.L. is Henry. Mary’s birth state is given as New York rather than PA.

1860-henry-taft-combined
1860 Census, Albion, Oswego, New York, pg 168-169

Now we find Henry living with Mary in what looks to be his father’s household. Mary is again listed as NY, and Henry’s mother Eliza H (E.H.) was born in CT. On the face of it, Henry’s father, is John L. Taft, born in CT. Oh look…at his age: 49. Born about 1811.

1850-census-john-l-taft
1850 Census, Albion, Oswego, New York, pg 141A 6

This census places John L Taft’s birth year at 1809. His Find-A-Grave Memorial lists his birth year as 1811. I’ve seen it suggested he was actually born in 1810.

I don’t know who is the great-grandfather of Charles H Taft. Given that Aaron Taft, the great-grandfather of President Taft, died in 1808, two to three years before John L Taft was born, it seems unlikely that Aaron Taft is John L’s father.

Were Charles H Taft and President Taft cousins? Entirely possible. Were they 2nd cousins? Highly unlikely. As much fun as it would have been if the newspaper reports were accurate, I’m going to chalk this up to ‘another family lore bites the dust’.

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1 Colorado, County Marriages and State Indexes, 1862-2006

2 1900; Census Place: El Moro, Las Animas, Colorado; Roll: 126; Page: 7B; Enumeration District: 0068

3 1880; Census Place: Whitewater, Walworth, Wisconsin; Page: 265A; Enumeration District: 239

4 1870; Census Place: Whitewater, Walworth, Wisconsin, Page: 295A

5 1860; Census Place: Albion, Oswego, New York, Page: 168-169

6 1850; Census Place: Albion, Oswego, New York,Page: 141A

The Facebook of Their Day

I enjoy searching online newspaper archives. It is interesting to see mentions of family in context with what was going on in those moments in time. Newspapers might have relied on advertising for revenue beyond subscriptions, but they relied on their readers for some of their content, free content, the same way Facebook does. It’s a pretty good business model.

Since I’m all about Putnam County, Missouri these days, I’m especially grateful for the Putnam County Library’s online newspaper archive. It uses optical character recognition for search terms; the accuracy rate is good enough for my purposes.

Anyone who has spent time reading these old newspapers is familiar with how people used the paper to tell their friends and neighbors about their comings and goings, about who came to visit, who was ill or recovering from an illness, even marriages and births. The mini-announcements were usually two or three lines of pertinent details that included names, locations and very often relationships. Joe Smith’s uncle Rudolph Smith came to visit from Oregon yesterday. Jane Doe’s mother Barbara Gold is home recovering from a stroke. That sort of thing. These gossipy items are what would be called ‘click-bait’ today. It’s the relationships that fascinate researchers…they are golden because they appeared while these people were still alive.

I was searching for mentions of Jacob Myers known children from the 1850 Census, as well as mentions of their children. The youngest known daughter from Jacob’s first marriage was Sarah Rebecca Myers. She married James P Delay in Iowa in 1872.1 Their son Fred Delay was born in 1873.2

Searching the archive netted me this:

Nutt with nephew Delay pg 5 - Copy Nutt with nephew Delay pg 9 - Copy

“Mrs. Mollie Nutt and nephew Fred Delay went to Glennwood Saturday” and “Fred Delay and sister Ina and George Nutt drove over to Mystic, Iowa Monday to visit relatives.”

Wait. What? Who is Mollie Nutt?

I was in an interesting frame of mind when I discovered these tidbits. Just the day before I had been staring at the profile page for Jacob Myers on Ancestry and was wondering if there were any more Myers children after the 1850 census was taken. I know Jacob married my Amarilla Cox in 1856. No one knows when his first wife Elizabeth (Minick) died, but it was presumably before he remarried. I was prepared to ask myself if Mollie Nutt was born after the 1850 census and before the second marriage.

Lucky for me the answer to my question was right in front of me. I clicked on the Ancestry Family Tree link I had used to add Fred Delay to my tree. I clicked through to that person’s tree and they had a Mary Jane ‘Mollie’ Myers born in 1851 and an Angeline Myers born in 1855 as sisters for Sarah, but none of the rest of the family. Two questions came to mind. What happened to these girls if their mother died before 1856? Where have I seen the name Angeline before?

In my previous post I mentioned I would write about a discovery I made about the Breedlove children listed in the 1860 census for Linn County, Missouri.

1860 Census Susan Breedlove
1860 Census Breedlove Family3

I wasn’t looking at the older children on the census because I just assumed that they were the children of James Breedlove since they were born before the marriage to Susan, and James was old enough to be their father. Yet there they are: Sarah, Mary JANE, and Angeline! Once again, Myers children appear in the census with the same last name as the male head of household. They are living with their oldest sister Susan and her husband and new little nephew Jacob. I didn’t take this at face value, of course. I verified all of it. All the records support that Mary Jane “Mollie” Myers and Angeline Myers really are daughters of Jacob and his first wife Elizabeth. I’m thrilled to have more Myers children! I’m up to (if I include the possible twins I found) 11 children from four wives. I’ve been in genealogy heaven lately. This so totally makes up for the frustration of other parts of family research. I’m so grateful for all the records that still exist on this fractured family. It has been so much fun putting them back together again.

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1 Iowa, Select Marriages Index, 1809-1992

2 U.S., Social Security Applications and Claims Index, 1936-2007

3 1860 US Census, Missouri, Linn, Township 59, Range 18, pg 625, HH# 169