Women Falling off the Radar? Look for Subsequent Marriages

Recently I had been trying to find death records for a couple, immigrants from Galway to Rosendale, Ulster County, New York who are ancestors of a genealogy client.  The husband passed away in 1887 but I could find nothing in the New York Death Index nor in any newspaper or other likely resource for his wife no matter how I spelled their last name, which was Reilly / O’Reilly.  She could have died elsewhere but before trying that angle, I decided to look for a subsequent marriage.

At her husband’s death, Catherine (Lynch) Reilly was approximately 47 and had given birth to 12 children over about 28 years of marriage.  Looking for a Catherine Reilly who married after 1887 in Ulster County, New York in the New York State Marriage Index 1881-1967 on Ancestry.com I found an 8 Jun 1891 marriage to a Daniel Murphy in the town of Rosendale.  The index provides only the names of the parties, the date and town, not their ages or marital status or whether this is their first or second marriage, so we don’t know if this is the right Catherine Reilly.

Findmypast.com now has transcriptions of baptisms and marriages for the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New York which includes Rosendale.  This database contains a 7 Jun 1892 marriage for a Daniel Murphy and Catherine “Rully” which I think must be the same marriage though it is off by one year and also one day.  Unfortunately this record does not provide any new information except the church, St. Peter’s.

Lynch, Catherine 1900 Census

Daniel Murphy and the likely Catherine (Lynch) (Reilly) Murphy in the 1900 census found on Ancestry.com.

Looking for this couple in the 1900 U.S. census we find them in Rosendale.  Daniel is age 40 and Catherine is age 56, putting her birth within the range she has given in other records and lining up with her age on the 1867 passenger list on which she appears.  They have been married nine years, putting their wedding about 1891.  The 1900 census also asked women how many children they had had, and Catherine’s answer is the expected 12.  She also says she arrived in the U.S. in 1868, only one year off from the passenger list.

I feel fairly confident that Catherine (Lynch) Reilly married Daniel Murphy, and that she is likely the Catherine Murphy who died in Rosendale 21 Jan 1904.  I have not been able to find a church record for Catherine’s first marriage in Ireland in about 1859, but it would not be likely to name her parents.  However the civil record for this late marriage should provide us with that information, as should her 1904 death certificate, though the marriage data would likely have been provided by Catherine herself so is more reliable evidence.

It is a good idea to look for subsequent marriages for women who have “disappeared” even when their husbands are findable and claiming to be widowed–divorced people often list themselves as widowed, I assume because of the stigma of divorce.

For years I searched for the death of my relative Caroline Isabella Fuller, born 1856 in Dorchester, Mass.  She married Barnstable native Julius Bartlett Brown in 1878, but the 1900 census finds Julius “widowed” and living with his brother.  Naturally I assumed Caroline had died before the 1900 census, though I could never find a record.

Eventually I found her 1888 marriage to another Brown from Cape Cod, South Yarmouth native and railroad brakeman Peleg T.  The record does not indicate her marital status but does say this is her second marriage and provides her parents’ names and her birthplace.  Sadly Peleg died from “traumatic amputation of arm” after a workplace accident in 1909.

Brown, Peleg T. 1909 Death Boston Globe 23 Apr

Account of Peleg’s accident and death from the Boston Globe 23 Apr 1909 found on Newspapers.com.

Still finding no death information for the right Caroline Brown after 1909, I searched for a third marriage.  I found that Caroline married Charles Leander Webster in Provincetown in 1917 and died in 1924–almost a quarter century after her first husband listed himself as a widower–and is buried at Cedar Grove Cemetery in Dorchester with her second husband Peleg T. Brown.  Her gravestone gives her name as C. I. Brown Webster.


Ancestors–They Were (Sort of) Just Like Us!

There is an American tabloid that has a section in every issue entitled “Stars–They’re Just Like Us!” which consists of pictures of celebrities doing ordinary things–buying groceries, walking the dog, etc.  Researching my ancestors has taught me that people living long ago did quite a few things that most people do today, and that they were in many ways just like us.  Sort of.

They bought groceries and other sundries.  Except for the pig I have bought all of the things on the bill below.

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1831 bill from Rockland County, N.Y. for pork, potatoes, shoes, wine and a pig.

They occasionally got a new mattress, or at least the materials needed to make one.


1795 bill from Albert Oblenis to his newlywed brother Bernard for feathers, tape, fabric, bed cord and delivery to the ferry.

They built homes, remodeled and redecorated, though many were far more involved in the actual construction than most people are today.

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Peter Oblenis’ 1798 letter to his brother Bernard re  plans to build a house.

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1872 bill for fabric, fixtures and tassels for window treatments for the home of John Augustus Bogert (1845-1900).

They gardened, though apparently not in ancient shorts and t-shirts like I do.  Some of the apples listed below were probably intended for the manufacture of the local applejack known as Jersey Lightning.

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Dr. J. J. Haring working in his garden in Tenafly, N.J. 1911.

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Undated list of apple trees in a Bergen County, N.J. orchard.  I have heard of Pippins and Lady Apple but several, esp. Paramus Sweet, must have been local heirloom varieties.

They planned funerals, which used to include the gift of a pair of black kid gloves to the minister and each pallbearer.

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Bill for the funeral of the Rev. Dupuytren Vermilye in 1907.

They grieved.  In the letter below William House struggles with the loss of his wife, Wyntje Oblenis, referring to her as his “best and only Company.”  He is grateful for his three children’s health since “it has pleased [God] to take away their tender mother,” and he has not written sooner because of his great distress.


1797 letter from William House to his brother-in-law Bernard Oblenis, one month after the death of his wife

They advertised when they wanted to sell things.

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They joined groups, some of which still exist.

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Bernard Oblenis’ invitation to the Manhattan Farmers’ Society meeting in 1803.

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Bernard Oblenis Bogert’s 1926 election to the National Geographic Society.


Life in Manhattan 1812-1813: Bernard Oblenis’ Memo Book

Bernard Oblenis’ Memo Book for 1812-1813 lists transactions great and small, and shines light on both his work life and his personal business.  It was made of very thin sheets of paper sewn together, so that each page is 3 3/4″ wide and 4 1/4″ long, and I imagine he kept it handy in his pocket.  Most of the entries pertain to his duties as clerk of the New York City Police Office.


Southern Manhattan in 1811, with a blue dot at each end of Anthony Street, where Bernard Oblenis lived.  The 1810 census shows him in the Fifth Ward, and his house has a low number, so I think it was probably toward the west end of the street.

A good number of his notes record the collection of fines from offenders, and most of these fines were for breaking other people’s windows or, in a few cases, doors!  Why there was so much window breaking going on, and whether or not all of it was intentional I do not know.

Counterfeiting was another fairly common problem at the time, and on 9 Jan 1813 Bernard received $50 on behalf of a bank note counterfeiter named Seneca Page, “being money paid on his bond for leaving the state” of New York.  Page had been apprehended in New York City the previous April, when Bernard had paid two City police officers to escort him to Baltimore for his trial.

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Clipping from the New York Evening Post 11 Apr 1812 found on Newspapers.com.

In this period postage was paid by the recipient of letters, and Bernard made note of his outlays for incoming mail.  On 15 Dec 1812 he had to pay for letters regarding counterfeit British trade licenses, as well as one from Governor Tompkins pardoning one Moses B. Cowin, though I have not found out what crime he was alleged to have committed.

Naturally supplies for the Police Office are mentioned.  Items Bernard bought for his workplace included “locust watch clubs” or nightsticks, paper, stationery, a receipt book, quills, candles, firewood, fire tongs, a catgut cord for the door pulley (?), and a map of part of Canada.  He also paid a woman named Hannah Gouge to clean the premises, though I have not yet been able to determine exactly where the Police Office was at this time.

Newspaper notices were another common Police Office expense.  Bernard used newspapers to publicize the orders of the Police Magistrates and to advertise goods that were found and presumed to be stolen.  Proof that some things never change, in July of 1812 it was necessary to explain to New Yorkers that playing loud music late at night created a public nuisance.


Bernard’s notice re: loud music in the Columbian, found on GenealogyBank.

Like many people then and now, Bernard had a “side hustle,” taking in boarders at his home at 13 Anthony Street, though I am guessing his wife Gertrude (Sanders) Oblenis managed most of the work of this enterprise.  On 21 Dec 1812 he noted that “Mr. Dick a Teacher came to board and lodge at my house at the rate of $3 50/100 per week including washing.”


Bernard’s license to take in boarders, signed by Dewitt Clinton as mayor.

Bernard also made investments.  In late December 1812 he gave Resolvert Stephens $253.75 for a share in the privateer York-Town, a vessel carrying 20 guns and a crew of 116.  Newspapers reported in early July 1813 that York-Town had recently captured–in some cases recaptured–six prize ships from the British.

Unfortunately York-Town was soon after taken by the enemy, arriving 21 Jul 1813 in Halifax, Nova Scotia under British control.  Bernard noted that he had sold his share to Resolvert on 30 Jun 1813 for $100, and I am not sure whether either of them made money on this risky venture.

Some of the book’s entries show how dependent people were on a network of associates for credit when they were short on cash, writing promissory notes to one another, and sometimes giving their valuables to one another as collateral.  A typical example is Bernard’s note of 12 Feb 1813: “Recd $6 of John J. Deusenberry being part of $15 which he and J. B. Raymond borrowed of me on the [blank space] instant & put in my hands a gold watch as surety…”

There is another of Bernard’s memo books in the pile of documents I just acquired but I haven’t reviewed it yet.  I am glad that he and subsequent generations held on to these jottings which provide glimpses into his daily life in a world long gone.



Emanuel, a Not-Totally-Friendless Spanish Sailor in New York City 1810

On 13 Jun 1810 Bernard Oblenis of the New York City Police Office wrote to New York’s governor, Daniel D. Tompkins.  He asked Tompkins if he would pardon a Spanish sailor named Emanuel, who had arrived in the city aboard the schooner Rosa, recently anchored in New York Harbor but now departed.

Emanuel sat in jail because he had gone to a brothel, where he was involved in a “sudden affray among sailors about a girl.”  Emanuel was indicted for assaulting a man named William Thomas, and for assaulting a man named Abraham Davis “with intent to kill.”

Before setting sail, Rosa‘s captain had come to the Police Office, saying he did not want to leave without Emanuel.  He suggested that if the seaman would plead guilty to both assault charges, he would pay a fine of up to $250 for his release.  The court agreed to a fine of $200 as long as Emanuel would be leaving New York immediately.

Emanuel did plead guilty, even though he might have been acquitted at trial.  However the captain was then either unable or unwilling to make good his obligation, and sailed the next morning leaving Emanuel behind, imprisoned, with no way of ever paying the fine.  Bernard took the matter to the Spanish Consul, who not very helpfully informed him that this particular captain was “a man of no principle.”


Portrait of Daniel D. Tompkins (1774-1825) by John Wesley Jarvis.

Bernard closed his letter to Governor Tompkins in saying “I feel it is my duty to make this statement to you hoping that you will interpose your mercy and pardon the poor fellow–He is an entire stranger in the Country and totally friendless.”

I don’t know whether or not Tompkins pardoned Emanuel.


Off Sandy Hook, the entrance to New York Harbor.


Henry Oblenis’ Struggles at School in 1808

In 2017 I wrote Lost at Sea: Henry Oblenis 1797-1816 about my 5th great uncle who was lost overboard in heavy weather off the Cape of Good Hope while a young seaman aboard Rufus King.   In a recently discovered cache of documents I found a letter from Henry to his father Bernard dated 28 Jun 1808, written while he was a ten year old living away from home under the disapproving eye of schoolmaster Elias Starr.  Starr found Henry “inattentive,” with excessive “vivacity and fondness for novelties.”  As a result he had “subjected him to a rigid course of discipline.”

It is hard to believe Henry was a bad student given the excellent penmanship, large vocabulary, and solid command of the English language he displays in this letter.  Letters of his I had seen previously were dashed off before leaving on long sea voyages, but this one is carefully and beautifully written, and almost brings a tear to the eye in spite of its formality.  Here we have a young boy, under duress because his teacher believes he is lazy and easily distracted, who can write a fairly long, clear letter in perfect script using expressions such as “parental tenderness” and  “poignant regret”!

Henry writes that “Mr. Starr has sometimes been almost out of patience with me, & has often told me that he would inform you that I have been idle and spent too much of my time to no purpose, but to save him the trouble of doing this I have resolved, and promised him, that I will hereafter give him no reason to accuse me of negligence, and that it shall be the height of my ambition to merit his esteem.”

He then explains that he is studying (and learning) Latin grammar, and asks his father to send him certain books including a Latin dictionary.  He signs his letter “your dutiful son Henry Oblenis” with a postscript “Give my Love to Mama John & William”.

I really wish Elias Starr would have let up on poor Henry, who was clearly mastering some subjects, especially English, quite well!  I think Henry was telling the truth when he wrote at the end of his letter “I have not spent the whole of my time to no purpose.”

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Surprising Things Found Among Family Papers

I just got back from my Mom’s house in Los Angeles.  While cleaning out a closet there I discovered a box containing almost ten pounds of family documents ranging in date from the 1780s to the 1950s, with the majority from the first half of the 19th century.

These are all documents pertaining to the ancestors of my grandmother Elisabeth Oblenis Bogert (1906-1994), who was almost completely descended from the mainly Dutch and Huguenot immigrants who arrived in what is now New Jersey and New York in the 17th century.

So far all I have done is open out the folded papers to get an idea of what they are.  Most of the cache consists of the typical things people keep:  deeds, wills, other legal papers, certificates and significant personal letters.  However several items do not fit into the above categories and are a little surprising!  The following odds and ends were also sandwiched into the box:


A receipt for fertilizer from 1873.  It is hard to believe a receipt for “Soluble Pacific Guano” among other things has lasted almost 150 years!  But I guess I should be glad this branch of my family had some hoarder tendencies.


Gold leaf.  Maybe for picture frames?

stampsStamps. Apparently my Gramma’s Dad Bernard Oblenis Bogert (1876-1930) collected some when he was young.


A 1797 New York City Arrest Warrant.  Because my ancestor Barent / Bernard Oblenis (1771-1825) was clerk of the New York City Police for several years, I expect to find items pertaining to police business, though I have never before found a warrant.  This one is for the apprehension of a Charles Steed, accused of fathering an illegitimate child which was due soon and was likely to become chargeable to the City.


1885 Business Card of Chinese Diplomat Lew Yuk Lin (1862-1942).  Lew Yuk Lin was a translator at the Chinese Consulate in New York from 1882 to 1884, so that may be where someone in my family met him.  In 1885 he was named Acting Consul General at the Straits Settlements, a British Crown Colony on the Malay Peninsula which included Singapore.


Phrenological Assessment of Bernard Oblenis from 1864.  Bernard Oblenis (1826-1901) was a physician (and the purchaser of the above fertilizer) who had graduated from the medical program at the University of New York in 1849.  Given how unscientific the field of medicine was at that time, I am not sure whether he would have been a believer in phrenology or a skeptic.  The analysis begins “You are fine-grained and sensitive in a high degree” and then goes on for 13 handwritten pages.  Among other things it suggests he should gain weight!

Weaver Spotlight: David D. Haring

An article about my 5th great uncle. I am in the process of writing my own.

The McCarl Coverlet Gallery - Blog

When visitors stop by the McCarl Coverlet Gallery for the American Architecture in Coverlet Design Exhibit, a beautiful navy and natural coverlet is on display in the entrance. This double weave, seamless bed covering is just one example of the beautiful patterns coverlet weavers incorporated into their products. The coverlet has a grapevine border with leaves in the four corner blocks. The center depicts rows of building, alternating between eastern and western examples of architecture. This example was attributed to being woven in 1834 by David D. Haring in New Jersey


David D. Haring was the son of David A. Haring by his second wife. He was born on February 23, 1800 in present day Tappan, Bergen County, New Jersey. His father died within a year of his birth. His mother, Mariah Alyie, married Jacob Echerson in 1803. After David’s mothers’ remarriage, they moved to present-day Norwood with his grandfather.

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Exploring AncestryDNA ThruLines™

Ancestry.com recently debuted ThruLines™, a new tool for working with your DNA matches that is now in beta testing.  One aim is to partially automate the often arduous task of figuring out how you are related to your DNA matches.  Matches are shown at the bottom of clear descendant charts, suggesting probable or possible relationships given the DNA data combined with data from people’s online trees.

The facility just appeared on my DNA home page the other day, and has already helped me in several ways:  It has provided potentially corroborating evidence for relationships I am not 100% sure of;  It has shown me how I am likely related to matches I had not been able to figure out before; and it has suggested possible “new” ancestors.

I should say that I am not an expert in genetic genealogy, and frankly if I could I would pay an expert to figure it all out for me.  Still I am gradually learning and I have been able to make several interesting discoveries via DNA matches, including finding a new branch of my Dad’s Maybury ancestors from Killarney in County Kerry, Ireland.

Although it is a fantastic tool and very helpful, it is important to remember that errors in people’s trees or in the logic of the tool can cause errors in the “potential ancestors”.  (These are only suggestions for further research after all.)

I think errors might be especially likely in fairly inbred populations, like my maternal grandmother’s mostly Dutch and Huguenot branch, where the immigrant generation arrived in New Netherland in the 17th century, and the resulting population married mostly within the same ingroup up to the 20th century.  They traded around the same genes over centuries, while also recycling the same given names so that there were several people of the same name living near one another at the same time.

For example, my grandmother’s great grandfather John C. Bogert (1800-1894) was the son of Cornelius J. Bogert and Catrina Garrison.  The identity of his mother is fairly certain, partly because Catrina’s father John Hessels Garrison provided for her two children including John C. Bogert in his will.   But ThruLines™ suggests that John’s mother may be a Catherine Westfall.

Now there was a Catherine Westfall who married a different Cornelius Bogert, and my Mom does have a distant cousin match with a person who is a descendant of this Catherine Westfall’s sister Charity.  But looking at the Westfall sisters’ pedigree, they are related to my mother in two other ways, as descendants of both the Kool and Emans families.

So I do not think this slight genetic relationship is explained by John C. Bogert’s mother being Catherine Westfall rather than Catrina Garrison.  I think these seven centimorgans on one DNA segment have been passed down to both my Mom and the Westfall descendant from some other mutual ancestor, perhaps a Kool or an Emans.  It is probably a good idea though to check out these suggested ancestors even if they do–especially if they do–contradict our own research.

So what are my favorite ThruLines™ so far?  Some are impressive just because they allow me to see clearly the sheer number of matches descending from one particular ancestor.  Even when you have a solid paper trail, it is gratifying to view a lot of genetic evidence for the relationship laid out in a nice chart.

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Chart showing that my Mom has 36 DNA matches who are descendants of John Meshech Grover via his son Jasper Sidney, and 11 via his son (and her great grandfather) James Jacob.  The chart can be expanded on either side to show the lines down to the matches, with the number of shared centimorgans for each match listed.

For example, my Mom has a brick wall ancestor named John Meshech Grover, who was shipwrecked off Sable Island, Nova Scotia 28 Sep 1812 while aboard HMS Barbadoes.  He had two children who left descendants, Jasper Sidney who remained in Nova Scotia, and James Jacob who moved to Lynn, Massachusetts.  My Mom matches at least 47 other AncestryDNA customers who are descendants of these brothers.  (I believe there are still more who either do not have their DNA results attached to a tree, or who have such a rudimentary tree that the tool cannot build their relationship to John Meshech.)

HMS Barbadoes

Stamp picturing the ship which wrecked off Sable Island, Nova Scotia in 1812, depositing John Meshech Grover there, where he remained.  We believe he was an impressed seaman at the time.

The graphic display is even more satisfying when it lays out your hard-won families, like my husband’s Irish Catholic ancestors from County Mayo.  It took me years to get back to his third great-grandparents Peter Noone (c. 1800-?) and Bridget Hopkins (c. 1806-1879) of Killacorraun in Crossmolina parish, and to prove eight of their children.  (I think I might still be missing a few.)  So it is great to see my husband matching 17 descendants of this couple, through five of their known children.

I have my own murky Irish lines, including the Maybury family mentioned above.  Documentation is solid back to Killarney land steward James Maybury (c. 1799-1870) and his wife Maria Shaw (1812-1888) who had at least ten children.  Before James and Maria the records are so thin that everything is unsure, though it seems likely that James’ father was another land steward, William Maybury (c. 1765-1858).

James is said to have had a relative Elizabeth who married a Thomas Nicholson and moved to Canada.  I have spent a lot of time researching Elizabeth (_____) Nicholson (c. 1801-1897), whose British Columbia death certificate does not list her parents, but whose gravestone does say she was a native of Killarney.  ThruLines™ is linking my Dad to two 4th cousins via this Nicholson family, and these test takers do match Maybury descendants from other branches, so I think Elizabeth probably was related to James, possibly even as his sister.


Chart showing my Dad’s matches which probably result from their all having Yves Degauche (aka Ephraim Degoosh) as a common ancestor.

There are many examples like the Degauche/Degoosh chart above, where ThruLines™ shows our matches to cousins whose lines branched off as early as the late 18th or early 19th century from our direct ancestors, corroborating (though not proving) descent from the common ancestor.

Will ThruLines™ help me break through any brick walls?  Unfortunately there are no “potential ancestors” yet for my worst one, Calvin Luther Norton (1844-1888). There is a promising one for my mother-in-law’s ancestor Daniel Bagby (c. 1770-1828), who lived in Buckingham County, Virginia and Carroll County, Tennessee.  I need to go through each potential ancestor systematically and try to corroborate or disprove the suggested relationships.  I am sure Ancestry.com will continually refine the tool, so that it becomes increasingly helpful.  It is already a great addition to their DNA analysis features.

Reports of Her Death Were Greatly Exaggerated: Ruth (Butler) Putnam (1768-1850) of Danvers, Massachusetts

When I first began researching the Putnam family of Danvers, Massachusetts, every tree online at Ancestry.com said that my mother’s ancestor Ruth (Butler) Putnam died 1 Apr 1802.  There was a death on that date in the published vital records of Danvers for a widow named Ruth Putnam, derived from “Jeremy Hutchinson’s record of deaths.”

Since Ruth’s husband, cabinetmaker Nathaniel Putnam, had died 15 Nov 1800, I assumed this record was for the right woman.  I thought about how hard it must have been for her five daughters, ranging in age from 4 to 13, to have lost both of their parents within two years.  I wondered who took care of them and how they managed.

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As more and more digitized newspapers became available online, I began to look for newspaper notices to corroborate vital records, and to see if they contained any further  information about the person or event.   Finding the 1802 Salem Gazette death notice for Ruth Putnam on Genealogybank.com I read “At Danvers, Mrs. Ruth Putnam, widow of the late Capt. John Putnam, aged 81.”  The Boston Independent Chronicle added that Ruth was a pious woman, and that her son Peter, aged 40, had also died.

The Ruth Putnam who died in 1802 was the widow of the wrong man, 48 years too old, and the mother of a son who was even older than Ruth (Butler) Putnam, who had no sons at all.

Since there was no evidence that she had died, I searched for Ruth as head of a household in the Federal censuses after 1800.  In 1810 there was a Ruth Putnam living in Danvers,  between the ages of 26 and 44 (she would have been 41), with three young females in the household.  Two of these were 10 through 15 years old, and were probably my ancestor Lois (12) and her sister Pamelia (15).

Putnam, Lois, Danvers MA, Campanelli collection

My ancestor Lois Putnam’s sampler, probably completed as a school assignment.

The third female was between the ages of 16 and 25, and could have been any of the three older girls, Betsey (21), Sally (19) or Rebecca (17).  I think this is less likely to be Betsey, however, because she was apprenticed to a tailor in Salem in 1807 according to the journal kept by her older half-brother, apothecary Archelaus Putnam (1787-1818).

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Ruth’s death record, found on AmericanAncestors.org.

I also found Ruth as head of a Danvers household in 1820, 1830 and 1840, but not in 1850.  I then found her 22 Jun 1850 death in the Massachusetts Vital Records 1841-1910, which clearly states she was the widow of Nathaniel Putnam.  Today most of the online trees are correct, though a few give her death as 28 Jan 1821 citing no evidence and I could not find any.



Narcissa Cornell and the Wreck of the Barque Elijah Swift

Years ago I found an 1889 article in the Plattsburgh (N.Y.) Republican regarding early settlers in the area.  Among other anecdotes, the article mentioned that my probable relative Godfrey Cornell (c. 1797-1851) of Peru, Clinton County, New York had a daughter Narcissa, who married a man surnamed Bailey, and that this couple then made their home in New Orleans.

The article went on to say that a few years into her marriage Narcissa went back to New York to visit her relatives for “a few weeks,” leaving her husband and “little son” Porter behind.  While in New York she gave birth to another child, in which case she would have traveled there heavily pregnant.  Eventually Narcissa and the baby sailed for “her southern home” along with Narcissa’s younger half-sister Candace.  Sadly their ship was wrecked, and both Narcissa and Candace drowned, but the infant was “deposited among the rocks” on shore alive and was returned to its relatives.

bailey-cornell 1845 wedding essex county republican 11 oct

Narcissa’s wedding announcement found on nyshistoricnewspapers.org.

This article was written decades after the central events, and I was not sure how much of it I could corroborate, but I was grateful for any clues about this family living in far upstate New York long before vital records were reliably maintained.  Fairly quickly I found Narcissa’s marriage announcement in the Essex County (N.Y.) Republican of 11 Oct 1845: “Married in Keeseville on the 7th inst. by the Rev. C. H. Nichols, Willard R. Bailey of Saratoga Springs to Narcissa Cornwall of Peru.”


A three-masted barque in heavy weather by Vilhelm Melbye.

Guessing that Porter would have been born in 1846 or 1847, and that a second child would likely have come along in 1848 or 1849, I searched the keyword “shipwreck” in Louisiana newspapers from 1848 forward on Newspapers.com.  It did not take long to find a description of the wreck of the barque Elijah Swift on 30 Oct 1849, written by the first officer only a few days after the event.

He said that 39 people were aboard including a six week old infant.  On 29 Oct they anchored about two miles off Great Isaac Cay in the Bahamas, a small island about 50 miles east of the coast of Florida. At one o’clock the next morning a violent storm overtook them and the ship began to drag both of its anchors.  It was forced against the rocks of the island but they were able to land all the passengers and began leading them toward the highest ground on the island.

They had gone about 50 yards when an enormous wave washed away 20 of the party, eight of whom were saved.  Two seaman drowned while trying to rescue two women, one of whom was “Mrs. N. A. Bailey.”

The account continues:  “The next morning, in searching for fresh water, we found an infant, six weeks old, the son of Mrs. Bailey; it had been washed upon the rocks the morning before, and had remained there 26 hours; it was alive and had apparently sustained very little injury; we immediately carried it to the surviving ladies, to whose motherly care it owes its life.”

The party were rescued on the third day by the ship Bangor.  The 1889 article says that Narcissa’s baby was a daughter, that her half sister was named Candace and was about 13.  The contemporaneous article says that the baby was a son, lists Narcissa’s half-sister among the missing as “Candia,” which may have been a nickname, and says she was about 11.  In general, however, the articles jibe, and this rather amazing story appears to be true.  I have yet to find out much about Willard Bailey, and what became of his children Porter and the little baby who survived the wreck of the Elijah Swift.