Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Was Charlotte on the Orphan Train?

Several months ago, a lady, that I met while giving my "Be An Ancestor Detective!" presentation to a civic group, asked me to check out her family story - was it true?

The basic elements of the family story were:

* It is rumored that my Great-grandmother was adopted and perhaps put on the orphan train from New York to Kansas.
* She was born in 1850 on a ship, her mother died in childbirth, and her father died sometime later when she was young.
* Her name was Charlotte (Lottie) Knight, born to Captain Knight and Gaton (a last name, I think)
* She was adopted by a couple with the last name Green in Kansas.
* We know that she married David Hoke and had nine children (producing my grandmother).

That sounded like a fun challenge. I figured that I could learn more about immigration, orphan trains and adoptions, and help out a potential genealogist in the process, dazzling her with my research prowess.

There were several excellent clues - a spouse's name, the adoptive family's surname, the birth father's surname, an approximate immigration date, etc. Over several weeks, I plumbed the depths of the genealogy databases on the Internet, and gradually turned up these clues:

1) I could not find David Hoke or Charlotte Hoke in the 1920 US Census (accessed on http://www.ancestry.com/).

2) In the 1910 US Census, the David N. Hoke family resided on Sixth Avenue in Ward 3 of Oswego, Labette County, Kansas (dwelling #460, family #469, Page 23B, Enumeration District 142, NARA Microfilm T624, Roll 443, accessed on http://www.ancestry.com/). The household included:

* David N. Hoke - head of household, male, white, age 67, first marriage, married 41 years, born OH, parents born VA/VA, a carpenter, works on houses.
* Charlotte Hoke - wife, female, white, age 59, first marriage, married 41 years, 8 children born, 8 children living, born OH, parents born England/England, a hairdresser.
* Valentine Hoke - daughter, female, white, age 25, single, born KS, parents born OH/OH
* Freda (?) O. Brown - daughter, female, white, age 34, a widow, born IN, parents born OH/OH, a dressmaker, works at home
* Kenneth Hoke - grandson, male, white, age 5, single, born KS, parents born IN/US

The 1910 census says Charlotte was born in Ohio, and her parents were born in England.

3) In the 1900 US Census, the David N. Hoke family resided in Fairview, Labette County, Kansas (dwelling #100, family #101, page 6A, enumeration district 109, NARA Microfilm Series T623, Roll 485, accessed on http://www.ancestry.com/). The household included:

* David N. Hoke - head of household, white, male, born Mar 1843,, age 57, married, for 33 years, born OH, parents born VA/VA, a farmer.
* Charlottie Hoke - wife, white, female, born Nov 1854, age 45, married, for 33 years, 8 children born, 8 living, born at sea, parents born England/England
* Effie Hoke - daughter, white, female, born Jul 1878, age 21, single, born IN, parents born OH/at sea
* William C. Hoke - son, white, male, born Jun 1879, age 20, single, born IN, parents born OH/at sea, a farm laborer
* Joeseph A. Hoke - son, white, male, born Jan 1882, age 18, single, born IN, parents born OH/at sea, a farm laborer
* Bessie Hoke - daughter, white, female, born Aug 1884, age 15, single, born KS, parents born OH/at sea
* Valentine Hoke - daughter, white, female, born Feb 1894, age 6, single, born KS, parents born OH/at sea.

The 1900 census is the only one that lists Charlotte's birth "at sea" with parents born in England. Perhaps she gave the information to the enumerator.

4) There are no 1890 US Census records available

5) In the 1880 US Census, the David Hoke family resided in Cromwell, Noble county, Indiana (dwelling #176, family #179, page 425D, Enumeration District 70, NARA Microfilm Series T9, Roll 302, accessed on http://www.ancestry.com/). The household included:

* David Hoke - white, male, age 37, married, a gunsmith, born OH, parents born OH/OH
* Charte Hoke - white, female, age 26, wife, married, keeping house, born OH, parents born OH/OH
* Jennie Hoke - white, female, age 12, daughter, single, born IN, parents born OH/OH
* Manford Hoke - white, male, age 10, son, single, born IN, parents born OH/OH
* Milo Hoke - white, male, age 8, son, single, born IN, parents born OH/OH
* Effie Hoke - white, female, age 3, daughter, single, born IN, parents born OH/OH
* William Hoke - white, male, age 1, son, single, born IN, parents born OH/OH

6) In the 1870 US Census, the David Hoak family resided in Sparta, Noble County, Indiana (dwelling #168, family #168, page 284A, NARA Microfilm Series M593, Roll 347, accessed on http://www.ancestry.com/). The household included:

* David Hoak - age 24, male, a carpenter, $150 in real property, $200 in personal property, born OH
* Charlotte Hoak - age 19, female, keeping house, born in OH
* Jennie Hoak - age 2, female, born IN
* Manford Hoak - age 6/12, male, born IN

7) In the 1860 US Census, David Hoke resided in Perry, Noble County, Indiana in the Gideon Scholterbach family (dwelling #190, family #186, page 118, NARA Microfilm Series M653, Roll 285, accessed on http://www.ancestry.com/). The household included:

* Gideon Scholterbach - age 49, male, a farmer, $11000 in real property, $1500 in personal property, born PA
* Mary Scholterbach - age 48, female, born OH
* Henry Scholterbach - age 20, male, a farm laborer, born IN
* Eli Scholterbach - age 19, male, born IN
* Amelia Scholterbach - age 17, female, born IN
* Adam Scholterbach - age 15, male, born IN
* Ora Scholterbach - age 9, male, born IN
* Emma Scholterbach - age 7, female, born IN
* David Hoke - age 19, male, born OH
* Daniel Hoke - age 16, male, born OH
* Sarah Hoke - age 12, female, born OH
* Eve Engle - age 77, female, born PA

Note: Mary Scholterbach is probably David Hoke's mother married to her second husband.

8) In the 1860 US Census, the Charles Green family resided in Sparta, Noble County, Indiana (dwelling #416, family #416, page 152, NARA Microfilm Series M653, Roll 285, accessed on http://www.ancestry.com/). The household included:

* Charles Green - age 40, male, farmer, $4000 in real property, $600 in personal property, born OH
* Jane Green - age 39, female, born OH
* Charlotte Wight - age 9, female, born OH.

I searched for a girl born about 1850 with the first name of Charlotte living with a Green family in Noble County IN and this is what came up. I am 99% sure that this is the Charlotte "Knight" or "Wight" who is the foster or adopted daughter of Charles and Jane Green. The circumstances are just too strong here. Charlotte married David Hoke in 1867 and they are in Noble County, Indiana in the 1870 and 1880 census before moving to Kansas in the early 1880s.

I searched for other Knight and Wight families in Noble County, Indiana in the 1860 census and found none. Of course, the father and other children might be anywhere in the USA, in Canada or even back in England, or dead.

9) There is an Ancestry Public Member Tree (member DianeElliott1005) that has essentially the same information: David Noble Hoak (born 4 March 1843 Champaign Co OH, died 5 June 1911) married Sept 1867 in Noble County IN to Charlotte Knight (born 25 Nov 1850 at sea, died 21 Jan 1923). The note for Charlotte's birth says: "born on a ship coming across the ocean to America from England. Her mother, named Gaton, died in childbirth, leaving 8 children." The tree lists these children for David and Charlotte (Knight) Hoak: Jennie Hoke (1868-1943), Manford Erasmus Hoke (1870-1954), Milo Hartel Hoke (1872-1966), Effie Hoke (1876-1955), William Chester Hoke (1879-1938), Joseph Hoke (1882-1953), Bessie Hoke (1884-1972) and Valentine Hoke (1895-1982).

The eight Knight children are given as (with no birth dates other than Charlotte's): Becky, Charles, Ed, Hannah, Mollie, Rhoda, Will and Charlotte. She has no first name for the father or the mother of these children.

10) There is another Ancestry Public Member Tree (member jcain271) that lists Charlotte Knight (born 1850, died 1923) as a daughter of James C. Knight (born 1813 in England, died 1870) and Sarah Gaton (no birth/death years).

11) I searched the immigration records on Ancestry.com for Charlotte Knight and Charlotte Wight born 1850 and found no matches. But she would not be on a ship manifest if born at sea. Unfortunately, the passenger list records are incomplete. I searched for James Knight, Sarah Knight and Rhoda Knight and got no matches. I did the same for James, Sarah, Rhoda and Charlotte Wight and got no matches.

The research summary that I passed to my correspondent said:

* It appears to me, as an objective observer, that Charlotte was a foster or adopted child of Charles and Jane Green, that they lived in Noble County IN in the 1860s, that Charlotte married David Hoke in Noble County IN and the family moved to Kansas in about 1884.

* From the evidence at hand, Charlotte may have been born at sea or in Ohio, her parents were born in England, and perhaps her mother died after childbirth.

* It is possible that Charlotte was adopted in Ohio, which is where the Greens were born. We don't know when, or if, she was adopted, or was a foster child. Was she on an orphan train? Perhaps - we'll have to see if there were orphan trains to Ohio and Indiana before 1860.

* It's very clear to me that she was NOT on an orphan train to Kansas as the family story relates.

I also emailed Diane with the Ancestry Member Tree who had the same family story, asked her if I could connect her to my correspondent, and she agreed. They are second cousins and did not know of each other before this. Hopefully, they are sharing family stories and photographs.

There are, of course, other research avenues to pursue after this general "low-hanging fruit" record search, including:

* There are probably 1841 census records for the Knight or Wight family, and Civil Registration birth records for Charlotte's siblings in England.

* There may be guardianship or adoption records for Charlotte that would more clearly define her birth name, reasons for adoption, and adoption circumstances. There may be orphan train records for her.

* There may be land and probate records for David Hoke and/or Charlotte Hoke in Indiana and Kansas.

* There may be newspaper articles or county history books about the adoption of Charlotte by the Greens, about the Green's deaths, and about the lives and deaths of David and Charlotte Hoke.

* There may be family papers available from other descendants of David and Charlotte Hoke that might provide more details and context to the family story.

My hope is that, by posting this research summary, that other descendants of Charlotte (Wight?) Hoke might read it and also contact my two correspondents and share whatever information they may have about her life. If you have such information, please contact me at rjseaver@cox.net and I will connect you with my two correspondents.

This post was written for the 97th Carnival of Genealogy with the theme of Research From Scratch! Here's an opportunity to put on your research caps and delve into a whole new family history.

4 comments:

Lori said...

Great work, Randy!

David Newton said...

If she was born at sea on a British-registered merchant vessel then the Registrar General of Shipping and Seamen may well have recorded a birth registration for her as well. Scans of those indexes are online at Findmypast.com.

J.M. said...

What a great post. I always love research into family stories/lore, because it usually has surprising results. There are almost always parts of the story that prove to be true, however convulted the story has become.

Bill West said...

Fascinating case study, Randy, and I like that it led to a connection between the cousins!