Monday, January 11, 2010

SDGS Saturday Seminar - Post 1: "Our Sainted Mother"

Jean Wilcox Hibben kept a crowd of 130 genealogists spellbound and entertained, during the San Diego Genealogical Society seminar "A Day With Jean Wilcox Hibben." Jean made four seminar presentations at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in San Diego on Saturday, January 9th. The seminar description was posted here.

I want to highlight some of the features of the first Case Study that Jean presented because they are examples of excellent genea-detective work and elusive ancestor identification.

In the first presentation, “Clue-to-Clue, Tracking a Family Over Time and Miles,” Jean wondered “who is the woman in that picture?” It had no name on the back, only the words “our sainted mother.” Jean's father and aunt had no idea about her identity, but the photograph was in the Wilcox family papers and photographs.

The family records, and records found online and in repositories, indicated that the "sainted mother" was probably the wife of Nathan W. Wilcox (1828-1891).

The research process then focused on two goals - what was Irena's last name, and who were her parents and ancestors. These were some of the steps taken to attain these goals:

* Nathan (age 22, born NY) and Irena (age 21, born NY) Wilcox were in the 1850 census in Decatur, Van Buren County, Michigan.

* Son Edward Wilcox's 1934 Texas death certificate his mother's name as "Irene Freeman."

* Nathan's Civil War pension record said that they were married in "Depotville, New York" in 1848. Jean figured out from "sound-alike" place names that it was really "Depauville," a hamlet in Brownville town, Jefferson County, NY.

* The USGenWeb site for Jefferson County NY had marriage records for 1848 - and there they were marrying 13 February 1848. Nathan was of Lyme, and Irene of Brownville.

* In the 1840 census, Peter Wilcox and Edward Freeman were enumerated in successive lines, and had children of the right age group.

* The Cemeteries of Jefferson county NY on the county USGenWeb page indicated that Edward was a War of 1812 veteran and died in 1856, and his wife was Susannah, who died in 1882 at age 82. Was this Irene's mother?

* The 1850 census provided listings of the current family of Edward and Susannah Freeman.

* Jean brainstormed her problem with other researchers. They suggested looking for military records (War of 1812 pension), a will, land deeds, church records, 1855 NY State census, and more.

* Jean and her husband took a road trip to Jefferson County NY. At the Flower Memorial Library in the Jefferson County seat, Watertown, she reviewed the "family books" compiled by the library staff from research in the records and from correspondence. These are unique record compilations. One slip of paper said that Edward Freeman married Susannah Dillenbeck, widow of Jacob Klock. Another paper said Edward Freeman came from Stark, NY.

* Edward Freeman's will in Jefferson County NY records mentioned Irene Wilcox, wife of Nathan Wilcox of Iowa. Property records and an 1855 map on the wall of the library pinpointed Depauville, the Edward Freeman house and a graveyard (with Edward and his wife) across the road.

* Jean also traveled to the Herkimer County Historical Society, which had a card catalog of historical events. An entry had Edward Freeman marrying Mrs. Sarah (?) Klock in 1831. So Susannah was probably not the mother of Irene.

* The NY State 1855 census lists the county of birth, and the listed children of Nathan, living with him in Jefferson County, were born in Montgomery, Herkimer, Oneida and Jefferson Counties, but Irene was not listed.

* The New York Genealogical and Biographical Society (NYGBS) has transcribed church records from many counties. The baptisms of several children in the church records for Oneida and Jefferson counties identified Edward Freeman's first wife as "Reny" or "Regina." A Godparent for one of "Regina's" children was Francis Guiwits.

* Jean visited the Stark, New York town historian in New Jersey, who had information on the Freeman, Dillenbeck, Klock and Guiwits families in Herkimer County that showed them living in close proximity.

* The LDS Family History Library had Herkimer County, NY estate papers for Francis Guiwits of Stark, and in his 1832 will he named "Reana Freeman, deceased" as a daughter and wife of Edward Freeman. A guardian appointed by the Court named one of the Freeman daughters as "Rena Freeman."

A much more detailed, and sourced, article for this search for the name and parentage of "our sainted mother" appears in the article:

Jean Wilcox Hibben, "Investigating Irene: the New York Parentage of Irene (Freeman) Wilcox," National Genealogical Society Quarterly, Volume 97, Pages 111-119, June, 2009.

If you have access to the NGSQ issue at home or in the library, please read this Case Study for more information and context.

Jean summarized this search by noting that researchers need to:

* Verify hearsay family stories
* Check all family information, especially contradictory records
* Join genealogical societies in localities that ancestors resided
* Use more than online databases and websites.
* Visit the localities, and their repositories, that ancestors resided
* Create timelines for your ancestral families
* Record your sources of information!

For me, this hour was a fascinating demonstration of persistence and research skill to put a name, and ancestral fmailies, to the face in the photograph. In this Case Study, Jean demonstrated some of the requirements for becoming a Certified Genealogist. It helps all researchers, novice and experienced alike, to see and hear research success stories like this one.

I hope that Jean doesn't mind my summarizing her research problem here - I thought it would be informative for my readers. There is a wealth of detail for every one of the records mentioned above that Jean could write about on her Circlemending blog, and I hope she does!

I was especially attentive to this problem because Jefferson County, New York is one of my ancestral counties - where my Devier J. Smith was born as a Lamphear and raised as a Smith, before migrating to Misconsin, Iowa, Missouri, Kansas and Nebraska. I was hoping for some pointerts for research on Devier's parentage, and heard several.

One more note - Jean is such a "happy" researcher and presenter. The humorous asides and self-deprecating comments are priceless, and make her instantly likeable and believable. She had the audience rapt in their cushioned seats waiting for the next "information crumb" to be found as she blazed her research trail through several states and several New York Counties.

1 comment:

Jean Hibben said...

Hi, Randy!
I loved the synopsis ... think I'll save it (of course with credit to the synopsizer ... is that a word?) for future reference! Once minor correction: My visits to Jefferson & Herkimer Counties (and surrounding areas) were sans hubby (he was with me in NJ, but then flew home). I did have 2 dogs with me on one trip, though! Now that the hubby is retired, we can do more traveling together, but I've done 3 cross-country jaunts with him along for only the very first and/or last legs. Now I want to show him my beloved Jeff Co!
Thanks for the kind words . . . you make it hard for me to stay humble. You know I love the presenting & hope I can come down to Chula Vista again in the not too distant future!
Thanks for staying in town for the "gig."