After weeks of trying to figure out if I have an “Outcast” in my family, the theme for Week 7 in 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks, I’ve finally decided to throw in the towel and move onto the next topic, “I Can Identify”. I’ll admit, this has me initially stumped because so many options go through my head… photos, people, places, and trying to narrow down to one specific thing is difficult.
So I opted to identify a person already in my family tree software, so I asked my son to choose a number between 1 and 2079. He selected 1,642. When I went to my list of people and put in 1,642 the person who was revealed was the wife of my 1st cousin three times removed, Rachel May Colledge.
Rachel May Colledge
Rachel May Colledge was born in East Providence, Bedford, Pennsylvania on 20 June 1883 to Henry McClellan Colledge and the former Jennie Riley. She appears to be the oldest of 8 children. Her father was a farmer while his wife kept house. Jennie (Riley) Colledge died 8 March 1908 from Congestion of Lungs.
Rachel continued to live at home and take care of her father and remaining siblings. Oddly enough, Henry Colledge passed away on 9 November 1921 and Rachel married Murray Walter Ritchey on 29 March 1922.
Murray Walter Ritchey was a farmer as well, also living in East Providence, Bedford, Pennsylvania. In the 1920 Census, Murray is still living with his father, William Cypher Ritchey, the older brother of my 2nd-great-grandmother, Mary Ann Ritchey.
Murray was 41 years old when he married Rachel Colledge, who was 38 years old. They never had any children.
Murray passed away on 9 February 1946 in Everett, Bedford, Pennsylvania of brain carcinoma. Rachel passed away 4 December 1961 in Snake Spring Township, Bedford, Pennsylvania of a “Malignancy with Distraction of Spine and Ribs”. They were both buried at Mount Zion Lutheran Church Cemetery in Breezewood.
Rachel was the dutiful daughter who took care of her dad. This is a wonderful thing but at the same time I feel a little bad that she was unable to enjoy her youth, not that girls were out there living it up in the early 1900’s, but I feel she must have missed out on some sort of social life with her peers as she was busy taking care of her dad and the younger siblings in the home. It makes me wonder if she and Murray were involved for a while? Or was it just a convenient marriage because of their ages?
I was unable to find any newspaper articles that linked them together before getting married, to see if maybe they attended the same parties, and social gatherings.
I enjoyed being able to identify a person in my software. This was a fun process to just pick a random person, I’ll have to do it again.
Today would have been my great-grandmother, Bertha Childers, 137th birthday. I always found it interesting when talking to my relatives on my dad’s side of the family about Bertha, each person has always described her the same way – “she was very nice, but she put you in your place”.
However, my dad does add that she may have been a little nicer to him because she didn’t see him all the time, which was the truth. He was born in Indiana and raised in Ohio while Bertha Childers lived in Pennsylvania.
Bertha Childers was born on 14 March 1886 in Bedford County, Pennsylvania to Randall Childers and Sarah Jane Fesler. She was the 7th of 9 children born to this marriage (which from what I have read had “issues”). At the time of Bertha’s birth, Randall was a former Corporal in the Union Army whose occupation was listed as a miner in the 1880 census (they were also living in Huntingdon County so they had moved at some point before Bertha was born).
After the war Randall had chronic ailments so I wonder if that explains some of the “issues” and may explain Bertha Childers no nonsense attitude of life. By the 1900 Census Randall is listed as a farmer, Still living at home at this time, I’m sure she learned the ways of living on a farm. I know my dad told me that Bertha didn’t think anything of going out and killing a chicken and cleaning it up for dinner that same evening.
I don’t know how Bertha Childers met my great-grandfather, Andrew Jackson Blair, and I have yet to find a marriage license for them (don’t worry, I’m still looking) but I did find this newspaper clipping about when they married so at least I have something, 19 March 1906.
Their first child, a son, Darrell, was born 22 September 1906 and died on 22 January 1907 of bronchial pneumonia. Next came a daughter, Vada, who was born on 2 December 1907. Vada lived to be 87 years young, which is surprising as she was born with a cleft pallet and wasn’t really expected to survive. Genevieve came on 14 May 1909 (though it may have been 1910, I’ve not been able to find a birth certificate online or in the list of birth certificates on the website for the Pennsylvania Historic and Museum Commission). My grandfather, originally named Charley Wilmer Blair, later renamed Leroy, was born on 13 February 1912. Finally, Donald, the baby, was born 23 September 1917.
Bertha raised her children while Andrew was a coal miner. Initially they lived in Huntingdon County (where they were listed as living in the 1910 Census) and then they lived in Cambria County (according to the 1920 Census).
But life changed quickly on 16 November 1926 when the shaft where Andrew Jackson Blair was working caved in, killing him.
Most of her children were raised, but Donald was just 9-years-old, and Leroy was 14, Genevieve had just gotten married to her husband, Ralph Vivian the weekend before Andrew’s death. The 1930 Census does not show Bertha being employed but she still lived in South Fork, a mining town in Cambria County which was the borough they lived in 1920.
On the 24 December 1930 Bertha Childers married William Chappell. Bill, as he was called by friends and family, was another coal miner, and according to my dad one of the nicest men you would ever meet.
They were married just shy of 30 years when Bill passed away of prostate cancer on 20 June 1960. Bertha didn’t have to live long without him as she passed away on 11 November 1963 at my grandparents house in Akron, Ohio. According to her death certificate she had a “cerebral vascular accident/hypertension/diabetes”. I do remember talking to my dad and he said Bertha had been very sick and my grandmother was having difficulty taking care of her, and apparently my grandfather stopped talking to his sister Genevieve because she didn’t help my grandma, but she herself was sick with cervical cancer.
Parts of my family are not the biggest fans of Bertha, and I guess I understand why, but I think she gets blamed for things she really shouldn’t. Most of the rest liked her (basically all her grandkids that no longer lived in Pennsylvania – which they were spread out between Ohio, Indiana/Arizona). I know my grandmother, Anna Maria Morgart, always referred to her as “Mrs. Chappell”. I wish I could have met her just to decide for myself.
In closing here is a photo of Bertha and her siblings that I found on Ancestry.com that was posted by my distant cousin, Joanne Fesler, and since she has taken my photos from my blog and posted them on Ancestry, I feel I can use this photo.
The prompt for Week 6 of Amy Johnson Crow’s writing challenge 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks is Social Media and I have been very lucky to have discovered distant cousins in a few of the Pennsylvania groups I have joined on Facebook.
I know I have eluded to this once before but it has happened again recently in a newer group I’ve joined focusing on the town of Broad Top, Pennsylvania, which is where my grandmother, Anna Maria Morgart, was born.
Encouraged to join the group by my cousin Denny, I wasn’t sure they would even let me in at first because I never lived there, and that seemed initially to be a qualification. But luckily my honesty paid off because I noted in my comments when I answered the questions that I was working on my genealogy and just wanted to see photos of the area to get a better feel for where my ancestors lived.
Oddly enough the organizer is a Horton and I’m sure that I’m related to them in some way.
The post I found about 2 months ago referenced my Blair side of the family. A picture of Clyde Vinton Blair, aka “Shinny” was posted as he ran a store in Six Mile Run. It didn’t take long for me to realize that I was related to the person who posted the photo (we are 4th cousins) and we ended up chatting and friending each other. It’s not like we were looking for one another, it just happened by my commenting on her post.
Some of the best parts of groups like these are just reading the memories that a photo or just a person’s name will bring back to the other members. I’m sure if I hung out on Instagram more often I would have similar experiences.
If you’ve never taken the time to join a group from where your relatives are from I suggest doing so. Social media is a valuable tool when working on your family history, you never know what a person may post that may answer a question you have, or even who may have the answer to a question you post.
We all have encountered an oops when working on a family tree, and mine is no exception. Mine is actually a work in progress still and relates to my 3rd-great-grandmother on my paternal side, Eliza Horton.
The oops in question deals with Eliza’s parents. At the time I did the unthinkable as a newbie genealogist and took my cue from whomever she was attached to on the big tree on FamilySearch, which had her mother listed as Elizabeth Horton, no father was listed. It wasn’t until a year or so later that I realized that Eliza was either born out of wedlock or she did not belong to Elizabeth. Both of these scenarios could still be true.
Oddly enough while reading a book written about the Horton’s, no one seems to know where Eliza goes (even below she is listed alone in an excerpt from a book, not under her parents like most are listed). She took care of her grandfather, Samuel Horton, until his death in 1836. Samuel Horton and his wife, Martha Evans, had 11 children together, 6 of them boys (Abner, Josiah, John, Thomas, Samuel, and Septimus) and so I’ve been slowly trying to piece together which of them could be Eliza’s father.
So here is what I do know about Eliza Horton. She was born 2 April 1813 in Broad Top, Bedford County, Pennsylvania, and I read somewhere that she never roamed further than 25 miles from her home, which always gets a wow from me. She married Thomas Foster and they had 16 children together in their over 50 years of marriage.
Their children were Amanda, Miles, Ira, Aaron, Wealthy Ann, Joseph, Elizabeth, William, Louisa, Thomas Jr, Sarah, Septimus, Lewis Thompson, Susan Jane (my 2nd-great-grandmother), Lyman, and Sampson.
I mention before my oops is a “work in progress” because on my personal family tree, I still have Elizabeth Horton listed as her mom. I’m pretty sure that is incorrect, but I figure why make all the changes until I have the correct Horton? On my Ancestry family tree, which is public, I have her attached to a “Horton” male but no name until I can safely figure out which of Samuel Horton’s children she descends from. I will confess I have assumed it’s a son since her last name is Horton. Elizabeth would have been exactly 20 years old in 1813 so there is that chance that Eliza could be her daughter, and she doesn’t marry William Anderson until 1820).
The present scenario in FamilySearch has Eliza’s parents being Thomas Horton and his wife, Sarah Foster. I don’t like this match because that has her marrying her uncle. Did uncles marry their nieces back then? Maybe I’m too clouded by today’s standards to truly be open-minded about this possibility. For some reason even cousins (which I knew happened) doesn’t bother me as much as this uncle-niece option.
It’s easy to see how Eliza could have gotten lost in the shuffle of her family. In the 1820 Census, Samuel and Martha have taken in several of their grown children and it makes me wonder if they continued to care for Eliza once everyone has moved out (and then in turn, Eliza cared for them).
In the above photo of the 1820 census, you can see where Samuel has 14 children under the age of 10 living with he and Martha. I’m sure one of those 9 girls is 7-year-old Eliza. But where Josiah and Abner Horton both are listed separately in the 1810 census, I would guess that they are 2 of the 4 males aged 26-45 living with Samuel and Martha (Evans) Horton.
I have two key things I need to do: 1) is to determine how old each of Samuel and Martha’s children are (I’ve noticed what is on FamilySearch and what I have on Ancestry don’t necessarily complement each other), and then try to find copies of each child’s probate records to see if they mentioned their children in their wills. I was fortunate that Samuel Horton (1752-1836) even mentioned his son, Septimus, who had already passed away.
So this is a “to be continued” post as I slowly make my way through each child of Samuel and Martha to find out who Eliza’s parents are.
Everyone feels out of place at times. I know I always do and even now when finding relatives through genealogy I find my portion of the Blair family “out of place”.
Most everyone else still lives in Pennsylvania while my grandfather, Leroy Blair, received an apprenticeship in Gary, Indiana, for the sheet metal trade. So, my little section of the family (and it is small compared to others as my dad was an only child) isn’t included in a lot of functions as others are.
My dad also notes when telling stories, that his grandmother, Bertha Childers, often treated him differently than the others simply because she didn’t see him as often as her other grandchildren, as even after his apprenticeship was over my grandparents moved to Akron, Ohio, never returning to Pennsylvania to live (only to visit).
For week 2 of the genealogical writing challenge 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks, the prompt is favorite photo. One of my favorites (as this is a theme every year it’s fortunate we have so many photos to love) is a photo of my dad. He received a camera for Christmas in 1956 and according to the note on the back from my grandma (Anna Maria Morgart), he was taking a picture and it “exploded” and accidentally took a picture of himself. I like to joke it’s the world’s first selfie.
When I saw the prompt for Week 1 of the 2023 version of 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks by Amy Johnson Crow, one thought jumped into my head, but alas, I wrote about that in my 2021 Week 26 Conflict post. Then there are all the usual suspects… Andrew Blair, Suzanna Akers, Mazie Warner… to name a few off the top of my head. And then it hit me, a man I’ve been curious about, a man who got his name in the newspaper for not necessarily the best of reasons (can you say moonshine?), so for this the first week of 2023 I will write about my 2nd-great-grandfather, Jonas Wise as a person I’d like to meet.
This is a photo of my 2nd-great-grandfather, Jonas Wise. He just looks to me like a very nice man. I don’t recall too many stories about him from my Grandma (Anna Maria Morgart) as he had already passed away before she was born. The one story I do remember was when my Grandma mentioned his marriage to Anna Maria Leighty, there was an age difference, it was probably not as much as she may have been thinking, Anna Maria was 4 years older than Jonas, but there is an age difference with my husband and I, and when I first began being interested in him, my Grandma likened it to their relationship, showing that even when the woman was older, the marriage could work. (She also went on to say that since women live longer than men, not sure if this is true, but it was in her world as she, her mother, and her granny all lived longer than their husbands by a good twenty years), she was optimistic that my husband and I may die at the same time. Only time will tell.
Jonas Wise was born 3 March 1855 to Philip Wise and Barbara Waite in Liberty, Bedford County, Pennsylvania. He was the 6th of 9 known children, the others being Elvina, William, John, Sarah, Margaret, Henry, Emmanual, and Mary Ann. In the 1850 Census Phillp was listed as a farmer but 10 years later in the 1860 and 1870 Censuses he is a coal miner.
Jonas married Anna Maria Leighty around 1875 with their oldest child, Henry James, being born on 3 August 1876 in Huntingdon County, Pennsylvania. Jonas and Anna had a total of 14 children, with 10 dying at birth. Their next surviving child was Riley born 25 February 1885, then Mary Ann born 25 September 1888, Margaret Dora born 11 February 1891, and lastly Hannah born 14 March 1894 (I have no record of her death, and she is not listed on the 1900 Census so she must have passed away before the turn of the century).
Living on the Edge
In the 1880 Census Jonas’ occupation was listed as Coal Miner, in 1900 he was a day laborer, and then in 1910 a woodchopper. But along with mining, day laboring, and chopping wood, Jonas Wise had a side gig. He made his own liquor and got caught selling it.
But he wasn’t caught just once, he was caught multiple times. And there is nothing like having a headline of “Whiskey Dealers in Trouble” and the first individual mentioned is your ancestor.
The offense in Huntingdon County was actually written up in a variety of local newspapers. I’m sure that made my great-great-grandmother a happy woman.
What Would I Ask Him?
One of the first questions I’d ask would be how did he become deaf? Or was he deaf his entire life? It’s not noted on any census over the years, but it was noted on the bottom of a photo that my 1st cousin once removed, Hope Dipko, had at her home. (Someone left the photo behind at a Wise Family Reunion she had attended one year).
I suppose I’d ask if making hard cider was worth the fines and jail time he often endured when he was caught? Was he caught more often than what was printed in the newspapers? I’d almost like to give him a glimpse into the future of the home brewing people do of beers and such now and wonder how impressed he would be?
I wonder what he would think about his daughter, Margaret Dora “Maggie”, living to be 96 years old when he only lived to be 57? (He died of pneumonia on 12 January 1913). I’d ask him the question I’d also like to ask his wife, was George Mullen her son (and his stepson)? She is listed as his mother sorta on his marriage license (I say sorta as it’s the wrong name but I’m guessing that is who he means – it’s Martha Wise with the father’s name unknown), and she is who he was living with in her later years, and it’s alluded to on the above photo.
And lastly, I’d ask him for any advice for me as I enter my 50’s this year. It would be interesting to find out what information would be the same and also that which would be entirely different from the changes in technology and just life in general over the past 100 years.
If you would like to participate in Amy Johnson Crow’s 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks genealogical writing challenge click here. It’s fun to take the time to write about your ancestors that you research, and you don’t have to do it each and every week.
For the final month of 2023 the prompt is “New Horizons”. The first person who popped into my head is a relative who is not a direct ancestor for myself, but someone I’ve been curious about learning more about. Her name is Rachel Snell Morgart, she is the younger sister of my 2nd-great-grandfather, George Washington Morgart. She was born in Providence, Bedford County, Pennsylvania and made her way to North Dakota to teach.
Rachel Snell Morgart was born 24 February 1863 to Andrew Jackson Morgart and Rebecca Margaret O’Neal in Providence, Bedford County, Pennsylvania. She was named after her father’s older sister, Rachel Morgart, who married William Snell. Rachel was the 8th of 10 children to her parents, her siblings including Katherine Amanda, George Washington, Mary Elizabeth, Rebecca Jane, Arabelle, James Henry, Sarah Ellen, William Baltzer, and Ida Florence.
When Rachel was just 7 years old, her father died 19 August 1870.
Not much is written about Rachel in the newspapers to find out what her life was like after her father died. I did find an article from 13 September 1881 stating that she scored a 91 3-5 attending the Prof Bachtel English and Classical Institute.
I then decided to find out what kind of school this Institute was, and so I found this, and it may have been a similar article in the newspaper that convinced Rachel to attend.
The other puzzle is how Rachel ended up undergoing instruction in Bedford County, Pennsylvania and ending up in North Dakota as the next document I can find her in is the 1885 Dakota Territory Census where she is listed as a teacher. In the 11 April 1883 the Everett Press lists how they had received a copy of the North Dakota version of the Daily Minnesota Tribune to review. I tried to see if this was a part of Newspapers.com or even Genealogybank.com but I did not find the newspaper listed. I was curious to see if there was any sort of advertisement for teachers.
By continuing to use newspapers I was able to discover that Rachel taught at the Ypsilanti and Montpelier schools in what was originally the Dakota Territory as North Dakota did not become a state until 1889. I found her with the following timeline:
1885 – Listed on the Dakota Territory 1885 Census
1886 – Teaching at Ypsilanti
1887 – Teaching at Montpelier School #5
1888 – Teaching at Montpelier School #2 (she had 15 students)
In the Dakota Territory school began in late April and went for 6 months. In some winters Rachel attended the Valley City Normal School for additional instruction, in the winter of 1887 she returned to Pennsylvania and visited with her family.
Marriage & Family
On 31 July 1895 Rachel Snell Morgart married Daniel Halfpenny.
After getting married children came, daughters to be exact, 4 of them over the course of 10 years. First was Dorothy Evangeline who was born 8 June 1896, then Ruth Morgart born 1 April 1901, and finally twins born on 7 May 1906 Margaret Rebecca and Mary Kathryn.
All 4 girls took on teaching as their vocation at some point in their lives. Ruth Morgart and Mary Kathryn lived their entire lives in the North Dakota area, (Mary Kathryn actually lived her final years in Montana). Dorothy Evangeline and Margaret Rebecca both ended up moving to the San Diego area.
Reverend Daniel Halfpenny died on 21 January 1928 at the age of 75. Within 10 years on 29 September 1937 his bride would die from injuries she sustained in a car accident earlier in the month when her back broke in two places.
Ever since I discovered a couple of years ago from a distant cousin who descended from Rachel Snell Morgart of her journey, she has intrigued me. I wish I had more information in regard to her move to North Dakota, it amazes me that no newspaper was impressed with her moving across the country. I tried to see if she had any siblings that may have gone that way and maybe she tagged along, but that is not the case. Her brother, William Baltzer, does end up settling in Idaho, but was living in West Virginia in the 1880’s when Rachel moved to North Dakota. Such gumption she had to do such a thing. And it was a decade before she married, simply amazing!
Did you have any sort of “pioneers” in your family tree? If you do I’d love to know where they went, and if they didn’t go anywhere, maybe they did something that made them a pioneer. Share your ancestor in the comments.
In the past year, John Andrew Akers has popped up on Thrulines as a potential father for one of my favorite brick walls, Suzanna Akers. I have even had John Andrew Akers written down on a piece of paper and looked into him a few times myself but never felt I had enough information to officially list him as my 4th-great-grandfather (I really try to be quite thorough when working on my tree and not just plop people down).
Anyhow, I’ve opted to take the time to do some in-depth research to try to come to some sort of conclusion about whether John Andrew Akers is truly the father of my 3rd-great-grandmother, Suzanna Akers.
What is Thrulines?
For those of you who are not familiar with AncestryDNA, I will enlighten you on what Thrulines is. Thrulines is a DNA tool that uses both your DNA matches and the family trees of your matches to create a view of who your ancestors may be.
A key point of Thrulines is that it is only as accurate as your matches trees.
See how important that statement above is? I bolded it because it’s the piece of the puzzle that many don’t realize. If your distant relative has just plopped information down that they have taken randomly from hints or other peoples trees, their family tree may not be accurate, which would then lead to a false identity on Thrulines.
This is why I am going to do an examination of John Andrew Akers, so I can discover if he is in fact Susanna’s dad. For some reason I don’t recall finding a census for him that would have a female of the correct age for him and that is why I wasn’t willing to think he was my guy. Or maybe he did and other trees that I saw had females listed for the age leaving no room for Susanna. But maybe they were wrong. At the time I did not take the time to do a research plan on him. Today is a different day and I’m up for the challenge.
One last thing about Thrulines. I presently have 28 DNA matches on Thrulines claiming John Andrew Akers is my 4th-great-grandfather. We shall see.
The Research Plan
In an effort to keep myself on track, I’ve created a research plan. Here is what I have down. It’s very rough and may evolve as I go along and that’s okay. It’s 8:30am on a Wednesday and so my mind may not be as technical sounding as I should (especially when I have to head into work here in about 10 minutes). But here is my start. I created a table in Word (I took a screenshot so my nicely bolded header is not so bold). I literally have no information on John Andrew Akers so I’m starting from scratch. This could be very difficult because I know these are dealing with census records from before 1850 so I will not find a lot of good information like you do post-1850. But you have to start somewhere.
I began seeking using Thrulines to come up with a birth and death date and created a family tree on Ancestry that I made private so I didn’t have to worry about anyone taking to heart what I may or may not find. I really am not wanting to offend anyone in my search because I am having difficulty believing people who suddenly think this man is their relative. I should note one key piece of evidence with Suzanna: with as little documentation that I have on her, one fact is consistent on all the censuses I have for her – she always has a birth date of 1826. Andrew Blair’s age is all over the place, but Suzanna is consistently 1826. Here is my list of events in my Legacy Family Tree Software for Suzanna and she is listed being 24, 34, 44, and 54 for each census I have for her (1850, 1860, 1870, and 1880).
Like most everyone else when doing my family history, I opted to go backwards in time. On Ancestry there was an inventory listed as a hint that would correspond with John Akers death date of 4 January 1866. Finding this inventory leads me to believe that John Akers died intestate, so this should be easier than I thought, as I should just find the probate record because all heirs should be listed in the record if he died without a will.
And I found just that, his daughter, Lucretia, petitioned the court and all his children are listed, along with his widow.
As you can tell in the snippet of the record above, no Suzanna is not listed. And I have census records from 1870 and 1880 to prove she was still alive when John Akers passed away in January 1866. In case you are unable to read what I have shown, the name of John Akers children are: Lucretia, Ann, Matilda, Joshua B., John Thomas, and Erastus J (with John and Erastus being deceased when their father died).
The DNA Matches
It’s interesting, once I began writing this blog post (which I thought was going to take me longer than it did) I thought I was going to have this in-depth research plan all documented, never realizing the intestate probate record was the key to everything (thank you Susan Monson for your fabulous Family Tree Webinar “No Will, No Problem” which really brought the entire intestate process to light for me). Anyhow, after working on this for a day or so John Andrew Akers was no longer coming up named on my Thrulines, but as an “Unknown” person was. I didn’t know if this had anything to do with the private Akers tree I created for this project if it would have thrown confusion to my algorithm (I doubt that would do THAT much), I stand corrected, I deleted the tree a few hours ago and he is back on my Thrulines. At least I now know without a doubt that John Andrew Akers is NOT my 4th-great-grandfather.
As for the DNA match, as I looked more closely, most of the matches I had for John Andrew Akers were the same matches that I have for Andrew Blair and Suzanna Akers, all but 1, and he is also a match with my Morgart-Ritchey line so he could actually be related to these Akers where I am not.
The Finished Research Plan
As a genealogist who always wants to do things correctly I can honestly say I’m so glad I took the few minutes (because it really only took a couple of minutes) to type up this research plan in Word using tables. It really helped me stay focused on the objectives I was seeking. And a few times when I began to make things more difficult for myself in my head (as I am often my own worse enemy) this research plan really helped me stay calm and carry on (to steal a quote from a very popular meme).
I have many more Akers to go through to try and figure out who Suzanna’s parents are. One day I’ll find them.
Today I’m going to introduce you to my great-great-grandmother, Sarah Jane Fesler, who was born 175 years ago today! Her life was not an easy one, as her “Find a Grave” article states, her marriage was “troubled”.
According to her death certificate (I know, a secondary source, but it’s the only record I have that states her birthday), Sarah Jane Fesler was born on 17 Nov 1847 to George Fesler and Mary Elizabeth Oakman in Wells Tannery, Pennsylvania, a township in what was then Bedford County (it became a part of Fulton County less than 3 years later). Sarah was the oldest of 10 children born to her parents. Her siblings were John Oliver, Mary Isabelle, James, Rebecca May, Margaret, Frances, George Henry, Jr., William, and Lillie May.
Sarah’s dad, George Fesler, had a variety of vocations over the years. In the 1850 Census he was listed as a laborer, in 1860 a farmer, in 1870 and 1880 a Stone Mason, then back to being a farmer again in 1900 and 1910.
In the 1860 Census, Abraham Childers and George Fesler’s families are listed on the same page, with just 4-families between them, so they lived in the same area of Fulton County. This would be my best knowledgeable guess at how Sarah Jane Fesler met Randall Childers. The word “troubled” seems to be a regular recurring word when it comes to their marriage. They had a total of 9 children over the course of 28 years (with Sarah being just 18 when Mary Etta Childers was born in 1865, possibly 1867).
According to Randall’s Civil War Pension file, Randall and Sarah were married on 22 February 1866. Randall would have just returned from fighting for the Union in the Civil War where he went in as a Private in 1861 and came out a Corporal, mustering out in Victoria, Texas on 25 September 1865. Randall did take a furlough from the Army in 1864 to see his elderly parents according to his Civil War pension file, I can only assume that he and Sarah must have spent some time together if Mary Etta’s date of birth really was 4 February 1865, however Randall’s pension file states Mary was born in 1867.
By 1870 their oldest son, George Harry Childers was born on 30 December 1868 but the 1870 Census can make you scratch your head as Sarah is listed as “Jane”, age 21, the wife of Randall Childers on page 10 of 15 of the Wells Tannery portion of the Fulton County 1870 Census dated 9 June 1870, but on page 12 of 15 of the Wells Tannery portion of the Fulton County 1870 Census, “Sarah J” is listed as a child of George Fesler, age 23.
Sarah is listed as “wife” with Randall in the 1880 Census. By this time, they have had 5 of their 9 children (all their children’s names are Mary, George, Abraham, Jennie, William, Elizabeth, Bertha, Bessie, and Charley). Randall came out of the War with health issues, with repeated references to “disease of the testicles (as a result of mumps), chronic diarrhea, and malarial poisoning, and due to these lingering ailments that he obtained during the war, he began requesting a pension around 1870.
But through the wonders of newspapers you can find out little details about your ancestors lives, and one such article lets me know that Sarah stayed in contact with her dad throughout the years as she apparently stayed the weekend with him in 1902 with her daughter (my guess is that she went with Bessie).
Sarah and Randall stayed together until according to his pension record, he left Pennsylvania in 1904 and first moved to Goldsboro, Maryland, and then in 1906 to moved to Lenoir City, Loudon County, Tennessee, where he lived for the rest of his days.
While Randall moved out of state and on with his life, I imagine life was a whole lot different for Sarah. She was left with all the world to know that she had been abandoned. While Randall was telling the government that she died in 1907 and getting remarried to Nanny Rocky, Sarah continued to live in a world wondering, like her children, where was Randall and was he ever coming home?
In the 1910 Census Sarah is living as the Head of Household in Tod Township, Huntingdon County, Pennsylvania, with her 3-sons (Harry, William, and Charley) all residing with her. In 1920 she has moved in with her youngest daughter, Bessie, and her family. The 1920 Census was taken on 14 January 1920 and Sarah died just 2 days later.
In her final years, Sarah had gotten ill with a sickness that seemed to linger.
I always feel sad when I read her obituary as she was still referenced as “Mrs. Randall Childers” even though he had left her some 16 years previously.
The cause of death for Sarah was chronic interstitial nephritis, which is when “the spaces between the kidney tubules become inflamed” (per Google). It could be caused by any number of autoimmune diseases that probably hadn’t been identified back before 1920, but explains why she had been ill for a few years.
Though Sarah is buried at the Wells Valley Cemetery across from the Methodist Church I was unable to find her grave specifically when I traveled there in 2019. I can only assume it is near her parents and siblings.
I wish I had more anecdotal stories about my 2nd-great-grandmother, instead of the rather sad tale of woe in relations to her life. She deserved to be loved, and it doesn’t seem like she had a lot of time to be happy due to her sick husband.