Monday, March 19, 2012

The Mystery of Elizabeth Hall

When dancing with the ancestors I've often run into a mystery or two, well twelve, if not more, regarding my ancestors. It takes an awful lot of digging, and patience, and perseverance to figure out the mystery. Sometimes, I just go with instinct.

Such is the case with my two times great grandmother Elizabeth Hall, who married Joseph Morris. She was - and this was one of the mysteries - the daughter of George Washington Hall and Delphania O'Bryan. Yeah, what a name, but . . . it plays an important part in the resolution of the mystery regarding my great-great grandmother. This is, btw, on my maternal side through her father.

Elizabeth Hall was born in Marion County, Kentucky about 1840. I don't have a clue when she died. I'm still working on that wee mystery. She married Joseph Morris on February 9, 1858. They had seven, possibly eight (more on that in a bit) children, one of which was Margaret Morris who married my great-grandfather William Joshua Sweat, and their son William Oscar was my grandfather.

So, I have a birth date - gleaned solely from Census Records, a marriage date, and . . . I couldn't find her living with her husband on the 1860 Census. 

Great! Fine! Dandy!

I did find an Elizabeth Hall, age 20, living with her parents George and Delphania Hall. At this point, I hadn't linked her to these parents because, well, in 1860 she should have been living with her husband Joseph Morris and their first born child John F. Morris.

Brickwall! Ugh!

Then, I kept digging and digging and - very important, pay close attention - paid attention to the neighbors on the 1860 Census! WOO-HOO! Guess who was living next door to George and Delphania Hall, and some of their many children? Well, a certain Joseph Morris, his one year old son John, and a one month old daughter named . . . Delphania!

So, why was Elizabeth not at home with her husband and two young children? Why is she living with her parents?

I don't have a clue, but a theory, well, two theories . . . 

First - she was having complications after the birth of her second child and since she and her husband lived next door to her parents, she had gone next door and her mother was taking care of her.

Second - she happened to be next door when the census taker arrived, and when he was asking questions, George Washington Hall just named off his children.

Whatever the case, I'm 99.9% positive that Elizabeth Hall is the daughter of George Washington Hall and Delphania O'Bryan, that she and her husband lived next door to her parents, and that for whatever reason, she was recorded as living with her parents on the 1860 Census Record.

The other bit of proof is the naming of a child Delphania Morris. Delphania is not a common name. Not. At. All. The naming of the child makes me even more certain that Elizabeth is the daughter of George Washington Hall and Delphania O'Bryan. 

Delphania Morris must have died young, because she doesn't appear on the 1870 Census Records. My guess is it was a difficult pregnancy for Elizabeth. I also haven't seen this as a common name, and not one someone would name their child without it - most likely - being a family member.

So, when confronted with a mystery, you have to work your way around it when dancing with the ancestors. You might get frustrated - I know I did - and you might decide to give up, but don't . . . at least not until you've exhausted all options. 

Census Records provide a wealth of both information and misinformation. Census Takers don't always get the information down correctly, and the spelling of names, or how they spell the names versus how your ancestors actually spelled the names, are two different things. Pay attention to the neighbors, because those neighbors might well be your ancestors relatives.

One last night - Delphania O'Bryan. Her last name is still in question. On the death records of her children it is listed as: Bryan, Bryant, O'Brayn, and unknown. Yes, unknown. But, when reviewing the 1850 Census Records, I flipped forward and backward a page and found a few O'Bryans, but no Bryants or Bryans, so, for now, I'm going with the last name for Delphania as O'Bryan based on the people living nearby in 1850 because, back in the day, definitely more so than now, families stayed near each other.

Best of luck as you go dancing with the ancestors.


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