Saturday, 2 September 2017

The Mysterious Martha

My 2nd great grandmother Martha Campbell is a prime example of how hard it can be to research female ancestors.  She's such a dead end in my tree, and because I have a direct maternal line to her - she was my mother's mothers' mother's mother - I did a mitochondrial DNA test, which looks at the maternal line, to see if it would lead me to some of Martha's other direct descendants, or descendants of her sisters - if indeed she had any sisters - who might know something about her.

So far, I haven't made any useful discoveries, even though I have very close mtDNA matches with five people, and not so close matches with hundreds of others.  I've contacted the five close ones and a few of the not close ones, hoping to find a familiar name amongst their ancestors, but I've had no luck, and am in the dark as to how I'm related to any of them.  As more people take the mtDNA test and put their results online, I'll have more chances of finding someone who rings the right bell, but for now, Martha remains a complete mystery.  The only reliable thing I know about her is her name, which appears on birth and marriage records of some of her children, such as this birth record for her son William Wilson McConnell.  That's it.

Part of William Wilson McConnell's birth record, in Ontario, Canada Births, 1858-1913,
Archives of Ontario; Series: MS929; Reel: 2

Her heritage was probably Scottish, and she may have been born there, or in Upper Canada, sometime around 1837.  At that time there were many Scottish settlers in Canada, and it seems like most of them were called Campbell, but that's probably just because my brain is getting boggled by them.  I've sifted through several families of Campbells in and around the general area where the McConnells lived, and got rather excited when I found a Martha Campbell who seemed to fit the bill.  But further checking revealed that she was somebody else altogether, so I was back to square one.  And I'm still there, after looking at a lot of other Campbell families.

I spent quite awhile trying to find Martha from a different angle too - was she related to Porter Preston or his wife Mary Eliza Young, who raised her daughter Alma after Martha died?  Seems likely, doesn't it?  But after many fruitless hours of researching Prestons, Youngs and several other names in the Preston-Young tree, and scribbling a very complicated web of possible relationships on a whiteboard (which is now almost impossible to read) I got very disillusioned with that line of enquiry.  (Not to imply that I've done a really thorough job of it though - the connection to Martha might be hiding there somewhere, and I've missed it.)

Martha was married twice, but neither marriage record seems to have been found by anyone who has her in their family tree - or if somebody has found these records, they're not sharing!  The record of her second marriage, to Alpheus McConnell, sometime around 1861/2 should include the names of her parents, so I'm very keen to find it.  So much so, I've enlisted the help of a person in Ontario, who's willing to look through microfilms and church records for me.  I love living in Australia, but it sure is inconvenient when it comes to finding things in Canadian archives.  But I'm hoping to hear from my Canadian contact soon, and have fingers crossed that she'll be able to find something, anything, that will reveal something about Martha's background.

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