Monday, 6 November 2017

Finding Martha Campbell

Sadly, my friend in Canada didn't come up with the goods on my 2nd great-grandmother Martha Campbell.  I was particularly hoping she'd find a record of her marriage to Alpheus McConnell, which would tell me who her parents were.  But there don't seem to be any records of her birth, marriages or death anywhere.  The problem is twofold - many records from the area where Martha may have lived were destroyed years ago.  But that could be irrelevant, because Martha identified as a Baptist, and Baptists were notorious for not registering births, marriages and deaths.  This means that the only records that might be around would be church records, and I have no idea what church or churches to pursue, because I don't don't where Martha lived until a few years after she was married.

So things were looking bleak, Martha-wise, until I discovered that Martha was commonly known as Patty (and it turns out that lots of Marthas were called Patty back then).  So I went hunting in census records for a Patty Campbell who might be the right Martha, and eureka!  I found one!

Excerpt from page 67 of the 1851 Canada Census for Seymour Township.  Note that the King family are Methodists, but in the 1861 census, Martha and her husband are Baptists.  Which church did they get married in?

In the 1851 census for Seymour township in Northumberland Ontario, I found a 16 year old Patty Campbell with a Joel and Hannah King, as well as 15 year old Archibald Campbell and five younger children called King. This census didn't specify how people were related to each other, so some assumptions are necessary, which may or may not be correct:
  • Hannah Somebody married Mystery Campbell and had two children with him - Martha/Patty and Archibald
  • Mystery Campbell died sometime after 1837
  • Hannah Somebody married Joel King sometime before 1843 and had at least five children with him

I looked for the King family in the 1861 census, knowing that Martha/Patty was married to Jeremiah McConnell and living in Peterborough at that time - so I was pleased NOT to find Patty Campbell with the Kings, which would have been curtains for this line of inquiry.  But to my surprise, I didn't find Hannah either.  In 1861 Joel King had a different wife, called Catherine, the same five King children as in 1851, and some new ones, born after that.  So what happened to Hannah?

I then went looking for other sources of information about Joel King, and soon found him in several other family trees.  From these I learned that Hannah's surname was Parks - but nobody had any information about her, except the assumption that she died in 1854 - no parents, no firm birthdate, and no first husband or children called Campbell.  Much research time and effort by both my cousin Ruth and myself turned up nothing more about her.

We also looked for anything we could find about Archibald Campbell, Martha's likely brother, but couldn't find anyone we could be sure was the right one - Archibald Campbell was not an uncommon name.

So, we had no way of knowing whether the Patty in the 1851 census was our ancestor or not - until we started looking at DNA.

And what happened next I'll save for another time.

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