I have a brick wall ancestor, just like everyone else. I have tried working on a game plan for breaking that wall but I live in a different state than that of my ancestor so it requires the long-distance method of ordering microfilm (when and where available) and relying on finding someone close to the scene who could help with locating necessary records. So inevitably, I put the problem on the back burner and tend to work on it sporadically over time. I haven't really looked at the state of things in quite some time but last week I found something that was very interesting to me. Someone on ancestry.com had "transcribed" a will for one William Hawkins of Guernsey County, OH who died in 1855 and the will named a daughter, Susan Braden, and a granddaughter, Mary Jane Braden. My brick wall ancestor is a woman named Mary Jane Braden and evidence suggests she was born in Ohio in March of 1838. That alone probably wouldn't be enough to draw most people in but the other teaser is that I have a document from one of her close family members identifying her as Mary Jane Hawkins and I've never been able to figure out why in the world the person used that name because he would have known from her own mouth what her maiden name had been. I have not been able to find a good candidate for Mary in the 1850 census yet and she was married in Indiana in 1855. She would have been 17 at the time of this marriage which doesn't exactly leave much room for her to have been married prior to the 1855 marriage and she didn't have another marriage after that one. So, the Hawkins document had always been a mystery.
So I started falling down the rabbit hole, chasing after Susannah Hawkins and Samuel Braden who were married in Guernsey County, OH in 1830 -- in my eyes, a good fit for a daughter to be born 8 years later. The Hawkins relative who had transcribed the will had found a Susan Braden who died in 1852 in nearby Richland County, OH and whose husband appeared to have been remarried in that county and then moved on to Noble County, Indiana with some of the children from his first marriage. Noble County isn't far from where my Mary Jane had her 1855 marriage so this would have accounted for Mary, who was born in Ohio, to be married in the Indiana border county. Things were really sounded great. Here's what I had found so far:
- an Ohio will bringing together a Mary Jane Braden and a Hawkins connection
- the same will offering parents for said granddaughter
- a same name couple found in a nearby county on Ohio census
- death of the mother, and the father remarries and moves to Indiana, near where the known 1855 marriage for my confirmed ancestor occurred
And that's where my bubble burst. This Noble County Samuel had indeed been the same Samuel from Ohio who married a Susannah who died in 1852. But it wasn't the Guernsey County Susannah Hawkins. It was a different Susannah, from Richland County, Ohio whom he married there in 1835. Either this is not the right Samuel, who married Susannah Hawkins in 1830, or this is the right Samuel and Susannah died less than 5 years after their marriage and Samuel would have to have moved to Richland County and met his future bride-to-be there very shortly thereafter. I'm not a fan of that last possibility but the number of Samuel Bradens to appear in the 1840 census (the first one after the Braden-Hawkins marriage in 1830) in Ohio make up a very short list and an even shorter list who were living in Guernsey -- 0 in fact. And going back to 1830, there were 0 then, too.
In any case, the bubble has been burst and I'm now pretty much back where I started. Well, with one exception. There was still a Mary Jane Braden from Ohio included in her grandfather Hawkins' 1855 will, which still brings together those two surnames that seem to surround my Mary Jane. Grandchildren were most often found in wills when one or both of the parents were dead and if her parents were dead, she could have gone anywhere; with a relative in another county or another state, or with a guardian. So I still have a lead to pursue here by finding Guernsey County, OH guardianship records, if they exist. If I can find a Mary Jane Braden listed with a guardian, I'll have a new name to look for as she should have been living with that person from the time of her parents death until, presumably, the time of her marriage. It's not much, but it's a lead afterall and that's something I didn't really have before. I don't feel too badly about falling down this particular rabbit hole because in order to fully come up with a GPS-based conclusion you have to rule out all other possibilities before being able to say you have definitive proof for your conclusion. But I am a little down that it didn't work out. Everything seemed to fit so nicely at first. Truth be told, a little too easily and maybe that should have been my first warning. Life doesn't usually follow the easy path and people don't just fit right into slot all the time. This was my reminder.