Friday, March 22, 2013

Our Most Frustratingly Elusive 19th Century Ancestors

Part 1: Taking the Torch from Helen

Part 2: Seeking Oliver and Margaret Jane

Part 3: Whose mtDNA Do We Have and Why Should We Care?

I expect to have trouble finding the parents of our 17th and 16th century ancestors, but the parentage of OLIVER TIBBETTS and MARGARET JANE PERKINS has frustrated their genealogical-minded descendants for dozens of years.

The search for them is important to me for reasons other than another entry in our family tree. Helen Dotts is one of those reasons.

Almost ten years ago, when I first discovered that Oliver and Margaret Jane were our "great-greats," I ran into the proverbial ancestral brick wall. The first inkling of the difficulty other genealogists had encountered in their own searches was when I found our cousin, Helen Dotts, in the classified ad that follows:

For more years than I can recount, I have searched for any data leading to theparents of Oliver Tibbetts and Margaret Jane Perkins. They m. 1840 in Bangor,raised family in Hermon. He d. 1898 and she d. 1908. Many Tibbetts families inHermon at the same time, but how do they connect? Oliver transacting propertymatters with a Perkins who may be Margaret's mother. He also sold property inCarmel at a young age. Inherited maybe? Any help appreciated! HelenDotts [posted 17 Jun 2003]

There were many similar online and print postings from Helen and others, and at some point Helen and I struck up an email correspondence. Helen Burnell Dotts' (1924 – 2010father (Otis Alexander Burnell 1897 – 1979) and our great-grandmother (EDITH MARIAN BURNELL MERRIFIELD 1888 – 1952) were siblings, which means that Helen and DOROTHY ELIZABETH MERRIFIELD (1914 – 1987were first cousins.

It was through Helen that I learned that Edith's father, ALONZO A BURNELL (1841 - 1929), was "not a very nice man", who had a tendency to intentionally lock his wife FRANCENA TIBBETTS (1851 - 1935) out of their house in the middle of a Maine winter. Helen also said that Francena "was very sweet," but "was not the sharpest tool in the shed," and that she was prone to taking to her bed with a headache and her cats. 

Alonzo A Burnell and Francena Tibbetts, Sebago,  Cmberland, Maine  
Francena became Alonzo's third wife after his second wife (and Francena's sister), Mary Elizabeth Tibbetts, died of consumption, soon after giving birth. Francena came to Sebago from her hometown of Hermon, Penobscot, Maine to take care of Alonzo's and her sister's newborn son. Within a few months, Alonzo (age 29) and Francena (age 19) were married. They went on to have 11 more children.

As an interesting coincidence, Helen's mother, Doris H Simpson, grew up in Vassalboro, Maine. I am grateful to Helen for providing a glimpse into the personalities of long-gone ancestors, and I think of her whenever I search for Francena's parents, Oliver and Margaret Jane.