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Thursday, April 26, 2012

The Elusive Sarah, Who Was She and How Did She Become a Freeman

Last night I had few minutes of free time and decided to randomly work on a line that was a dead-end.  Once again, you never know when the stars will align for you and the genealogy Gods will smile down.  This was one of those nights.

A few weeks ago I made some progress on a maternal line in my father’s family.  It had been giving me some trouble for a while.  I had traced the family line back to my 4th great-grandmother Sarah.  The line is: me, my father, Paul Combs, Sylvia Freeman, John Freeman, Willis Freeman, and Sarah Unknown.  Having unknown’s really bother me, even though I know that they will happen and are inevitable given women changing their names with marriage. 

Looking at the information and census records I had for her I noticed (how did I miss this before) that there were three children under the age of 18 living with her and her family in the 1850 Census.  All with the last name of Quakenbush.  Now this name is not uncommon in the area of Indiana they were living, Martin County.  Could it be a clue to her past?  Were these cousins, nieces, nephews, or maybe a previous marriage?  I found in an index to Indiana Marriages an entry for the marriage of John Freeman and Sarah Quakenbush.  Right time frame, right places, right ages… good possibility there!  However, if these were her kids he was the second marriage and this was not her maiden name.  There was still the possibility that they were relatives working on their farm, but not for certain.

From the 1850 Census I know her youngest Freeman child was eight, and I had deduced that they had married in at least 1842. I was close with a marriage of 21 June 1839.***  Taking her estimated birth date, and the estimated date of birth for the oldest child, I went back into the marriage indexes.  The eldest Quakenbush child was 18 which meant an estimated birth year of 1832.  If these were her children, there could have been more.  However, her age listed in the census was 42 so I could guess she was born around 1808 +/- 5 years.  If she got married after she turned 18, then I am looking for a marriage between the years of about 1826 (+/- 5 years) up to 1832.  It took a while, but I found a record for a John Quakenbush marrying a Sally Foote 22 May 1822 in the county she was living in at the time, Lawrence County, Indiana.  I was still not confident, but it was a lead I could follow and see what panned out.

I then turned to the public trees for hints as to where I should look next.  Really, as a place to get leads and possibilities, it is not such a bad place to look.  I was very surprised to see that with this new information on the possible two marriages there were hits for the first time.  Consistently I was getting information on her (with correct husbands and even children from the census) as well as the names of her parents.  Fantastic!

All the trees I found consistently had her parents listed as John Foote and Mary Smith.  They also listed an alternate name for her, Sally.  Some even had her as Sarah Sally Foote.  Now, being the skeptic that I can be, I took this with a grain of salt. It could just be a perpetuated mistake that has taken off over time.  In any case I decided to see if the Google-fu was with me last night and hunt for link bewteen the prospective parents and her.   
I did a simple search for “John Foote Indiana” and held my breath.  It is not a rare name, but I had to start looking somewhere.  Low and behold I got a hit.  That hit  was a descrption of a book about the Foote family and simply stated: “Others receiving mention in the book are: Thomas Foote of Adams County, Ohio; John Foote of Montgomery County, Indiana; Simeon Foote, of Lenox County, Penn., and Richard Foote of Virginia.”  Holy moly, that could be my John.  Even better, Google has this as a free eBook.  Score!

On page 296 of The Foote Family: or the Descendants of Nathaniel Foote, one of the First Settlers of Wetherfield, Conn., With Genealogical Notes of Pasco Foote, Who Settled in Salem Mass., and John Foote and Others of the Name, Who Settled More Recently in New York by Nathaniel Goodwin there is an entry about my potential ancestor.  It states:

Did you read to the bottom? Make sure you read child number 7, as that is my 4th great-grandmother! Now, just so you know, we are NOT related to Nathaniel Foote (that I know of). My ancestor just happens to be in the book because the author made a compiled genealogy of all the Foote’s he could find at that time living in the United States.  I need to read more in the book to see if I can find out how this information was given to him.

Reading the description of this man left me scratching my head.  What a life.  What an adventure! At this point I still wasn’t sure I could trust information written in a book from 1849.  I was going to do some more research… specifically because I thought press gangs were only used in the British Navy.

I just love a good mystery, don’t you?  Yes, that means another post will be coming...

***I realized as I went back over this that I originaly used the oldest child from the marriage, not the youngest.  Jeesh... that would make a lot more sense huh?  The oldest child has an estimated birth year of 1840.  That makes the 1839 marriage year a lot more likely.

Main Image: shiny red type via photo pin cc
Census Record:  Year: 1850; Census Place: Columbia, Martin, Indiana; Roll: M432_160; Page: 70A; Image: 273.
Book Record: Goodwin, Nathaniel.  The Foote Family: or the Descendants of Nathaniel Foote, one of the First Settlers of Wetherfield, Conn., With Genealogical Notes of Pasco Foote, Who Settled in Salem Mass., and John Foote and Others of the Name, Who Settled More Recently in New York.  Hartford, Connecticut: Press of Case, Tiffany and Company, 1849.

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