Entry 6: New Eyes and New Problems
Mary Ann had become my focus. She was stubborn and unyielding, her Cornish life shrouded from me. But the search for her changed the way I view genealogy. The endless hours of frustration, puzzlement, and reaching out for help enhanced my blossoming desire to know the person of Mary Ann. In the process, I discovered the wonderful world of the on-line Parish clerks in Cornwall, those dedicated individuals who would look up anything, and quite often, enjoyed the jigsaw of the family puzzle so much that they, too, joined you in your search as if the family was their own.
Because I could not move forward in my search, I began to backtrack and re-examine. Knowing that the 1861 census listed her as living in St. Ive, I began here, finally taking careful note that Mary Ann gave her birthplace as St. Germans, Cornwall. The three daughters listed on the entry were not a surprise as the family paper had listed Mary Ann, Harriett, and Mary Jane. I was finally scouring the census for any little clues I could find, a skill that accomplished genealogists regularly practice, but my novice eyes were finally opening to those clues I had previously missed.
I was pleased that I could take note of a transcription error where daughter Mary Ann was identified as seven, but a check of the original image of the census showed her age to be one. Numerals need to be checked carefully. This meant that all ages matched that voice from my past that provided me with my family’s names and birth dates. It gave me renewed confidence in my treasured 1900s-era “tree.”
The census did reveal a major obstacle; and while it seemed, at first, an almost insurmountable hurdle, it revealed a more complex portrait of Mary Ann. The surname of daughter, Mary Jane was not Symons. The census taker had noted her name as Mary Jane Davy and identified her as the daughter-in-law of the head of household, Thomas. What did this strange designation mean? At seven years old surely she could not be married? The clerk replied within hours that the term beside Mary Jane’s name was a common designation of the era for stepdaughter.
A range of emotions flooded me. I reached for my precious paper, trying to understand why the writer, who given the heading information, was likely Harriett Simons, had not indicated this on her family “tree.” I felt a punch of horror; first, I am ashamed to admit for myself. This meant my Mary Ann had been married before she married Thomas Symons. There was an added layer of married names now. This would make finding her maiden name even more difficult. When this selfish thought passed, I began to feel for Mary Ann. Here was a woman, living in a time when life for a widow with a child to support was difficult. How had she managed to provide for herself and daughter? How had this impacted her life? Thinking back to the passenger list of the Minnesota, I realized that neither daughter Mary Ann or Mary Jane had accompanied the family to Vermont. I wondered if the two sisters had stayed behind with the family of Mary Ann’s first husband, Mr. Davy. Making connections between sources was opening doors and inviting me into a new realm of my family. I wrote to Charles Simons’ granddaughter to ask if she had any knowledge of the two girls ever living in the United States, but she did not.
Meanwhile, the Parish Clerk had been searching for the marriage record of Mary Ann and Thomas, now that we knew to look for Mary Ann Davy, we thought the index search would finally reveal her.
|St. Germans Parish Church - Mary Ann's birthplace.|