"...shuffle and break-down."

In my last post, I wrote about the unavoidable nuisance of brick walls in genealogy, and how two of my highest walls block my two closest surnames: Brown and Burnett. Previously, I focused on the former; this time, I will tackle the latter. Part of my enjoyment of family research (and this blog) has come from meeting others, collaborating and sharing information or theories. One of my third-great grandfathers, Nathaniel S Burnett (12 Mar 1826 - 10 Oct 1885), son of today's subject, had at least eight children of his own, and at least thirty-six grandchildren; he was one of nine himself. With those odds, perhaps someone will discover this virtual message in a bottle and come to my aid!

Isaac Burnett (1780 - May 1860), one of my paternal fourth great-grandfathers, is my oldest verifiable Burnett ancestor. Beyond that, things get confused. Many researchers show him as the son of Daniel Burnett and a woman named Mariah, or Maria, with her last name often given as Burnham. This may be traced to two perhaps unrelated (no pun intended) facts.

First, in the venerable New England Historic Genealogical Society's publication, Massachusetts Town Birth Records 1620 -1850, there is a record from the town of Ashfield of an Isaac born to Daniel Burnett and Mariah.

Second, the 1850 U S Federal Census gives Massachusetts as Isaac Burnett's birthplace.

Voila! Isaac's parents are Daniel and Maria(h) Burnett. But as a wise National Park Ranger told me on a genealogically-inspired trip a few years back: it takes three legs to make a stool. One bit of information is interesting, two makes it more likely, but three confirms it as a fact.

And in this case, not only are we missing that crucial third leg, but there is this damning piece of evidence, which others seem to excuse or ignore:  Daniel Burnett's birth is well-documented as being in 1776, just four years before his supposed son's in 1780. Anyway....

We do know that Isaac was born in Massachusetts in 1780, and moved to Maine by at least 23 December 1802, when he married Deborah Grindle (25 Feb 1784 - aft 1860), daughter of a long-established and prolific New England family, whose name is also found as Grindal, Grindall, and Grindell.

The Burnetts are next found in the 1810 U S Federal Census living in Sedgwick, Hancock County, Maine, with their first four children, all girls: Peggy (17 May 1804 - ?), Lydia (8 Nov 1806 - ?), Sarah (20 Oct 1808 - ?), and another, possibly named Abigail.

In 1814, the family moved about fifty miles to the northwest, to the just-incorporated town of Newport, Maine; they are considered among the town founders. At one of the earliest town meetings, on 3 April 1815, Isaac Burnett is named as an agent of the newly-formed school district.

Newport, Hancock, Maine about 1875.

By 1820, there are two more daughters and--at last--a son (as of now all nameless, alas), then another: Reuben Burnett (abt 1818 - aft 1880), named after Deborah's father. On 12 March 1826, the last child--and at last my direct ancestor--Nathaniel S Burnett was born.

Isaac Burnett was primarily a farmer; an 1850 census reports he had seventy improved acres and thirty unimproved acres. He possessed one horse, two milk cows, two oxen, four other cattle, eleven sheep, and one swine, and was producing wheat, oats, rye, wool, butter, and cheese. 

Isaac Burnett is found on Line 10, after three lines of those prolific Grindalls.
 On Line 12 can be found Samuel Squire, whose daughter Rachel will marry Isaac's son Nathaniel four months after this Census was taken. [Detail]

By the time of Isaac's sudden death (of "old age", which is nice to read after a page otherwise full of dropsy, consumption, and typhoid fever) at age eighty in May 1860, he had also been working for some time as a blacksmith, perhaps a reflection of Newport's growing prominence as a carriage-making town.

It is remarkable how much we can learn about this ordinary man who died over one hundred and fifty years ago.

But who are Isaac Burnett's parents?
1. Isaac Burnett (1780 - May 1860) was born in Massachusetts, and married Deborah Grindle (25 Feb 1784 - aft 1860), daughter of Reuben Grindle (20 Mar 1757 - 15 Jul 1835) and Hannah Lowell (23 Jan 1759 - Sep 1802), on 23 Dec 1802 in Hancock County, Maine.
2. Nathaniel S Burnett (12 Mar 1826 - 10 Oct 1885) married Rachel Elizabeth Squire (28 Jan 1829 - 21 Apr 1902), daughter of Samuel Squire (13 Apr 1797 - 26 Jul 1871) and Lovina Coleman (27 Oct 1806 - 2 Jul 1901), on 26 Dec 1850, in Hancock County, Maine.
3. Charles A Burnett (Feb 1856 - 17 Jan 1930) married Ella Swarts (1 Sep 1861 - Apr 1899), daughter of Charles Swarts (12 Feb 1835 - 8 Jan 1909) and Henrietta Davenport (Jan 1836 - May 1904), on 1 Sep 1879 (her eighteenth birthday!), at Spring Lake, Minnesota.
4. Alfred Nathaniel Burnett (19 Aug 1883 - 31 Jul 1959) married Jennie Arleta Eaton (14 Mar 1891- 15 Apr 1979), daughter of Dor Henry Eaton (May 1869 - 31 Dec 1945) and Anna B A Miller (Jan 1867 - aft 1920), in 1909 in Minnesota.
5. Leroy Stanley Burnett (31 Aug 1910 - 11 May 1980) married Hazel Lucille Erickson (6 Sep 1910 - 6 May 2002), daughter of Erick Albert Erickson (28 Aug 1864 - 27 Nov 1948) and Johanna Maria "Marie" Svard (5 Feb 1875 - 28 Apr 1914), on 21 Jun 1933 in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
6. [Living] Burnett married Beverly Alane Brown (8 Aug 1934 - 7 Mar 2010), daughter of Dana Earl Brown (26 Jan 1910 - 10 Sep 1984) and Myrna Margaret Severin (6 Nov 1907 - 12 Jun 1997), on 4 Mar 1961 in Long Beach, California.
7. Your humble blogger.

"no longer take things at second or third hand..."

I have--as all genealogists must--a few brick walls that I just can't seem to bring down. Annoyingly enough, two of them concern my closest surnames: Burnett and Brown. And both of these walls are rife with confusions. So it was a delight when I recently discovered an obituary for a maternal second great-grandfather, Silas W Brown. Finally, there would be some answers--or at least, clarifications!

It appeared in the Carrollton [Missouri] Daily Democrat, 20 November 1893, under the--what is the opposite of "charming?"--heading "Death's Doings." Let me provide a complete, annotated transcription:

"S. W. Brown, aged 65 years [incorrect], died at his home in Carrollton at 4 a. m. this morning. Deceased has lived in Carrollton for 18 years [incorrect] and his many friends will mourn his loss. He leaves a wife and five children [incorrect]. Three sons, Marion, Lee and Clarence reside in Kansas City, one daughter, married, lives in Marceline, and one in Carrollton, the wife of Jas. Williford [incorrect]. Funeral to-morrow at 2:30 p.m. at residence under the auspices of the Masonic Lodge."

Five sentences, at least four errors (I would like to believe that he did in fact have many friends). Clearly, this was not the treasure trove of information for which I was hoping. Let me explain the errors.

"aged 65 years"   Silas W Brown was born about 1835, based on the information given in the Federal Censuses of 1850, 1870, and 1880, as well as his Civil War records, making him about 58 at the time of his death. He had been suffering from heart disease for a number of years, and had been receiving a Civil War pension as an invalid since 1889.

"lived in Carrollton for 18 years"   That would put Silas and family in Carrollton from about 1875 onward. Perhaps, but not consecutively. The 1870 Census shows the Brown family living in Chillicothe, in neighboring Livingston County, so it is possible that by 1875 they had moved to Carrollton. But by 1880, the family had uprooted and was living in Buena Vista (pronounced "byoona vista" at the insistence of Mrs Alsina Dearheimer, who named the newly-formed town), Colorado. Apparently Silas decided to give up his life as a clerk in a store for the life of a prospector(!), which is listed as his occupation on said Census; this is certainly consistent with the peripatetic approach to careers the Brown men seem to have. The Browns lived in Colorado at least long enough for one of their children to be born there (daughter Lula Ethel Brown, 7 Dec 1880 - 2 May 1944), before returning to (apparently) Carrollton.

"leaves a wife and five children"   Silas did leave his wife, the former Malinda J Carter (30 Jan 1849 - 8 Jan 1924), but in 1893, at least eight of the couple's eleven children were still living. Besides the aforementioned sons Marion, Lee, and Clarence, and the two married daughters (about whom more briefly), there were daughters Lula Ethel, Leona (Apr 1888 - aft 1905), and Nina Fay (Sep 1890 -bef 1940). There is the possibility that the other three children also survive Silas in 1893, but by the 1900 Census, we know that at least three of Malinda's children are dead, with two more following by 1910.

"the wife of Jas. Williford"   Silas' daughter Bertha E Brown (21 May 1870 - 15 Aug 1952) married James Henry Willerford (May 1860 - 1907) on 7 June 1884. And for those of you not paying attention, that would be just two weeks after her fourteenth birthday; but not to worry: on the marriage license, the verbal consent of her father was given.... A few years--and five children--later, Bertha and James moved to Los Angeles, California, then split up. In 1905 she remarried, this time to the remarkably named Cephas Hurburt Miller Shibley (prob 28 Mar 1855 - Dec 1934); she was his second, or possibly third wife. He was quite a character, and deserves a blog entry of his own, but I digress.... In 1915, she next married Henry Bricks (1 May 1878 - 30 May 1952), whom she outlived by just a few months.

The daughter living in Marceline is presumably Alice M Brown (Aug 1867 - aft 1956?), who at the time of her father's death was married to William M Rogers (bef 1863 -abt 1897); on 8 January 1912 she married Albert O Wilson (1867 - 28 May 1956).

Other questions and confusions still remain. Who are the other two unnamed Brown children? Was Nina Fay Brown ever married to a man named Albert Wires (and was his last name Wire, Wires, or Wyres; there are documents with all these spellings)? Many people seem to think so, citing as evidence an application for marriage issued to Nina and Albert (although Nina had not signed it) on 29 Dec 1909. Whether they intended to marry but did not, or even if this is the same Nina Brown (which I doubt--there are other factual discrepancies) remains to be discovered. At any rate, our Nina Fay Brown did get married in 1909, but to Melvin I Martin (17 Jan 1881- 11 Jan 1967); while Albert shows as "Single" on the 1910 Federal Census, but married Edna N Silvers about 1915.

The dubious document.

So that seems settled. But... each answer seems to add another question! Melvin I Martin was born in Oregon and lived in Southern California his entire life. In 1900, he was working as an assistant school janitor, by 1910, he is a stone cutter. How did he cross paths (let alone marry) a farmer's daughter born and raised in Missouri? My guess is that Nina went to Los Angeles to visit her sister Bertha.

Brick walls.

My ongoing thanks to Diana Gale Matthiesen (and her useful website Diana, Goddess of the Hunt — for Ancestors!  at http://dgmweb.net/GenealogyHome.html), my guide to all things Brown. I hope at least some of this information will be new to her!

1. Silas W Brown was born in New York State in about 1835, to Willard Brown (abt 1806 - aft 1860) and Mary "Polly" Rasey (21 Oct 1808 - 12 Dec 1868), sixth of their thirteen children. The family lived briefly in Henrietta Township, Ohio, then moved to Castleton, Michigan by 1850. On 7 Aug 1861, Silas enlisted in the Union Army, serving with Michigan's Company D, 6th Infantry Regiment as a private, beginning 20 August. He was mustered out of the same regiment on 23 Aug 1864. On 22 Oct 1865 he married Malinda J Carter (30 Jan 1849 - 8 Jan 1924), daughter of William Carter (1800 - 1849) and Melinda Johnson (1813 - 1902). The Browns had eleven children, living primarily in central Missouri, with a brief stay in Colorado circa 1880, where Silas attempted prospecting, despite his military records indicating he had incurred "heart damage" during his service. By 1890, he was an invalid, and died  on 20 Nov 1893. He was buried in Oak Hill Cemetery, Carrollton, Missouri, and was provided with a Veteran's headstone by the U S Government.

2. Clarence Edgar Brown (1 Dec 1878 - 21 Aug 1937), married Cora Mabel Kinman (4 Sep 1876 - 22 Aug 1958), daughter of William Edwin Kinman and Sarah Jane Conley, on 16 Sep 1903, in Morgan, Minnesota.

3. Dana Earl Brown (26 Jan 1910 - 10 Sep 1984) married Myrna Margaret Severin (6 Nov 1907 - 12 Jun 1997), daughter of John Jacob "Jack" Severin and Isabelle "Belle" Runser, on 21 Oct 1933, in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

4.  Beverly Alane Brown (8 Aug 1934 - 7 Mar 2010) married [Living] Burnett, son of Leroy Stanley Burnett and Hazel Lucille Erickson, on 4 Mar 1961, in Long Beach, California.

5. Your humble blogger.