Proving Phoebe’s maiden name through her daughter, Esther

You finally order and receive the death certificate for your direct ancestor!  You eagerly look for the name of his or her mother.  She is recorded as  ‘unknown’ !

Unknown mother DC sample

Copy of death certificate from digital files, Posten-Richards Family Tree.

Information for a death certificate is given by a member of the deceased’s family.  These informants do always have all of the information requested.  So, where do you go from here?  The answer may be in collateral research, which focuses on those who aren’t your direct ancestors, also known as siblings, in-laws and other members of your extended family.

Start with census records for your direct ancestor, especially those from 1850 on.  Beginning in 1850, census records listed the names of household members.  However, relationship to the head of family was not recorded until 1880.   Scenario:  the first name of an older woman is listed in the same household as your direct ancestor in one of these later census records. The woman is old enough to have been your direct ancestor’s mother.  Later, you get the death certificate for a sibling of your direct ancestor.   This death certificate lists only the mother’s maiden name!   But, you now have two clues – a first name and a possible maiden name.   Follow those leads to confirm both given and maiden names of your direct ancestor’s mother!

This post details a recent session with a goal to discover if Phoebe Bertyman/ Brutzman/ Bowman  is the sister of my paternal great-great grandfather, James D. Posten (1829-1914).  James’ death certificate[1] lists his parents as Thomas Postens and Esther Brown.  A newspaper story about a Posten family union [2] described James as ‘the youngest son’.  Collateral research and indirect evidence are the models

The search began with an 1850 census record for Phebe Bertyman in Monroe county, Pennyslvania. [3]  Thomas Porton [Postens], age 68, is listed first, followed by Jonathan, age 30, James, age 19, Phebe [Phoebe] Bertyman, age 27, Esther, age 14, and Alexander, age 10.

1850 United States Federal Census(14)(1)

1850 U.S. census, Monroe County, Pennsylvania, population schedule, Hamilton Township, p. 17B (stamped), dwelling 220, family 220, Phebe Bertyman [Brutzman]; digital image, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com    :   Accessed 16 Aug 2010 and 3 May 2017); citing National Archivesand Records Administration microfilm M432, roll 798.

My best guess is that Phoebe is Thomas’ daughter and that Esther and Alexander are Phoebe’s children.  After searching other pages of the Monroe county census,  I believed that ‘Bertyman’ was probably Brutzman or Brotzman, so I followed that lead.  An unsourced online family tree [4] showed these ‘facts’:   Phoebe’s husband =  Lewis Brutzman;  Esther’s husband = Philip S. Lee;  Esther’s death date= after 1900 in Monroe County.

New goal:  Prove  above facts through census and other records.  Specific plan:

  • Search census records in Monroe county, Pennsylvania from 1860 through 1900 for Esther, Philip, and Phoebe, using Ancestry, Family Search and/or American Ancestors databases.  If unsuccessful,  try name variations first, then surrounding counties.
  • Repeat search strategy for marriage records. Note:  1900 census usually lists how many years person has been married.
  • Enter information to Research Logs and Roots Magic family trees.

Results:  Census:  1900:  Philip Lee and wife,  Esther , found in Monroe County, Pennsylvania with children and 84 y/o Phoebe Bowman, mother-in-law.[5]   An online tree cited a county history book with information about Philip and Esther.  That book  was found online  [6]   with this entry:  “In 1853, he [Philip S. Lee] married Miss Esther Brutzman, born about 1836, daughter of Lewis and Phoebe (Posten) Brutzman.”

Analysis of evidence:  Found Esther’s birth year (1836; same as suggested by 1850 census) and marriage year (1853).   Philip and Esther were living in Stroudsburg, Monroe county, Pennsylvania in 1900.  Unexpected findings:

  • Confirmed Phoebe Posten Brutzman as  Esther’s mother (as suggested by 1850 census).
  • Confirmed Phoebe’s maiden name as Posten (as suspected from 1850 census).
  • Suggests Phoebe was born about 1816 rather than 1823 (as suggested  by 1850 census).  Phoebe’s birth year of 1816 is more consistent with her being about age 20 when Esther was born.  Although, Phoebe could have had a child when she (Phoebe) was only 13 or 14 years old.   Discovering Phoebe’s age at Esther’s birth was not a research goal for this session but is still important and was entered on Research Log .  A later research session found  60-year-old Phoebe Bowman working as a servant in 1880. [7]
  • Change of surname suggests that Phoebe married a man with surname of Bowman between 1850 and 1880.

Summary:  Primary goal of discovering whether Phoebe was daughter of Thomas and sister of James was not met.  However,  serendipitous findings confirm these facts:  Phoebe’s maiden name of Posten,  Phoebe as mother of Esther,  Lewis Brutzman as father of Esther and husband of Phoebe.  [8]  Philip and  Esther were living in Monroe county in 1900.  The county history provided additional information and the search for additional documents continues.    Marriage year for Philip & Esther (about 1853) and birth year for Esther (about 1836)[9], [10] are considered as proven.  It is  likely that Phebe/ Phoebe Bertyman, living with Thomas and James in 1850, is James’ sister.  No further information about Lewis Brutzman was found during this search.

To-do list

o Continue search for Philip and Esther in 1860, 1870, 1880.

o Confirm death dates for Philip and Esther.

o Prove Lewis Brutzman birth & death dates, marriage date for Lewis Brutzman and Phoebe Posten.

o Identify Phoebe’s 2nd husband:  Unknown Bowman, birth & death dates,  estimated marriage year.

o Confirm Phoebe’s death date & location (after 1900; probably Monroe county, PA;  possibly listed under surname of Bowman).

o Confirm names of Phoebe’s parents.  Indirect evidence may provide this information.

reflection-swirl-green-color-hi

REFLECTION: 

As I completed the tasks of data entry to my genealogy program,  I finally  remembered to pull the paper files on this family.  I had done similar searches in 2015 and 2016! The file included copies of census records and handwritten notes but no systematic documentation or analysis.  disappointed face emjoiBig sigh!!!  I ran out of steam about midnight and completed tasks of entering data, sources, and media to genealogy program the next day.  But,  I did enter information to research logs before I went to bed.

[1] Commonwealth of Pennsylvania Department of Health, death certificate 118955 (1914),  James D. Posten, Bureau of Vital Statistics, Death Unit, New Castle.

[2] “Posten Family Reunion,” The Wilkes-Barre Record, 11 September 1908; online images, Newspapers.com (http://www.newspapers.com : accessed & printed 18 August 2017).

[3] 1850 U.S. census, Monroe County, Pennsylvania, population schedule, Hamilton Township, p. 17B (stamped), dwelling 220, family 220, Phebe Bertyman [Brutzman]; digital image, Ancestry  (http://www.ancestry.com    :  Accessed 16 Aug 2010 and 3 May 2017); citing National Archives and Records Administration microfilm M432, roll 798.

[4] “Public Member Trees,” database, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com  :  accessed 17 May 2017, “Lee’s” family tree by rickleedoe,  profile for Phoebe Postens Brutzman (1815 – ?), no sources given for this person, last  update unknown.

[5] 1900 U.S. census, Monroe County, Pennsylvania, population schedule, Stroud Township, Enumeration District [ED] 139, p. 6 (penned), 202A (stamped),  dwelling 116, family 126, Phoebe M. Bowman: digital images, Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 5 May 2017); citing National Archives and Records Administration, Washington, D.C.  microfilm publication T623, roll 1442.

[6] Commemorative Biographical Record of Northeastern Pennsylvania including the counties of Susquehanna, Wayne, Pike and Monroe containing biographical sketches of prominent and representative citizens and many of the early settled families. (Chicago:  J. H. Beers & Co., 1900), 150; digital images, WayBackMachine  (http://www.archive.org      : accessed 5 May 2017).

[7] 1880 U.S. Federal Census, Monroe county, Pennsylvania, population schedule, Stroudsburg, enumeration district (ED) 228, p. 14B (penned), dwelling 118, family 118, Pheoba Bowman; digital images, Ancestry  (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed, printed, downloaded 21 August 2017); citing National Archives & Records Administration, Washington, D.C. microfilm publication T9, Roll 1157.

[8] Commemorative Biographical Record of Northeastern Pennsylvania including the counties of Susquehanna, Wayne, Pike and Monroe, 150.

[9]  1900 U.S. census, Monroe County, Pennsylvania, pop. Sch. Stroud Township,  p. 6 (penned), 202A (stamped),  dwelling 116, family 126, Esther Lee.

[10] Commemorative Biographical Record of Northeastern Pennsylvania including the counties of Susquehanna, Wayne, Pike and Monroe, 150.

Dreams, brick walls and fans

Today,  I am just frustrated!  I have hit a brick wall and am not able to even poke a hole in it! My new, improved research habits seem to be of little use.

brick wall

Our recent trip to Pennsylvania and connecting/ re-connecting to cousins was definitely fun and produced some positive results. Finding and photographing my grandparents grave was one of the highlights (see post:  A tale of 3 cemeteries, for details).  Online, John R. Posten and Jennie A. Richards are now listed as being buried in the correct cemetery.

About a week after returning home, a cousin sent me a copy of a newspaper clipping from the September 11, 1908, Wilkes-Barre Journal  entitled “Posten Family Reunion”. [1]  The article includes information that genealogists dream of – names, dates and locations! Evidence for best guesses!   Confirmation of hypotheses! snoopy dreamingThe article lists “about forty members of the Posten family” who attended and mentioned the “reading of a brief history of the Posten family”  which was printed “in part”.  The progenitor of our branch, Thomas Postens, and his youngest son, James D. Posten (my great-great grandfather, aged 79 at the time of the reunion) were the focus of the history.

After my initial delight and surprise, I read through the list of names again and quickly recognized many of them.  Others were easily identified as children, grandchildren, cousins or other relatives by searching my family tree database.  However, a few people have me totally stumped!  To assist with the identification process, I created a table, similar to a research log, for the information given in the article.  Since couples were identified together, i.e. “Mr. & Mrs. C.B. Fulkerson” and married women were identified by their husband’s name, i.e. “Mrs. John Posten”, I added columns for individual names and their relationship to James D. Posten.  Thus, “Mrs. & Mrs. C.B. Fulkerson” are identified in the table as “Olive Jane Posten & Cassius B. Fulkerson, daughter and son-in-law”.  Mrs. John Posten is James’ daughter-in-law, Sadie Krum Posten. An additional column for “Comments” provides space for other information.

posten reunion attendees

From the list of approximately 40 people, eight are unknown to me.  They could be friends or neighbors, members of James’ church family, or guests of one of the family members.  The people that have me stumped are:

  1. Mrs. Lake and Helen Lake, Pittston. Could be mother and daughter, mother-in-law and daughter-in-law, or sisters-in-law. I have Henrietta Lake as mother-in-law of a distant cousin. [2]
  2. Murel Barlow, Pittston – given the naming conventions in the rest of the article, she could be a young single woman or an older woman who is either not married or a widow.
  3. Mary Bachman, Pittston– same comment as for Murel Barlow. Mary and Murel are listed together in the article, so they could be friends, maybe sisters?
  4. Miss Lizzie Knorr, Bloomsburg- possibly a younger woman.
  5. Mrs. Dotter and children, Clara and Reuben, West Pittston.

Month 9 of the Genealogy Do-over [3]  was presented shortly after I received the newspaper article. The topics are:  1) Conducting cluster research and 2) Organizing research materials- documents and photos.  Specifically, the first topic was just in time!

Using the F.A.N. (friends, associates and neighbors) concept, I plan to look at census records again for each of the known relatives who attended the reunion.  Expand search to people in their neighborhoods. In general, I stopped my research after discovering the names of spouses of children.  Example – I know the names  of C.B. Fulkerson and Olive Jane Posten’s children and the names of their spouses. However, I have minimal information about C.B. and Olive’s grandchildren or great-grandchildren.  Expand search for 1-2 more generations.  Keep research logs for each person and search attempt.

reflection-swirl-green-color-hi

Reflection:   It has been about 3 weeks since my last blog post,  a delay due to personal and family issues.  And, therefore,  my post about this project was also delayed.  I haven’t decided if this project will be my next priority item or not. Working back from myself for the Genealogy Do-Over, I am still reviewing the vertical file for Daniel S. Posten, my great-grandfather and James D. Posten’s son.  I sometimes slip back into old habits, such as finding a census record but not documenting it on research log and/or not downloading/ labeling it in database.

What helped:  creating table to catalog information found in the reunion article.  I now have, in print, a list of who is known and who still needs to be identified.  Reminded myself to stay focused on task and don’t follow BSO today—it will still be there for another time!

What didn’t help:  Initial frustration at not finding information easily.  Trying to work too quickly and not taking time to document findings.

What I learned:  Take a deep breath and slow down! Keep Genealogy Do-over book in plain sight and refer to it often!  The goal is to do solid research that is well-documented with a reasonable analysis, not to finish the project in record time!   I will still encounter brick walls.

[1] “Posten Family Reunion,” The Wilkes-Barre Record, 11 September 1908; online images, Newspapers.com (http://www.newspapers.com : accessed & printed 18 August 2017).

[2] Alexander Sherman Lee (1867-1913) Family Group Sheet, Descendants and their spouses of Phoebe Postens Brotzman, Brotzman Family Tree.  Privately held by Susan Posten Ellerbee, [address for private use,] Yukon, Oklahoma, 2017.  Thoroughly documented with quality resources; includes comments about missing resources , content of available resources and contradictory information between sources.

[3] Thomas MacAntee, The Genealogy Do-Over Workbook (https://abundantgenealogy.com/tag/genealogy-do-over/    :  accessed 1 Sep 2017),  “Month 9-September 2017”.