Mary C Searing is my paternal great grandmother. Yes, mother of that grandfather, Howard Searing Davenport, Sr. who claimed throughout his life that he had been adopted but knew his mother’s name was Searing and that she was from Morristown. No one in my generation or my father’s knew of his past, his siblings, his life. My grandmother lived until 1983, I had plenty of time to ask her about my grandfather’s family and his claims of having been adopted. I didn’t.
Any claim that my grandfather had been adopted lost credence when the files of the Morris County, New Jersey Probate Court yielded an August 8, 1931 probate for Mary Dugan for which my grandfather is listed as executor. Dugan? Who was that? I could go into the discovery of Mary, how it was found that my grandfather was not adopted, but was a natural child of Mary C Searing and Stiles Davenport, and how this was confirmed using Ancestry DNA, but we’ll leave that tale for another time.
Mary C Searing was born about 1861 to Lewis G. Searing and Phoebe B. Magathan in Morris County, New Jersey. She is first found in the 1870 US Census in Morristown, New Jersey in their household with siblings Aldridge, George, Martha, Mary, Laura, Harriet, and Hilda. Lewis is a prosperous stonemason who owns his own home.
On April 13, 1878, Mary Searing marries Stiles Davenport in Rockaway, Morris County, New Jersey. She is 17, he is about 23. Stiles is the youngest of several sons of Jacob Davenport, a prosperous farmer; several older brothers distinguished themselves as Union soldiers during the civil war; Stiles was too young to fight. In 1870, Stiles was employed, at the age of 15, as a farm laborer by Robert Swarts in Pequannock Twp., Morris County, New Jersey.
By the 1880 US Census Mary and Stiles are living in Mendham Twp., Morris County, New Jersey with their infant son, Charles, 8 months, born September 1879. Stiles is listed as a laborer.
The 1885 New Jersey State Census shows Mary and Stiles in Morristown, Morris County, New Jersey, now with children: Charles, Clara, Jennie, Lewis, and Eugene, with Ellen Swartz as a boarder. The relationship between this Ellen Swartz, age over 60, to the Robert Swartz who employed Stiles at the time of the 1880 US Census is not known. This census is the last we will see of Stiles Davenport; the 11 March, 1892 issue of the Rockaway Iron Era includes this brief announcement of his death:
“Mr. Stiles Davenport died Wednesday afternoon. He leaves a wife and nine children to mourn his loss. Praise is due to Warden Everett for having raised a subscription to help this family along.”
Mary is left alone with nine children to care for; and it took me years to piece together Mary’s family as it had been at the time of Stiles’ death: Charles, 15; Clara, 14; Jennie, 10; Louis, 9; Eugene, 8; Estella, 7; Alice Hope, 6; Leola, 5; Carrie, 2 ;Howard, 5 months. Yes, there seems to have been ten, not nine.
That year, 1892, was not a good year for Mary C. Searing Davenport: in March her husband dies; on August 15, Mary’s father, Lewis, commits suicide by (literally)blowing his head off with a double barreled shotgun in his front yard in Mount Freedom.
In 1895 Eugene, Leola, and Carrie are in inmates in the Children’s Home in Hanover, all listed as ages 5-10. On Oct 20, Clara dies in Morristown at age 14. Unaccounted for are eldest child, Charles, and daughter Leola, as well as my grandfather, Howard, and Alice Hope (for whom there are no records except in a list of Mary’s children made at a family reunion about 1906). Between 1892 and 1905 Mary, Jennie, and Stella, seem to have made their way as dressmaker, milliner, and waitress until, about 1895-1896 Mary marries James Dugan.
In 1900 the Dugan household consists of James Dugan, Mary Searing, Jennie Davenport, Stella Davenport, Eugene Davenport, and, my grandfather, Howard Davenport. James and Mary have been married 4 years, and James, a first generation Irish American, is employed as a gardener at a private residence. At 13, Leola is a servant in the home of David Beaty in Chester where she will meet her husband, Milton Synder. Carrie, who would now be about 10 and Alice Hope, who would be 14 remain unaccounted for, as does Charles, Mary’s eldest child. It has occurred to me that Clara and Carrie are the same person, but the ages are discrepant; Clara was 14 years 6 months old when she died in 1895 making her born about 1881; Carrie was 5-10 years old as an inmate in the Hanover Children’s Home in 1895, although she is absent from the household of Mary Searing and James Dugan in 1900. Neither Clara nor Carrie are mentioned in the Magathan family reunion list of Mary’s children dating to about 1906, making it likely that Carrie either died or was not part of this family; Charles is listed and it is noted he is married and has one or more children.
In 1910 Mary’s household, still in Morristown, consists only of her, her husband James, my grandfather, now age 18, and a boarder. James is still a gardener, doing “odd jobs”; my grandfather, a machinist. Mary has no occupation.
In 1920, Mary and James are in Mendham Twp., Morris County, New Jersey, where he is said to be employed at “general farming”; my grandfather is now married.
This does not last long, in 1930, Mary and James are living in Hanover, Morris County, where they own their home and James, at 68, is a laborer. In their home they also have a grandson, 13 year old William Babcock, son of Stella who died the year he was born. Daughter Jennie has also died, Eugene has moved to Fairfield Connecticut and started his own family, Charles and Carrie remain mysteries. Alice Hope will become a genealogist’s surprise in about 90 years.
On 27 Jul 1931 Mary dies; she is buried in Evergreen Cemetery where James follows her 28 April, 1948.
So, my grandfather was not adopted, but raised by his biological mother and a stepfather, an Irish gardener. I think it very possible that he did not know his father’s name, other than it was Davenport. James Dugan cannot have been a bad man, he took in Jennie’s son, William Babcock and raised him, then William cared for him into his old age.
I was an adult, actually well into adulthood and starting to do family history when I realized that the family at those childhood family reunions I was at as a child, the aunties and uncles, the cousins and the elders, we all from my father’s mother’s family. None were my grandfather’s family.
But, my grandfather was not adopted, and one day I came along and found the family he swore no one would ever know.