52 Ancestors 2018-3: Mary C Searing

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:

Morris Plains:

“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.








The Missing Parents of Steady Fowler Sr.: The Role of Serendipity in Genealogy

About two years ago I did the Ancestry.com DNA test in hopes that it would help me with a few of those brick wall ancestors that plague every genealogist, and it did. It also presented me with some new cousins and the task of fitting them into the tangled, circular, braided branches of my family tree.

A few months ago a third cousin match popped up on Ancestry DNA with a small tree, but that tree included a Fowler. This new cousin match, whom  I’ll call “Tommy” to preserve his anonymity, was the grandson of Albert Dewey Fowler and the great grandson of Steadman L. “Steady” Fowler Sr. and his first wife Fannie Mize.

Steady Sr. proved a bit of a problem, as, prior to his adulthood, he appears only in one census, in 1900, as the fifteen year old grandson of Bryant Fowler and Elizabeth Wright Fowler, Draytonville, Cherokee County, South Carolina.


As most who do genealogy know, the 1890 US Census was essentially entirely destroyed in a 1921 fire, so the information it contained is not available and there is a twenty year gap in census records, 1880-1900. A lot can happen in twenty years: children can be born, grow to adulthood, and leave their parents’ homes, never to be recorded in a US census with their parents and birth family.

In this case, the good part was that I knew Bryant Fowler and Elizabeth Wright Fowler and the more than one way they fit into my tangled tree:  Bryant descends from my fifth great grandfather, and, Bryant and Elizabeth’s daughter, Harriet, married (James) Monroe Mize, a brother to my second great grandfather, John A. Mize.

So, we know that Steady Sr. was a grandson of Bryant Fowler and Elizabeth Wright Fowler, but do not know which of their children was his father. Here, we are making an assumption that the child of Bryant and Elizabeth’s who is Steady’s parent is a son, because Steady carries the Fowler surname. As it happens, this is an assumption that will come back to haunt me.

We do have a hint as to Steady’s parentage, because we have his January 2,1972 obituary:

steady obit

In this obituary it states that Steady’s parents are the late Joseph Bryant Fowler and Emma Wilkins. We know from the 1870 and 1880 US Census, Gowdysville, Union County, South Carolina and  Draytonville, Union County, South Carolina respectively, that Bryant and Elizabeth Fowler did have a son, Joseph (Bryant), along with two other sons and two daughters.

Bryant HH 1870Bryant HH 1880

So, we have a list of Bryant and Elizabeth’s known children that looks like this. But, remember that there is a 20 year census gap between 1880 and 1900 during which we have no idea who is living in the  household of Bryant Fowler and Elizabeth Wright Fowler.

Fowler children I set about going down this list of known children of Bryant and Elizabeth with the intent of showing that Steady’s father was their son Joseph Bryant Fowler as stated in his obituary.

I’m able to sketch a “life” for all the children using only online resources except for the one I think is the most probable father for Steady, Joseph Bryant Fowler. In fact, I can find nothing on Joseph Bryant Fowler, he seems to just disappear after 1880, never to reappear. I’m able to track all the other children with census records, death certificates, burial and cemetery records, and obituaries: “cradle to grave”.

Before I began I did know the fate of two of the children, daughters Harriett and Emma. I know that Harriett had married, and lived a long and crazy life with my great great grand uncle James Monroe Mize, and, I knew that Emma had married Goodman O. Wilkins and produced two children, grandchildren to Bryant and Elizabeth, who seem to be, simply put, nothing but trouble. In fact, Emma’s marriage to Goodman O. Wilkins seems doomed in itself. Goodman’s 1908 obituary paints a sad picture of mental illness and an early death.

Goodman Death

An article published in the Gaffney Ledger, May 14, 1909, tells of Albert Horace Wilkins, son of Emma Fowler Wilkins and grandson of Bryant and Elizabeth, injuring a very elderly Elizabeth by throwing her out a door and down some steps and describes him, in the vernacular of the day, as “an idiot”.

Albert Horace injures Lizzie

Before this incident Bryant has died, and as noted in his obituary,published in the Gaffney Ledger, Aug 28, 1906, is living , at the time of his death, with Mrs. G.O. Wilkins, his daughter Emma.

Death of Bryant Fowler Gaffney Ledger 28 Aug 1906

In the 1910 US Census, White Plains, Draytonville Township, Cherokee County, South Carolina, Elizabeth Wright Fowler is found living with her daughter, Emma Fowler Wilkins, and her two, now grown, children. The family did not move, Cherokee county was created out of part of what has previously been Union County.

Lizzie 1910

And, in the 25 Sep 1914 edition of the Gaffney Ledger we find the sad announcement of the death of  Elizabeth Wright Fowler, at the home of her daughter, Mrs. G.O. Wilkins.

death Lizzie

By this time I think I’ve sufficiently established the context that Emma Wright Fowler and Mrs. G.O. Wilkins are one and the same and that Emma is the daughter of Bryant and Elizabeth Wright Fowler, her children, Bessie and Albert Horace, their grandchildren. In 1927, Emma Wright Fowler Wilkins herself dies. She has no obituary published, but her death certificate indicates she is the daughter of Bryant Fowler (mysteriously, her mother is listed as unknown); the informant is Emma’s sister, Harriet Fowler Mize.

emma deth

Even I think that I have established the relationship between Bryant Fowler and Elizabeth Wright Fowler and Emma Wright Fowler Wilkins to the point of overkill. I’ve done essentially the same with Emma’s known siblings and all except Joseph Bryant Fowler are duly accounted for, born, tracked through their lives in the census, married, died, buried, obituaried. Not a sign of, nor a hint of, a possible Fowler father for the errant and troublesome Steady Sr.

At about this point, and for no good reason, I go searching the Gaffney Ledger on Newspapers.com for an unexpected, and not found, obituary for Emma’s handicapped son, Horace Albert Wilkins, who apparently never left home, never married, and was cared for during his entire life by his mother and then by his sister, Bessie. Since I do have a death certificate for Albert Horace Wilkins and know he died in March 1947, I search the Gaffney Ledger for that month and I don’t find Albert Horace’s obituary anywhere, but I notice the name “Fowler” out of the corner of my eye and click to view that article, published 4 Mar 1947. Here is where the fickle finger of fate, or, perhaps, the angel on my shoulder, come into play and my search for the father of Steady L. Fowler, Sr. takes a quick and unexpected turn. I find by this simple click of my mouse, the obituary for one John Bryant Fowler, and, in it, the parentage of Steady Sr., who, it seems, along with his two full siblings, is not technically a “Fowler” at all.

john bryant fowler obit

John Bryant Fowler, born 1881, has two full siblings: Steady L. born 1885, and “Mrs. W. E. Osteen”, and two half siblings: Bessie Wilkins born 1892 and (Albert) Horace Wilkins born 1897. It is only at this point that it occurs to me that the Emma Wilkins, wife of G.O. Wilkins and daughter to Bryant Fowler and Elizabeth Wright Fowler and “Emma Wilkins” in Steady Sr.’s obituary are the same person. Wilkins is a common name in my family tree and there are several Emmas.

So, John Bryant Fowler, Steady L. Fowler Sr., Bessie Wilkins, and Albert Horace Wilkins all have one thing in common: their mother was Emma Wright FOWLER Wilkins.

I then look for a death certificate on Ancestry for John Bryant Fowler. Does one come up in any kind of search using any kind of search parameters? Of course not. So, I go to Family Search and find…….an index, poorly transcribed, no image available (what’s this, Family Search? No more photoduplication services because you are doing so well at getting actual record images online? Sorry, you can’t fool me). I am, at this point, having frightening thoughts of a weeks long wait for the appropriate microfilm to get to my local Family History Center. Yes, I am spoiled, we all are in the digital age.

The index on Family Search tells me this:

john index

To say I was shocked is an understatement. We have a father, Clem “Mabey”; I’m thinking it is Mabry because my family tree is rife with Mabrys and devoid of “Mabeys”, and “Cuna” Wilkins? Pretty sure I know who that is: Emma Fowler Wilkins.

In a last ditch effort to satisfy my craving for instant death certificate gratification, I go back to Ancestry where I can browse the South Carolina Death Certificate Collection. I’ve found this to be seldom helpful, but that angel was on my shoulder yet again, I went to 1947, Spartanburg County, and found the errant image in the first two hundred while I missed the evening news and my dinner dehydrated.

jond DC

No, it isn’t clear as day, but it looks like Clem Mabry and Emma Wilkins to me.

It seems that in that black hole between the 1880 census and the 1900 census, Emma Wright Fowler married or had some other relationship, possibly with a  “Clem Mabry” that produced three full siblings: John Bryant Fowler, “Mrs. W. E. Osteen”, and Steady L Fowler, Sr., who were most probably raised in the household of Bryant and Elizabeth Wright Fowler as Fowlers. It’s apparent that at least John Bryant Fowler knew his correct or probable parentage; at least that his father was not a son of Bryant Fowler and Elizabeth Wright Fowler. Both John Bryant Fowler’s death certificate and Steady L Fowler Sr.’s obituary both clearly refer to their mother as maiden name “Emma Wilkins” when she would have been Emma Fowler or perhaps  Emma Mabry during most, if not all of the time in question, since she did not marry Goodman O. Wilkins until about 1900. In fact, since the 1900 census, in which Emma and Goodman first appear as married, with children: Eva A. Wilkins, 11, Bessie, 9 and Horace, 4; they are also listed as newlyweds, married “0” years and Emma is recorded as having had 8 children total with 5 still living. So, we know, from John Bryant Fowler’s obituary that he, “Mrs. W. E. Osteen” , and Steady Sr. are full siblings but, we do not actually know the biological father of Bessie and Horace, just that that father is not Clem Mabry.

wilkins 1910

There will always be more mysteries, in this case we have the third full sibling, “Mrs. W. E. Osteen ” who share both her father and her mother with  John Bryant Fowler, and Steady L Fowler, Sr.. It dawned on me to explore the possibility that the Eva A Wilkins who appears as an eleven year old in the 1900 census, White Plains, Cherokee County with mother Emma Fowler Wilkins, her new husband, Goodman Wilkins and younger siblings Bessie and Horace might be the mysterious “Mrs. W. E. Osteen” mentioned in John Bryant Fowler’s obituary. If I add “W. E. Osteen” as husband to “Eva” I get an instant answer. Eva, who is really Era Avalona, appears in the 1910, 1920 and 1940 census married to William E Osteen and living first Greenville then in  Spartanburg with their growing family. William E Osteen and wife Era Avalona Wilkins Osteen are buried together at Pacolet Memorial Gardens, Spartanburg, South Carolina.

Bessie Wilkins, Emma’s younger daughter, first seen in the 1900 census as a “Wilkins”, presumably the daughter of Goodman (but unlikely)  rates another blog post of her own since she managed to produce seven children between the years of 1912 and 1931, apparently by immaculate conception.

 Many thanks to my cousin “Tommy” for sharing my DNA and allowing me to take this adventure, to my cousin Dave DuBose for assistance accessing obituaries,to my cousin Dan Searing for his unfailing support and constant encouragement, and to my cat, BeBe for staying out of my hair for a few hours.

Update 12/30/15: Via Ancestry DNA a second descendant of Steady L. Fowler has been found. She is a descendant of Steady Sr.’s son Clyde Landrum Fowler, brother to Tommy’s grandfather, Albert Dewey Fowler. They are second cousins to each other.


Year: 1900; Census Place: Draytonville, Cherokee, South Carolina; Roll: 1522; Page: 10B; Enumeration District: 0003; FHL microfilm: 1241522

Year: 1870; Census Place: Gowdysville, Union, South Carolina; Roll: M593_1510; Page: 437A; Image: 229; Family History Library Film: 553009

Year: 1880; Census Place: Braytonville, Union, South Carolina; Roll: 1242; Family History Film: 1255242; Page: 471C; Enumeration District: 153

Year: 1900; Census Place: White Plains, Cherokee, South Carolina; Roll: 1522; Page: 12A; Enumeration District: 0013; FHL microfilm: 1241522

Year: 1910; Census Place: Greenville, Greenville, South Carolina; Roll: T624_1461; Page: 3A; Enumeration District: 0019; FHL microfilm: 1375474

Year: 1910; Census Place: White Plains, Cherokee, South Carolina; Roll: T624_1454; Page: 16B; Enumeration District: 0014; FHL microfilm: 1375467

Year: 1920; Census Place: Greenville, Greenville, South Carolina; Roll: T625_1698; Page: 29B; Enumeration District: 19; Image: 68

Year: 1940; Census Place: Pacolet Cotton Mills, Spartanburg, South Carolina; Roll: T627_3838; Page: 33B; Enumeration District: 42-41

Ancestry.com. South Carolina, Death Records, 1821-1960 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2008.

“South Carolina Deaths, 1944-1955,” index, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.1.1/FPMJ-9R1 : accessed 19 February 2015), John Bryant Fowler, 28 Feb 1947; citing Spartanburg, Spartanburg, South Carolina, cn 3607, Department of Health and Environmental Control, Columbia; FHL microfilm 2,394,778.

Ancestry.com. South Carolina, Death Records, 1821-1960 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2008.
Original data: South Carolina. South Carolina death records. Columbia, SC, USA: South Carolina Department of Archives and History.

Ancestry.com. U.S., Find A Grave Index, 1600s-Current [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2012.

Newspapers.com, Gaffney Ledger: 28 Aug 1906, 1 May 1908, 14 May 1909,

28 Aug 1906, 25 Sep 1914, 4 Mar 1907

“Pop”: My Grandfather Was Adopted? Part I

Or so I had been told on more than one occasion. One that I particularly remember was on an infrequent visit to Dover, NJ, where my father had been born, raised, and eventually left for WWII.

My mother had died the previous fall and in the spring of 1983 my father and I drove together up the east coast where he had made his retirement home in Georgia, to the very northernmost border of Maine where the oldest of my five brothers was then living and teaching. This was truly my trip of a lifetime; we traveled for a month, on both the way up the coast and the way down, we stopped and stayed a few days with my Dad’s younger sister, my Aunt Irene, and her husband, my Uncle Seth Ely. This was my third, and my last visit to Dover since we moved away when I was a toddler; we’d been back once in 1956 on our way to an overseas assignment, and once in 1959 on our way back from an overseas assignment. In the interim, my grandfather, Howard Searing Davenport, Sr. had died, in 1958 at the age of 67. The last time I saw my grandfather was in 1956; I was 11, I asked no questions.

During one of those 1983 visits, my aunt, my father, and I spent the day visiting the several cemeteries where some of my ancestors and relatives had been buried. Although at the time I didn’t know how long it would end up being before I overcame my inertia, my career, and my own children to actually give family history a serious thought, I was interested enough to take a few notes and even to find them 25 years later when that time came.

One of the things I was told that day, by my aunt, was that my grandfather had been “adopted” and that he had said that no one would be able to find his family. I took this statement at face value, although it seemed a little odd given that we knew that my grandfather’s middle name, Searing, was his mother’s maiden name.

When time to get serious about family history came, it was time to address this puzzle of the man who was my paternal grandfather, the man everyone called “Pop”…. his children, his grandchildren, his wife. My memories are few, but he is always “Pop”, the family is always middle class America, salt of the earth, hardworking, never wealthy, never wanting.


My Uncle, Carlton R. Davenport, my aunt, Irene Davenport Ely, My grandmother, Elsie Ann Ike Davenport, my grandfather, Howard Searing Davenport, Sr., my father, Howard Searing Davenport, Jr. circa 1942

An initial search for my grandfather, probably done on day one of my free Ancestry trial since he was one of the grand total of three of my ancestors whose entire name I actually knew, brought up little. I found him first on registration cards for both WWI and WWII, already married to my grandmother.

pop1917draft popww2draft

But, now I know one thing I didn’t know before: a probable birthdate, and it has been entered the same on both draft cards: 5 Jun 1891.

I find a likely Pop, age 9, in the 1900 US Census, with a stepfather, James Dugan and two older sisters, Jennie and Stella.


In 1910, Howard is the only remaining of Mary’s children with Mary and husband James Dugan:


By 1920, Howard is married to my grandmother and they have a five year old son, my uncle Cart aka Carlton R. Davenport b 1915. By this time any mystery is history, and an online search of Morris County Probates has told me that my grandfather had been executor of Mary Dugan’s 1931 probate. Voila!

It’s a crapshoot, but I decide to look at this family a bit more closely, and, to explore the idea that Pop’s mother was Mary Searing Davenport Dugan, and, I begin to patch together a family. First, I want a Mary Searing who marries a Davenport, so, I look at Marys married to anyone with surname Davenport. I admit, I am flying by the seat of my pants, but at this time, and given New Jersey, I had nothing but bare minimums to go on; New Jersey State Census results were not yet online and New Jersey BMD records, in any form, had not yet been released. I was not able, and never will be able to travel to New Jersey. If I were, I’d need a chauffeur because I remember the New Jersey traffic of 1983 as hair raising. No New Jersey for this Idaho grandma, New Jersey does not consider birth, marriage, death and other records to be public records, at the time there was no way at all to search any of them online. I had and have, no funds to hire a researcher, no chance to “present in person” at the NJ State Archives……..which is what they require for records 1878-1914.

So…searching for a Mary who might have been a  Searing married to a Davenport, I find my most likely suspect to be the Mary, wife of Stiles  Davenport, whom I first notice  in the 1880 US Census with an infant son, Charles.


Stiles is also found in 1860 with his parents and siblings and in 1870 as a single farm laborer.

So….I go looking for a Mary Searing who would have been about 17 in 1880. And I find one prime candidate……..Mary C. Searing who is the daughter of Lewis G Searing and his wife, known (to me) for a couple of years only as “Phoebe”…another mystery.


In 1880 Mary is gone from Lewis’s household.

So, at this time I have a stepfather, James Dugan, a mother, Mary, and children, in 1900, Stella, Jennie, Howard, with an older son, Charles, probably having already flown the nest. And, I mark time by looking at those children and find some more supporting evidence that I have the right family. Charles, I find essentially not one of many Charles Davenports who seems to have a concrete connection to this family; Charles is, at this point essentially lost to history. Howard,or as I knew him “Pop” I now know was not adopted, but was raised from infancy by his natural mother, Mary Searing Davenport Dugan and stepfather, James Dugan. Among the mysteries, the fate of Stiles Davenport.

And, the clue to what happened to the two sisters, Estella and Jennie, lies in what I see in the US Census in the household of Mary Searing Davenport Dugan and later in the household of the widowed James Dugan: in 1930 Mary and James have with them a grandson, William Babcock, age 13; in 1940 Mary Is deceased but in the household with James Dugan is “step grandson” William Babcock, his young wife Ella, and a baby William Babcock, age 1. Backtracking tells me that in 1920 a 21/2 year old William Babcock, birthplace CT had been a nephew in the household of Jennie and James Wright, and that in 1910, Estella (24), Clarence DeWitt Babcock(33) and Clarence’s daughter, Ruth(12) were living in Fairfield, CT.

So this part of this tale is about to come to a temporary end as of about 2010. At that time I have no idea I’m about to be blessed some supporting evidence in the form of records and a shocking contact with an unknown cousin followed much later by some icing on the cake that would be the indirect result of the Ancestry DNA test I’d be taking in the Spring of 2013.


Registration State: New Jersey; Registration County: Morris; Roll: 1712356; Draft Board:

Ancestry.com. U.S., World War I Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2005.

Original data: United States, Selective Service System. World War I Selective Service System Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918. Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration. M1509, 4,582 rolls. Imaged from Family History Library microfilm.

The National Archives at St. Louis; St. Louis, Missouri; World War II Draft Cards (Fourth Registration) for the State of New Jersey; State Headquarters: New Jersey; Microfilm Series: M1509

Ancestry.com. U.S., World War II Draft Registration Cards, 1942 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2010.

Year: 1900; Census Place: Morris, Morris, New Jersey; Roll: 988; Page: 4A; Enumeration District: 0064; FHL microfilm: 1240988

Year: 1910; Census Place: Morristown Ward 1, Morris, New Jersey; Roll: T624_902; Page: 20B; Enumeration District: 0026; FHL microfilm: 1374915

Year: 1880; Census Place: Mendham, Morris, New Jersey; Roll: 793; Family History Film: 1254793; Page: 183D; Enumeration District: 121; Image: 0088

Year: 1870; Census Place: Morristown, Morris, New Jersey; Roll: M593_877; Page: 284A; Image: 572; Family History Library Film: 552376

Year: 1910; Census Place: Bridgeport, Fairfield, Connecticut; Roll: T624_129; Page: 12B; Enumeration District: 0052; FHL microfilm: 1374142

Year: 1920; Census Place: Morristown Ward 2, Morris, New Jersey; Roll: T625_1060; Page: 16A; Enumeration District: 35; Image: 1030

Year: 1930; Census Place: Hanover, Morris, New Jersey; Roll: 1373; Page: 17B; Enumeration District: 0024; Image: 721.0; FHL microfilm: 2341108

Year: 1940; Census Place: Morris, Morris, New Jersey; Roll: T627_2372; Page: 11B; Enumeration District: 14-65

A Recollection of My Grandfather

Do you have memories of the forties? I was born on 1945 and started kindergarten in the 1949-50 school year so I do have some.
Last night I had one that pops into my mind pretty often usually for no real reason that I know of. I have a frame by frame very detailed memory of walking with my grandfather from my grandparents house in Dover, NJ to the fish market ( gosh I am old). He held my hand in one of his… and a bucket in the other. The lobsters went into the bucket of water for their trip home, and we carried them, sloshing, back to the house where they met their gruesome end. Imagine a day where supermarkets weren’t the norm and you shopped instead at the butcher, the baker, the green grocer…… and the fish market. Imagine a day when lobster was an ordinary meal for middle class folks like my grandparents; when exploding human population, pollution, and declining lobster population had yet to relegate the lobster dinner to grand epicurean occasions and the red and white checked Better Homes and Gardens cookbook included a recipe for Lobster Thermador and the more economical Lobster Newberg.
This is an old memory. I had to have been between two and three years old, but I’ve carried it with me, unchanged, as far back as I can remember and don’t doubt its veracity, although filtered by the mind of a toddler.
At the time, and for many decades later, I had no idea that this same, seemingly ordinary grandfather, would ultimately pose a fascinating genealogical mystery: why did my grandfather claim to be adopted? He knew he wasn’t, he was executor of his mother’s estate. Part of the issue may be that his father died when my grandfather was months old so he did never personally know his father and, when his mother remarried it was to an Irishman who worked as a gardener and she became a servant.

Method, Theory, Data and storage…..yawn

Having spent my pre retirement working life in either one or the other of two scientific disciplines in which the scientific method guided research and record keeping and critical thought guided decision making and conclusions, just about all I am going to say here is that I’m not going to wax poetic about things like what forms you must use for your research notes, how to file those paper family group sheets, how to decide just who belongs in that certain spot in your family tree.

Most will be familiar with the scientific method: ask (or find) a question,formulate a hypothesis,do research, gathering evidence that may support or deny your hypothesis,use that evidence to test your hypothesis; analyse your results, confirming or denying your hypothesis. If your original hypothesis is denied, move on to another hypothesis. Record, in such a way that you can refer to it later, each item of evidence or each fact you applied to your hypothesis and why you chose to accept or reject it as evidence of your hypothesis. When you do this, common sense will be your best friend. Keep in mind that your first hypothesis may well not be correct, so be prepared to pursue more than one hypothetical individual for any specific place in your family tree. In the case of family history this process may never end, years after the fact you may discover a record that disproves your initial conclusion, a record pertaining to another person of the same name will be found attached to the wrong person, sins of omission are unavoidable. Be flexible and give yourself a break, but balance that with being as careful as the situation allows.

How you keep your records is wholly personal, as long as they are kept where you can find them when you need them five years down the line when you have forgotten why you concluded that Solomon Mize b 1821 in Union Co, SC was not the son of Basil James Mize, although Basil Mize lived in Union Co, SC in 1820 and had a son named Solomon, also born in the 1820’s in Union Co. SC. If you keep these records you can remind yourself in a minute or two why you concluded that the Solomon Mize b 1821 in Union C. SC who is your third great grandfather is not the son of Basil Mize. if you can see that Solomon b 1821 is in the 1850 census is married to Nancy, living in Union Co, with their oldest child, Mary, while the “other” Solomon Mize is yet unmarried and living in Basil Mize’s household in St. Clair AL. In 1860 Basil’s son Solomon has married Sarah and now lives in his own St Clair, AL home, next door to Basil while my third great grandfather, Solomon Mize, still lives with Nancy and has added several children to the family during the inter-census decade. In the next decade both men go off to war as Confederate Soldiers, that’s in easily accessed military records. But Basil’s son Solomon perishes in the Battle of Resaca, Ga in 1864, and Solomon b 1821, my third great grandfather returns to home life and family in Union Co and lives out his life there, dying in 1886 and being buried in the New Hope Methodist Churchyard in Jonesville, Union Co., SC. Still, inumerable people have made the assumption that my third great grandfather, the Solomon Mize who spent his life in Union Co, SC was the son of Basil James Mize, was the same person who perished at Resaca……including one person who has written a published book that includes this erroneous information. Apparently sometimes common sense could be a little more common.

How your data, supporting evidence, exclusionary evidence, notes, random thoughts, is stored is another personal choice. Personally I’m a digital storage person for almost everything from census records to death certificates to pictures to random thoughts to the data and thought processes that lead me to this or that conclusion. And these digitizations of everything from your thoughts about the person, the chain of reasoning that lead you to place that person in the position they occupy in the digital Family Tree needs to be as close to that person in the family tree as possible.

I have paper records, lots of them,marriage,birth and death certificates, pictures, obituaries. But everything is also digitized. I have wills,probates, land records…….copied in courthouses and other archives then scanned  after receipt so I would have a digital copy. I have what I have done downloaded to Family Tree Maker and on the hard drive of two computers and two mobile devices, on a portable hard drive and backed up to DVD’s. While digital storage remains far more resistant to time and the elements than fragile paper may be, the only mode of digital storage that we can count on to last through media and format changes; the only digital mode with the ability to grow and evolve without data loss, essentially until the end of time, the earth, or life as we know it, is the cloud……… a lovely euphemism for what we used to call “the internet” or, more mysteriously “cyberspace”. There are still genealogists who will disagree with me and who keep as primary, boxes, notebooks and file cabinets full of paper records, family group sheets, research notes, even precious original photos and documents in banker’s boxes in the basement or garage. I’ve also seen flood and fire destroy those things, making it irrelevant that, theoretically, paper has a lifespan of about 200 years, while digital media such as CD’s, DVD’s, and flash drives are said to have a lifespan of five years, discounting obsolecence.. I do have and I do save paper records, including precious original photographs stored in acid free folders, but that didn’t save a family photograph of the Ike family reunion taken in 1904; the last known photograph taken of my great grandfather Isaac Ike and my grandmother’s youngest sister, Vinny Ike, who died as a young child. This singular and most precious image, to which my grandmother had attached a written list of who each person was, was lost forever, misplaced by my oldest brother before I had the chance to scan and save it.

No method of data storage is perfect, but keeping paper records filed by family, surname, date, family line, or any other criteria are the least safe and usually the least accessible. In my opinion, they are also part of the reason so much genealogy done by our grandmothers and aunties as their legacy to us is so inaccurate. If you care about the family to whom you will leave this legacy of hard work……..digitize, make sure it has a home in the cloud on Ancestry.com, or as an uploaded GEDCOM elsewhere where such space is is available,and make sure that every document, picture, thought that led you to put that person in that position on that family tree is right there, as close to that person as you can get it.

All that digital rambling having been said, I do keep, for each ancestor on whom I’m currently focusing, two types of paper records: a research log and a time line. The first keeps not only reminds you of where you’ve looked for and found or not found certain information on that ancestor, it prevents you from repeating work you have already done. I’ve found also that dating entries in your research log, no matter how trivial the reference or whether it did or did not yield useful, or any, information is a good idea if you want to reconstruct your search years on down the line, as in the case of …..writing a blog post. The importance of a time line can be seen above in tale of the two Solomon Mizes; sometimes things are perfectly obvious in a timeline on paper when they may escape as individual records. I’ve taken to leaving, as a comment, those parallel time lines for Solomon Mize on every Ancestry Tree that has “my” Solomon as the son of Basil Mize when the timeline proves that he was not.

I keep both research logs and “work in progress” time lines in a spiral notebook; time lines often become part of the digital records, research logs less often, but neither is ever thrown away.

Sourcing? I’ll leave that for one of the many who choose to expound on that, or argue, or accuse colleagues of “elitism”. My own opinion is that of many family historians, whether they be hobbyists or professionals: “genealogy without documentation is mythology”. And documentation means sourcing.

Baiting My Hook

If I want to use this blog for “cousin fishin’ “, which I do,,,there isn’t much I don’t use for cousin fishin’…. and, while there will be stories of cousins lost, cousins found, cousins good, cousins not so good, stories sad and not so sad, puzzles and conundrums, there won’t be a family tree here. My family tree, always a work in progress, is  just going to have to stay on Ancestry.com in the cloud where, theoretically,they will have eternal life, or, at least will exist in some form until all life as we know it ends. Or, so the geekiest geeks say. So, in lieu of anything organized or interesting with keywords, tags, surnames, places, or combinations of those things in order to bait my hook, I’m just going to post a list of names and associated places and tag them so if another person is cousin fishin’ for a cousin shared with me, they might just find me.




Kishpaugh,Kishbaugh,Girschbach,Giersbach …. NJ,PA,CT,DE,OH,MI

Stiles -NJ,CT, British Isles

Durboraw -PA,SC

Vaughn / Vaughan -SC,NC,VA,KY,TX,LA (possibly other locations)

Mize -Union Co. SC, NC, GA, AL, VA,TN

Shockley -SC

Fowler- Union Co, Cherokee Co SC

Adcock,Adcox, Adcocks- SC,NC,VA


Stevenson,Cherokee (Limestone) Co, SC, possibly MD





Greenville,Spartanburg,Anderson,Union Counties SC

Mecklenberg Co. NC

Granville Co,GA

St Clair Co, AL


This list is far from complete, but it represents the  lines from which I descend beginning with my eight great grandparents and a couple of associated lines I have found interesting and about which I’d like to know more, so expect this list to grow.

Try not to hold your breath waiting for it to grow, remember, I’m the inconsistent blogger.

Cousin Fishin’

This time I have a good excuse for being an inconsistent blogger….I’ve been much too busy cousin fishin’ to write about it, I had “real” work to do.

So, moving on…..”cousin fishin'” sounds almost vulgar, at least illegal, or like a trip to the local pond with rod, reel, bait and pole to catch cousin fish.

In actuality, many genealogists use this term, especially among themselves, and even those who don’t and/or wouldn’t say the words aloud or put them into print or writing do it either consciously or unconsciously, usually the former.

To be completely honest, with myself and with my readers, when I started doing family history not only had I never heard this term, I had no idea I was doing it every time I added a person to my public online tree at Ancestry.com, every time I Googled a relative or ancestors name or a surname, every time I posted or answered an inquiry at boards like  Rootsweb, Genforum, or Ancestry, even on the Ancestry Facebook page or just on Facebook.. Some people would call cousin fishin’ “networking”, but, hey, a lot of fishing is done with nets, right?

Cousin fishin’ differs from fishing fish in two important ways: you can’t eat what you catch, and if you did it would be counter productive since your fish’s inherent value is not calories, protein, minerals, or vitamins…..it’s information. If you are really lucky it’s pictures, documents, stories, collaboration and new friends with common relatives and ancestors who share your interest in those relatives and ancestors.The other big difference is that, in cousin fishin’, analogous to the country song in which “sometimes you’re the windshield, sometimes you’re the bug,sometimes you’re the fisherman, sometimes you’re the bait and in the best case scenario, sometimes you can be both, unlike either the windshield or the bug.

I didn’t know it at the time, but some of my first successful forays into online genealogy were, in fact cousin fishin’. I knew almost nothing about my mother’s family but I did know some things about my father’s: I knew the given and surnames of both his parents, I knew my father’s siblings names and those of their spouses and children, and I knew my great grandfather, my grandmother’s father’s, name, and I also knew her mother’s given and maiden names. I knew the names of first and second cousins and aunties and a few family stories. The most often voiced family story was that my grandfather had been adopted, which never seemed to make sense given that his middle name, Searing, was said to be his mother’s maiden name, and it had been passed on down to my father and one of my brothers as a middle name to keep it in the family. So I thought my grandfather was adopted but I did have some clue that he might not be in that I knew his mother’s maiden name, which was Searing.

With my father’s and mother’s names and those of my paternal grandparents I started a public tree on Ancestry.com. This act, in itself, is cousin fishin’, one of the reasons for starting a public family tree in a public place where builders of family trees tend to hang out is to attract others with family members in common. Very simple cousin fishin’, and, it worked. Soon I had a cousin related to me through my grandmother’s father who sent me an Ancestry message, we began to email. Richard Ike is an accomplished genealogist and has since been an invaluable resource to me. I think he was my first cousin fish, I doubt I was his.

By this time also I knew my grandfather, Howard Searing Davenport Sr., had not been adopted, but his mother had been widowed with young children and Howard and his  older sisters had been raised by his mother, Mary C Searing Davenport Dugan and stepfather, James Dugan. Since I had, by this time, continuous census records, court records up to and including th probate of Mary Dugan’s will in 1930, marriage, and birth records for this family, I knew my grandfather had not been adopted, that his natural mother had been Mary C Searing and his biological father Stiles Davenport. I knew Mary’s parents names and those of her siblings, but I did not have her father’s father’s name and every avenue seemed to be a dead end. In the process of trying to find Mary’s grandfather I had built a tree of only Searings that included somewhat over 2500 people and I had begun taking on Searing family inquiries, fixing other Searing dead ends and generation errors, etc…. but still no father for my great grandmother Mary C. Searing.

Mary’s missing grandfather was my dead end for a long time, several years in fact. When I had nothing better to do, I’d look for him. One day I casually Googled “Searing Family” and found Dan Searing Sr’s “Searing Family Blog” which is not strictly genealogical, but deals with all things Searing. Posted on this blog, was a Bible page that had been sent to Dan from Eric Searing in Atlanta. It didn’t have my Mary’s parents or father, but it had all her siblings and their marriages, including Eric’s second great grandfather, brother to my great grandmother, Mary C Searing. I had a new cousin, two actually, one distant and as of yet undefined, one third cousin once removed, but it still took me years to find Mary’s grandfather and link my Searing family to the larger Searing family in general. When I did the connection was simple but the difficulty lay in the fact that Mary’s grandfather had only lived until his thirties and had left only one child, Mary’s father, unusual for the time, unusual for the Searing family. The search for Lewis Searing, and later, the search for Mary’s mother, whom I knew for years only as “Phoebe” will hopefully become subjects for future posts.