Thursday, May 28, 2015

Chapter 7: Wait a Minute... Elizabeth Who?

Thanks to Ida Fawkner's 1917 family history, we now know that James C. Fawkner had at least two daughters from his marriage to Elizabeth Stephens before his marriage to Julia Ann Angell in Missouri in 1862. It is tempting to head west immediately to pick up the Fawkner trail along the Mississippi River in Iowa (believe me, I can't wait), but first we have some unfinished business back in Hendricks County, Indiana.

James and Elizabeth Stephens were married 13 July 1854. But looking back to 1850, we saw James C. Faulkner living adjacent to his stepfather (Wesley Sears), mother (Ann), and siblings (Cyrus, John, and George). Also enumerated in James' household was Elizabeth, with no age given.  Who was this Elizabeth?

One possibility is that she was James' sister, Elizabeth, but she had married Eli Morgason 5 April 1849 (Marriage Book 4, p. 67). The 1850 U.S. Census recorded the Morgasons living not far from the Sears and Faulkners in Marion Township. Might the Elizabeth in James' household have been a wife? The 1850 census doesn't report relationships.

An index of Indiana marriages points to the answer. On 15 April 1848, a few miles west in Putnam County, a marriage license was issued to James C. Fawkner and Elizabeth Jane Sears, "her age & residence & the written consent of Wesley B. Sears guardian of said James." The facts are not certain, but James may have married his step-sister (a daughter from Wesley Sears first marriage). It would appear that the Elizabeth living with James C. Faulkner in 1850 was indeed his first wife, Elizabeth Jane Sears.

So, yes, if you are counting, this means James had at least two marriages before marrying Julia Ann Angell in 1862. What  happened to the first Elizabeth? The first clue comes from a transcription of gravestones in an overgrown Sears Cemetery in Marion Township. When the survey was done about 1970, two stones were visible:

  • Elizabeth J., wife of James C. Fawkner, d. 3-24-1854, aged 26y 22d
  • Wesley B. Sears, d. 705-1858, aged 45y, 7m, 20d
Nearly 40 years later in 1892, in an affidavit in support of a widow's pension for Julia (Angell) Fawkner, James's sister, Elizabeth Morgason, stated "the first wife of said Fawkner died on or about the 20th day of March 1855 that her means of knowing is that she was present and attended the funeral." She declared further that James Fawkner "never was married to another except the claimant," Julia Fawkner.

James' sister was off by a year; Elizabeth Sears Fawkner died in March 1854. The marriage record and gravestone suggest that James married Elizabeth Stephens just three months after his first wife died. James' daughter Ida made no mention of either the first or second wife. James' sister affirmed the first, but made no mention of the second. The Fawkner, Sears and Stephens families lived in close proximity, making it unlikely the families did not all know the full story.

The story is about to get, shall we say, a bit juicy. Next stop: Montrose.

LESSONS: Don't believe everything a witness says. (And never assume a Fawkner hasn't been married before!).

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Chapter 6: Meet the Fockers...I mean, Fawkners

Family history "finds" don't happen in a logical order. And, with Google and a proliferation of online databases, we now find things that we might never have found 15 or 20 years earlier. It is hard to remember just how it happened, but several years of Internet searching brought Ida Fawkner into view.

Ida's short family history was collected in a 1940-41 Illinois Society D.A.R publication (it can now be found on  Writing about 1917, Ida identified herself as a daughter of James C. Fawkner. Ida said she had been born in Iowa in 1858. Was this the same James C. Fawkner who married Julia Angell in 1862 in Missouri? If so, he had had an earlier family.

Describing the Hendricks County, Indiana, family of Isaac Stephens and Sarah Harper, she stated that Elizabeth Turner Stephens married James C. Fawkner 13 July 1854 in Hendricks County. She added that the couple moved to Montrose, Iowa, by 1855, where they had two daughters:

  •  Ida Kemp Fawkner, born 19 July 1856
  • Josephine Elizabeth Fawkner, born 12 September 1858.
In a paragraph headed "THE HISTORY OF IDA K. FAWKNER," she wrote: "In winter of 1857 parents took Ida to see Aunt Mary Sears, Lucas Co., Iowa. Returning home in Feb. 1858, all suffered from severe, snowy weather. As a result, Ida, a mere baby, lost her hearing, not to be restored. She was educated in a school for the deaf, and since 1875 has resided in Indianapolis."

Here was the Sears name again -- something we will come back to. For the moment, consider what else Ida told of the Fawkner family.  Her father, James C. Fawkner, was the son of John C. Fawkner and Anna Faulkner, who had married in Orange County, Virginia, in 1828. James had four siblings:

  • Elizabeth A. K., born 10 August 1832,
  • John E., born 27 February 1835,
  • Cyrus, born 21 May 1837, and
  • George S., born 23 May 1839.
Ida noted that her father served in the 2nd Missouri Cavalry and that, after John C. Fawkner died in 1839, his mother remarried to Wesley B. Sears in 1841. This, indeed, is the family we've been tracking in earlier posts.

Oh, one more thing to which we will eventually return... Ida stated that he grandfather, John C. Fawkner (who died nearly 80 years before Ida wrote her account), was born 3 December 1777 in England, adding that, when he came to America, he met a distant cousin, Anna Faulkner. When married in Orange County in 1828, "John C. Faulkner changed the name to Fawkner, so his wife might have at least a change in the spelling of her name when married."

We will eventually put this last bit of information about the origins of John C. Fawkner to the test, but his four sons -- James, Cyrus, John and George -- will keep us busy for several weeks. In next week's post, we will pick up the Fawkner trail in Montrose, Iowa, but only after we encounter yet another surprise.

Oh, one more thing: Ida made absolutely no mention of her father's second family.

LESSON: Always do a literature search, using resources like the DAR online catalog, FamilySearch, Google Books, and PERSI. Remember: authored works have authors, and authors sometimes hold back information.

Note: Photo, believed to be Ida Kemp Fawkner, courtesy of Micah Karl.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Hjalmar Heads to Burbank

Just a short commercial today for 2015 Jamboree, sponsored by the Southern California Genealogical Society (  I will be joining a flock of great genealogy educators, including, but not limited to Judy Russell, Paula Stuart-Warren, Thomas Jones, Lisa Alzo, David McDonald, Craig Scott, Ron Arons, and Michael Lacopo -- very good company, indeed!

I will be giving one of the pre-conference workshops on Thursday, June 4. "Who in the World was Hjalmar?" is a hands-on workshop in which students work together to make sense of Hjalmar's shifting identities. Starting from a handful of beginning documents, students will evaluate evidence and develop a next-step strategy. As new evidence comes to light, conflicts will appear, begging for a wider search.  Because a few of you might be in the audience in Burbank, I can't tell you more right not, but I can promise: Hjalmar is a fun character.

Oh, yes, I should point out that Hjalmar is not a Fawkner. Hjalmar's Norwegian immigrant family is nearly as rich in stories as the Fawkner family that this blog has been following. Rest assured, to date, we have only scratched the surface of the Fawkner saga. You might notice that I quietly shifted my regular blog publication schedule from Fridays back to Thursdays; this week's Fawkner installment will publish Thursday, May 21. Be sure to read "Meet the Fockers... I mean Fawkners."

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Chapter 5: Fawkner? Faulkner? Fortner? or Was it Faught?

I will start this week with a bit of a spoiler alert. We usually put quite a lot of trust in obituaries because we assume a family member who knew the score provided the information. Or not.

 If you've been with us the past few weeks, you know that Ann Fawkner married Wesley Sears in 1841 in Hendricks County, Indiana. We first encountered Ann and Wesley in the 1850 U.S. Census, and from probate and guardianship records determined that James C. Fawkner was a son from Ann's first marriage to John C. Fawkner.  You might also remember that the family name has appeared in at least three spellings: Fawkner, Faulkner, and Fortner.

 Republican (3 January 1895, p. 7) reported that Ann died "of the weaknesses of old age." A pioneer of the county, she had settled in Hendricks County in 1831. This is true: John C. Fawkner bought government land there in 1831. The obituary continued: "She was twice married, her first husband was John Faught." A Hendricks County death certificate did not ask for a spouse's name.
By the time of the 1860 Census, Ann was a widow; Wesley had died in 1859. Ann lived another 35 years. An obituary in the Danville (Ind.)

Faught? Surely the newspaper editor heard the name incorrectly. But, we are genealogists, right? So, we decided to check-out this John Faught guy. Well, there was, indeed, a John Faught in the neighborhood. In 1850 a 22 year-old John B. Faught lived with his apparent father, Paul Faught, in Marion Township -- the same township where the Sears-Fawkner family lived. Between 1831 and 1837, Faught purchased government land in sections 30, 31, 32, 33, and 34.  John C. Fawkner's four purchases were in section 25 and 36, making Fawkners and Faughts near neighbors.

The problem is that Ann married Wesley Sears, and was still married to him when he died in 1859. In 1860, 1870, and 1880, she still lived with one or more of her children from the Sears marriage. John Faught married Mary Pierson 13 September 1855 in Hendricks County. They were enumerated together in 1870. He died before 1880, when Mary was living with her brother's family in Center Township.

Clearly, the obituary was incorrect.  Ann Sears had not previously been married to John Faught; the person giving the news to the newspaper might have been confused. Two of Ann's four sons had died; the other two were not living near Danville. It is thought that her daughter was deceased -- at least, she has not been located in the 1880 census or later.  Likely, the informant was from the Sears family, none of whom would have had any first-hand memory of John Fawkner, who had died in 1839. Possibly, the informant was Ann's granddaughter, Ida, who lived about 25 miles away in Indianapolis. We will meet Ida next week. 

The informant is not known, but one thing is certain: Ann's first husband had been dead nearly 55 years when Ann died. There was a Faught family in the neighborhood. It is not surprising that the informant confused John Faught with John Fawkner.

LESSON: Information from any source can be wrong. Always think about who the informant  might have been and consider whether the informant was likely to have known the facts. A confused informant leads to confused evidence.

A bigger surprise is coming next week when we will ask the real Fawkner family to stand up.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Chapter 4: No Birth Records? No Problem

I promise, there is fun stuff ahead, but first we need to spend a little more time fleshing out the Faulkner family in Hendricks County, Indiana. Although the 1850 U.S. Census did not name relationships of household members to the head of household, it was obvious that the Wesley Sears household in Marion Township was a blended family.

To refresh your memory... Wesley had an apparent wife Ann B. and four apparent Sears children, aged 9 months to 8 years. Also in the household were three Faulkner minors: John E., 15; Cyrus W., 13, and George S., 11. Head of the next enumerated household was James C. Faulkner, 21, and Elizabeth, no age stated.

A plausible hypothesis is that the Faulkners, possibly including James C, were children from a prior marriage of Ann B. Sears. Likely, her husband's name was Faulkner. All the children were born in Indiana, except James, who was born about 1829 in Kentucky. Ann B. Sears was born in Virginia. Her first marriage might have been somewhere in Virginia or Kentucky. George, Cyrus, and John were born between about 1835 and about 1839, but births were not registered at the time in Hendricks County. No family Bible has been found. If they lived long enough, death certificates for George, Cyrus, and John might name their father, but at this point research has not yet followed them forward in time.

Still, paternity can be established without doubt from other records. First, a Hendricks County marriage return registers the marriage of Ann B. Fawkner and Wesley Sears 1 September 1841. Since John, Cyrus, and George carried the Fawkner/Faulkner name, it seems likely that a first husband named Fawkner or Faulkner was present in Indiana between about 1835 and 1841. The 1840 U.S. Census enumerated Ann "Fortner" with five minors -- two boys under 5, 1 boy 5-10, 1 boy 10-15, and one girl, 5-10. The younger boys are a reasonable match for John, Cyrus, and George. The older boy could be James C., born about 1829.

We now have another name in play -- "Fortner" -- but still no father for Ann's children. A probate file and guardianship records provide a father.  On 25 June 1839, Ann B. Faulconer, "widow of John C.
Faulconer, quit claim her rights to administration of John C. Fawkner's estate. (He did not leave a will). She signed in her own hand: "Ann B. Fawkner." In February 1840 she was named guardian of John C. Fawkner's children, but after he remarriage, she petitioned the court to name Wesley Sears guardian of the children. The probate remained open 10 years, and in 1849, Wesley Sears gave a receipt for funds received as guardian of "James C., E.A. K. Faulkner, John E. Faulkner, C. W. Faulkner, & Geo S. Faulkner, minors."

With "Faulconer" now added to the mix, the spelling of the family name remains unsettled, but it is now clear that the father of James C. Fawkner and his siblings was John C.Faulkner or some variant such as Faulconer or Fortner.

The family is now anchored in Indiana, but surprises are just around the corner.  Tune in again next week when Ann Sear's obituary will throw us for a loop. ("Loop" is a technical genealogical term).

LESSONS:  Be alert to blended families and in an era before death certificates find probate or guardianship records that might reveal parent-child relationships.