Bird's Eye View of Hartford, Conn. cerca 1916, courtesy of the Library of Congress.
Every family tree seems to have at least one maternal line that just stops. I have some that seem to end abruptly, with no clues suggesting where to go next or who these women were. I can’t find a single record of them. Nothing. Nada. Zip. Zilch. Zero. There are a number of these grandmothers in my, and my husband’s, family trees. They silently mock me; puzzles to be solved as soon as I can find the right crumb to lead me down their path. All it takes is one breakthrough, as I am sure you are aware, to unlock a forest of information unimaginable just an hour before.
Last week, while working on the George Bennett problem, I got a nibble on one of these maternal line brick walls and it lead me on a chase through 60 years of family history. George W. Bennett Jr.’s wife was Ruby Taylor. She was born in Connecticut to Benjamin A. Taylor and Annie C. Taylor. The most intriguing part to me, from the moment I first saw Annie’s name on a census record, was that her parents were from Denmark. Once again, our family has appeared as just another ingredient in the American melting pot. You see, George was a 2nd generation American. His father, George Sr., was the son of Irish immigrants and his mother, Augusta, was the daughter of German immigrants. Now he was married into a family that was half Danish, with the other half having centuries-old ties to New England.
For a year I looked for a shred of evidence on who Annie C. was. How hard could it be to find a trace of a woman named Annie (or Anna or Anne) in Connecticut, born to Danish parents? Well, harder than I thought! While getting my facts straight for my last post, I got an Ancestry.com leaf for Alton M. Taylor, Ruby’s brother. It was for Find-A-Grave, and, being a curious person, I clicked it. Up popped a gravestone for a family plot reading:
Benjamin A. Taylor
Annie C. His Wife
Harold B. Their Son
Alton M Their Son
1873 Stephen P. 191?
This seemed to be the family, even listing Benjamin’s younger brother Stephen, who died in 1910, and, much to my delight, links to Benjamin and Annie from the webpage. Then I saw it. On Annie’s listing it had a maiden name: Munsmann. Oh, a clue! Now, if I could only prove it was correct. I wrote to the person who made the memorial and am impatiently awaiting his response. Maybe he can tell me how he knew her maiden name. But I couldn’t just sit around waiting, so I decided to poke around and see if I could make any connections on my own with this clue.
Simply typing the name into the search box came up with immediate hits in the Hartford and Coventry, Conn. areas. The first hits were census records. Her potential parents were Henry and Caroline Munsmann, who appear to have immigrated to the United States in 1872 and lived the rest of their lives in Hartford. I found Henry and Caroline on the 1900 and 1880 censuses, but only Caroline (listed as a widow) on the 1920 census. To my surprise and delight, she lived with her daughter, Dorothy, and her daughter’s family, literally next door to George and Ruby Bennett in 1920.
My biggest challenge was what happened to Annie after the 1920 Census. I know from the tombstone that she lived until about 1941, so where did she disappear to? On a whim I did some searches using her youngest daughter, Ruth. Ruth Taylor could still have been at home in the 1930 census since she would have been in her early 20s, and I was guessing that after 50 years Annie wouldn’t up and leave the state of Connecticut. It was a long shot–Ruth could have been married, but it was worth a try. To my amazement, there Annie was in 1930 living in Coventry… remarried. Annie was now married to Arthur Porter, living with her daughter Ruth and a boarder, Wilfred Hill (who would become Ruth’s husband).
Not bad for 2 1/2 hours of online work.