Anne Faulkner, the blog author from Ancestor Archaeology, has shared this blog as part of our ongoing “How I Solved It Series”.
This blog tells the story of a family that disappears from the records but is rediscovered after finding a clue while looking through some biographical sketches. Anne discovers that the library literally down the street from her contains some of the clues to the missing time frame. She has since discovered some of the missing family members and more about them.
We all have them! Those stubborn ancestors that refuse to come out of hiding. No matter how much coaxing we do! Well, I think it’s time to bring them out of the shadows – put their redacted story out there – another piece of the puzzle could be lurking just around the (cyber) corner, in someone’s basement, or closet, or sitting in a box on a bookshelf …… You never, ever know where that loose chink will manifest, the one that allows you to push out one brick, then the next. Food for thought. So without further ado….
Brick Wall Ancestor | # 7 David M Whitford
David M Whitford is my 3rd great grandfather. He hid from me for quite some time. He’s still being reclusive so maybe by writing about him I can draw him out. It took me quite a bit of sleuthing to glean the information that I have. I will save you the play-by-play, just know it was difficult and confusing to piece together as much as I have thus far. Also know that without doing extensive collateral research and looking in places impossible to logic I never would have found him.
David M Whitford was born about 1803 most likely in Vermont, although I have found nothing other than a census notation to prove this. He may be of Irish descent. He was found in Medina Co, Ohio by 1828 when he married Betsey Lease.
The couple’s first four children were born in Medina Co, Ohio, where David was a prominent lawyer.
In 1837 David bought 80 acres of government land in Hillsdale Co, Michigan and removed with his family to settle new territory. He brought with him a substantial sum of money to help until he could get himself established in the new state.
Their next seven children were all born in Michigan.
In 1849 the family, or some of it, was residing in Niles, Berrien Co, MI. David (incorrectly noted as E.M) and Elizabeth (Betsey) are witnesses to their daughter Jane’s wedding.
Things took a very bad turn for the family around 1850 when Betsey and two of the daughters were living in a poor house in Ottawa, LaSalle Co, Illinois while David and two sons were living with the family of Nathan Lease (Betsey’s brother) in Richland Co, Illinois, over 200 miles away.
The thirteenth and final child of the couple was born in Alton, Illinois in 1852.
This was where the trail ended for quite some time. I wasn’t even sure I had the right family, as broken as it was, in 1850.
Then one day, for some unknown reason, by some unknown hand, I was guided to a sketch in a history book. My mind was literally blown. (This is where collateral research pays off BIG TIME) The sketch was on Dr H K Whitford, David and Betsey’s first born child. What blew me away ……. the book was on Kane Co, Illinois history. I live in Kane Co. Not only that, Dr Whitford was a very prominent man in a certain city named Elgin, in Kane Co, IL. Guess where I live? Yes, yes indeed. All this time and quite literally just down the street, lay some of the answers I was seeking.
The sketch explained the documents I was finding and helped put some of the puzzle together. Visiting the local library, my local library, just down the street from where I have lived for the last 32 years, I dove into the microfilm and did a newspaper search. From the obituary of the youngest son I learned that David and Betsey had come to Elgin shortly after 1852!
And that’s where the trail stops cold. Again.
David and Betsey are not seen on any census after 1850.
The questions remain: who are David M Whitford’s parents, when did David Whitford die, and where is he buried?
David M Whitford b. about 1803 Vermont d. UNK
m. 28 Feb 1828 Medina Co, OH, Elizabeth “Betsey” Lease
- Dr Henry K Whitford b. 9 Feb 1829 OH d. 15 Feb 1912 IL m. (1) Mary Stevens (2) Susan K Daggett
- Mary Whitford b. 1831 OH d. UNK
- James H Whitford b. 27 Jan 1831 OH d. 29 Apr 1895 MN m. Maria C Luddy
- Jane M Whitford b. abt 1835 OH d. 29 Feb 1888 MN m. (1) Daniel Nichols (2) Harrison Faulkner
- Leonard C Whitford b. 7 Nov 1837 MI d. 26 May 1909 WA m. (1) Mary Jane Williams (2) Florence A Ledger
- Jerome B Whitford b. abt 1839 MI d. Feb 1894 IL m. (1) Lucinda Phoenix (2) Ella Camon (3) Jane Ann Reynolds
- Child 1 Whitford b. abt 1841 MI d. UNK
- Sarah Whitford b. 14 Dec 1843 MI d. 12 Apr 1910 WA m. Richard Truax
- Child 2 Whitford b. abt 1845 MI d. UNK
- Rhoda L Whitford b. 7 Nov 1846 MI d. 9 Nov 1909 MN m. Josiah Brooks
- Child 3 Whitford b. abt 1848 MI d. UNK
- Child 4 Whitford b. abt 1850 IL d. UNK
- Daniel H Whitford b. 1 Apr 1852 IL d. 17 May 1911 IL m. Ellen Catherine Gregory
The entire family disappears in 1860, some reemerge in 1870 on the federal census. There are a number of bad trees (what? no!) on Ancestrydotcom that supply a middle name and parents for David; the sources, of course, are other Family Trees.
So, there you have it. David M Whitford born about 1803 in Vermont, of Irish descent, a lawyer in Ohio, a land owner in Michigan, fell on hard times during the Panic of 1837, last reported to be living in Elgin, IL about 1855.
Too bad we can’t put him on a milk carton!
If you have a story idea or a blog that you’d like to share as part of this series, please let us know about it in the comments.