October 12, 2012

Who was Alice Hill's Mother ?

While working on the Comfort Family of Catskill, NY I was tracing Hiram and Julia’s daughter Hellen, born in 1828.  She appeared as married in the 1860 census with husband Henry Hill and a daughter, Alice, aged 9. I had confirmation that Henry and Hellen had married in 1859 which made it seem obvious that Alice was not Hellen's daughter.  But who was Alice's mother?  Both Henry and Hellen had appeared in the 1850 census as single living with their parents. Had Henry married soon after and had his 1st wife died before 1859? 
I could find no evidence.

Although it is not available online, I was able to purchase a copy of the 1855 State Census for Greene County NY. There I found Hellen living with her mother, listed as single, and assumed I would find Henry as head of household with Alice and her mother. I did not. So I looked for his parents. His mother, now widowed, was listed as head with Henry and two of his sisters ... no Alice, no wife.

What other information might I have that could resolve this mystery?  I had visited the Catskill cemetery and had taken gravestone photos.  There was the answer !
Alice was actually born in October 1859 …. So she was 9 MONTHS old, not 9 years old in the 1860 census.  Henry and Hellen were her parents and this was the first marriage for both of them. 

Ages are often wrong in the census, but a child’s age that doesn’t seem to match can send you a wild goose chase as in this case where I assumed Henry had been married previously.  Being able to check local census records between the federal records of 1850 and 1860 helped indicate that my assumption was wrong.  And then the cemetery record (the only proof I have of Alice’s date of birth) was definitive.

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