Don’t you just love those ancestors to pieces who had the presence of mind to sit down and record notes about your family history? How fabulous it is to have those records. Don’t think you have any? Well, maybe not, but if you inherited boxes of papers you have yet to go through, you may just come across some real gems. My advice is to share them and preserve them as fast as you can.
My grandmother Zillah Trewin is one such angel in our family tree. Bless her heart. And yesterday, I came upon a piece of paper in an old file folder. The tides of time and multiple moves over a half century or more had separated it from the other notes she left behind. This paper has resolved one family mystery that emerged for me two years ago. I spoke about it in the post Cemetery Reveals New Mysteries about Sargent Family.
In that post I was left pondering whether my 2nd great grandfather William (Slaymaker) Sargent and his son William (Zillah’s uncle) had married sisters after the elder William’s first wife Mary Wills (Slaymaker) Sargent (my 2nd great grandmother) died of stomach cancer on 6 December 1877—about seven years after the family changed their name from Slaymaker to Sargent and emigrated to New Jersey from Northampton, England. Yes, I know, that’s a lot to digest. I have to re-read genealogy blog entries several times myself to get the whole ‘who’s who’. So feel free to pause here!
So, yesterday I came upon a yellowed piece of paper with pencil writing that confirmed just that and more! I was over the moon.
The note mentioned a button hook (for doing up shoes, which were buttoned in those days) belonging to “Aunt Jennie Sargent” (Sarah Jane Bowley, wife of William the son):
Button hook belonging to Aunt Jennie Sargent, my mother’s youngest brother’s wife. She was born in 1849, died 1904. She lived with us [in Jersey City, Hudson Co.] winters from the time Uncle Will died in 1896 [of ‘debilitation of the heart’] until she died when with us January 6, 1904. Spent summers with her sister at Manchester VT. She had the button hook from my earliest remembrance. Uncle Will was 7 when mother’s mother died and mother brought him up and [they] were very dear to each other. Aunt J. was youngest sister of Grandpa Sargent’s 2nd wife so father & son married sisters—one oldest and one youngest of 5 girls [Mary Bowley Pitt, widow, b. 1839, and Sarah Jane Bowley, b. 1849].
Now, I still don’t know where Wm Sr. and his wives are buried (I am amazed that Zillah and her mom did not pass that info down), but at least I have had my ‘wild’ suspicions confirmed about the father & son marriages to the two sisters. I sure would like to know how all that transpired! Wm Sr. remarried between 1877-1880 and Wm Jr. married in 1890, so I suppose Wm Jr. and Jennie’s romance blossomed over a decade of family gatherings, and although the age gap is a bit eye-opening, I suppose it was not uncommon back then, just as it is not that uncommon today.
In any case, it was good to hear how close William was to my great grandmother Elizabeth Sargent Trewin (Zillah’s mom), and that she was critical in overseeing his upbringing after their mother Mary died. And it was wonderful of Elizabeth and her family to take in Jennie after William’s death. Zillah’s timeline is off, however, in that William Jr. could not have been 7 when Mary died. My records indicate that he was about 15 (an age corroborated by his death record); Elizabeth would have been 23 at the time. But perhaps Mary’s illness was a very extended one and Elizabeth took a leading role in his care from a much younger age.
Now, if an old button hook turns up one day, I’ll know who it belongs to! Keep checking those old files and boxes!