Friday, December 30, 2016

Susan Bell and her Marriages

A DNA match of my father's contacted me.  She and my father share a small segment of DNA.  The relation could be anywhere from a third cousin to very distant.  She is adopted and without a tree.  The shared segment is on an unassigned area of my father's genome, meaning that the ancestral source is unknown for this piece of my father's DNA.

Recently a closer match appeared for her with shared DNA in the second to fourth cousin range.  All three people- my father, the DNA cousin, and her new close match- all match one another on this original small segment.  This new DNA match has a robust family tree with roots in New Jersey.

The idea is that if the connection between my father and this new DNA match can be identified, then the adopted DNA cousin will have a narrow branch to work with for her connection to us.

Spoiler alert:  This mystery has not been solved (yet).

In viewing this other person's family tree, the surname Sayre popped out.  My father's third great grandparents were Reuben Bishop (1805-1856) and Susan.  Reuben died in Morristown, Morris County, New Jersey.  Susan remarried to Enos Littel Whitehead (1804 - 1880) in 1860, a few months after the federal census.

A death certificate for Susan Whitehead, died September 9, 1890 in Plainfield, Union County, New Jersey, provided her parents as Abner or Asher Ayers and Sarah.  No marriage record was located for Susan Ayers to Reuben Bishop.  After seeing Sayre in the family tree of the DNA cousin, I thought that maybe the name could be Sayre, not Ayers, and reviewed Susan.

Reviewing the records on Susan, I realized that I had no other records revealing her full name.  Her marriage record to Enos L Whitehead in Newark on September 7, 1860 did not include the names of the parents for the bride or groom.

Enos Littel Whitehead died February 2, 1880 in Newark, right before the 1880 census.

The obituary for the Susan Whitehead who died in 1890 gave her husband's name as Frazee Whitehead.  I was not too concerned.  Next to this obituary was an advertisement for Marsh and Ayers.  Susan's son, William Reuben Bishop, married Susan Jane Marsh.  Clearly the right path, yes?

No.  In seeking Susan and Enos Whitehead in the 1870 census, I found Susan and Frazee Whitehead.  Maybe Enos used the name Frazee?  Expanding the search into other census years produced a couple named Susan and Frazee Whitehead, who lived for decades in Plainfield, not Morristown or Newark.

So the death certificate for Susan Whitehead, died 1890 in Plainfield, was for Susan Ayers, wife of Frazee Whitehead, and not for my Susan, wife of Reuben Bishop and Enos Whitehead.

A visit to Evergreen Cemetery in Elizabeth, Union County, New Jersey produced the record of the plot of Enos Whitehead.  No Susan.

Buried in Evergreen Cemetery are Susan and Reuben Bishop's son, William Reuben Bishop (1843-1915), William's wife, Susan Jane Marsh (1848-1932), and Susan's parents, Eliakim Marsh (1816-1881) and Susan Long (1819-1882).  Somehow I noticed Eliakim's worn stone.  He is buried near Enos Whitehead.  I could not find a marker for Enos on this trip.

So what happened to my Susan and who were her parents?  I made a list of all her children to locate their marriage and death records in the New Jersey State Archives in hopes that Susan's name was included in one of these records.

In the meantime, I googled Susan and Enos.  I found a blurb about Susan C Bishop in the History of the First Presbyterian Church, Morristown, New Jersey.  A third husband was named:  E P DeGroot.

Mary Jane Bishop (born about 1836 in New Jersey) was a daughter of Susan C Bell and Reuben Bishop.

The online marriage index at listed a marriage between Edward P DeGroot and Susan C Bell on February 14, 1880 in Newark.  Enos died February 2, 1880, making Susan eligible to remarry, though the year could have been 1881 because this index can be off by one year.

The record is housed at the New Jersey State Archives.  Susan C Bell married Edward P Degroot on February 14, 1881 (not 1880) in Newark.  Susan's parents were listed as John Bell and Jane Bockover.

Using the name Susan DeGroot, a death certificate was located.  Susan died March 1, 1888 in Newark.  Burial was at Fairmount Cemetery in Newark.  Note that the names of her parents are not on the death record.  If she had not remarried in 1881, the names of her parents may not have ever been known.

Susan's estate was probated in Morris County, New Jersey, which is not online at like the other twenty counties.  A trip to the courthouse provided documentation that Susan DeGroot was the mother of the Bishop children:

1- William R[euben] Bishop
2- Mary (wife of Edward Skinner)
3- Emma (wife of Silas Totten)
4- Julia (wife of George Ward)
5- George Bishop

A trip Fairmount Cemetery in Newark, New Jersey provided Susan's burial records.  She was buried in the plot of her daughter, Julia Bishop(1842-1902), wife of George Ward (1837-1889) and later William Condon.  The plot was purchased in 1866 for the burial of Ida C Ward (1859-1866), the six year old daughter of Julia Bishop and George Ward.

Susan has no marker.  There are stones for eight of the fourteen people buried in this plot.

Susan Bell's ancestral branch can be expanded with the revelation of her parents' names.  This may or may not be the branch in common with the DNA cousins, but each possibility must be explored.

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