Thursday, April 21, 2016

In One Way, Out Another

One by one, the children of Peachy Taliaferro and Mary Whitcomb Wilson in their own way seemed to elude discovery as I tried my hand at reconstructing the Wilson family tree. Only by stumbling upon eldest child Mary's married name did I find out what had become of her. Likewise, it was thanks to a newspaper report from a location quite off the beaten path—Helena, Montana—that I spotted the Wilsons' oldest son. We've just located a possible identity for the third-born Wilson child, Harvey. There is yet more of the puzzle to go, though, because at this point, I encounter varying reports of how many children the Wilsons had, and just where they might be found.

According to the original passenger list when, in 1873, the ailing missionaries Peachy and Mary returned to America, they were accompanied by three children: Mary, Willie and Harvey. In a memorial, published after Peachy's passing in 1898, it was stated that at his wife's earlier death in 1874, she had left four children.

A published genealogy of the White family—of which Mary Whitcomb was a descendant—affirmed that count of four children, but then went on to complicate matters by indicating there had originally been five, but one had died in India.

Well, the memorial never said she had four children—only that she left four children. Technicalities.

According to that genealogy, the children were listed as:
  • Mary Wilson, born in India, returned there as missionary in her adult years
  • Willie Wilson, born in India, later living in the western U.S.
  • Peachy Wilson, born in India and dying there in childhood
  • Harvey Wilson, born in India and living in the western U.S.
  • Eddie Wilson, born in the U.S. in 1873, living in the western U.S.

If you think that fifth arrival was a curve ball in this genealogical pitch, I join you in sharing that opinion. This, however, was not the only unexpected detail, when it came to the listing of the descendants of Peachy and Mary.

While I was struggling to find anything—anything!—on Harvey Wilson, I ran across an interesting tidbit of information. The trail started with the Social Security Applications and Claims Index entry I had mentioned yesterday—the one which clued me in to the possibility of a name change to the surname Clendening. The entry provided a date of October, 1941, which will help track the Wilson descendants' timeline, and indicated the record was for the original application. Thankfully, it also mentioned the parents' names as Peachy Wilson and Mary Whitcomb, despite the man's stated surname as Clendening.

The only trouble was: there was another entry for a Clendening man with parents Peachy Wilson and Mary Whitcomb. This man gave his name, in February 1939, as Mansel Wilson Clendening. Strangely, he gave the same date of birth as had Harvey: July 16, 1871. Although also born in India, this applicant gave more detail: he was born in "Dauri Nwp, India"—likely Pauri, where Peachy had been stationed in northwest India for part of his missionary service, and where, incidentally, he had worked with another missionary by the name of Mansel.

Twins? That seemed to be the only explanation for two sons with the same date of birth. And yet, there was one more document served up on that presented either a further puzzle, or the answer to our mystery.

On April 19, 1940, leaving from the port of San Francisco on the SS Matsonia, bound for Honolulu, was a sixty nine year old man named Mansel Clendening. Wondering if this might be our man Clendening, I pulled up the digitized listing of passengers to see who else might be traveling with him.

There was one other person with that same surname on the page of listed passengers: someone named Wilbur Clendening. As we've already seen from census records for the Wilbur we've found, our candidate was born about 1901, which handily aligned with the age given of this passenger by the same name: thirty nine.

The only trouble was: we've already found Wilbur Clendening in the household of H. Wilson Clendening in 1910. At least, I think it was H. Wilson. Could it have really been M. Wilson? I had to go back and look.

But there was another passenger record which included Wilbur Clendening. This one was, however, was listed as a man aged thirty eight, returning in that same year from Honolulu to Los Angeles on the SS Matsonia.

Besides that, there was one other difference: his traveling companion for this leg of the journey was named Harvey Clendening.

Could Mansel be Harvey? Or was this some sort of grown-up twin-swapping trick—leave with one man, come back with his twin brother?  


  1. Do you suppose William H. had gone to Canada, only to turn up back in the US by 1937?

    1. That's an intriguing thought, Geolover--especially considering some details I turned up today. It's worth checking out.

  2. I was thinking maybe he was in a gold rush - somewhere.

    1. Who knows what happened. There certainly are possibilities to consider.


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