Tuesday, August 14, 2018

A Bit More About Celestia

Delving further into the story of the second wife of George McClellanthe one who almost made off with his property after he diedwe learn that Celestia did, indeed, head to Indiana, just as her step-children had suspected.

I had to check out what became of Celestia after her stint as executrix of her husband's will, mainly because trying to figure out where she came from turned out to be a fruitless effort. Sometimes, the clues we find in an ancestor's future provide us a glimpse into what people knew about her past, and that, indeed, became the case in Celestia's story.

While she was untangling all the business arrangements in the McClellan properties during the early 1870s, she did remain in Wellborn, Florida, home of George's many children from his first marriage. We learned, of course, that we now had to trace her whereabouts using her new married name of Grant.

Along with those clues to help us trace Celestia's whereabouts, we also had some other help. Not only had Celestia given birth to three of George's childrentwo of whom were still livingwe now were able to add the name of her one child with Dr. Grant, her second husband: DeSoto Grant.

It was by the time of the 1880 census that we find Celestia has finally made it to Indiana. How soon after the final fees had been paid in the probate case back in Suwannee County, Florida, I can't say, but the 1880 census revealed that she arrived at her intended destination.

Reported as "Celestra" R. Grant by an enumerator with an abysmal hand, Celestia had settled in Warsaw, Indiana, where she was, by 1880, working as a teacher. With her were her sixteen year old son named after his by-then long-deceased father, George Edmund McClellan, and her daughter whose name we learn was also Celestia. In addition, their half-brother DeSoto was also in the household, though his surname was so mangled that if I hadn't already learned what it was, it would be a challenge to decipher.

The 1880 census also provided another clue: it confirmed that Celestia was born in Michigan, adding one more convincing argument to the idea that the Celestia R. Holman in the 1850 census in Macomb County, Michigan, was likely our Celestia.

Tracing Celestia through to the next census added one more twist: she apparently married one more time. This time, her husband was Ira A. Rice, and the date of their wedding was October 16, 1894.

This little detail came in handy for one other reason: not long after this, Celestia was laid to rest in her adopted home in Warsaw, Indiana. This, I would have had trouble finding, if I hadn't realized she had married one last time. Finding the death record, thanks to learning of that Rice surname, I could see that her son, George McClellan, had provided her parents' names and her place of birth. Her October 20, 1904, death led to her burial under the name Celestia Rice in the Oakwood Cemetery in Warsaw, Indiana.

Her death certificate told me her parents' names were Levi Holman of New Hampshire and Orrilla Grover of New York. While that doesn't exactly match the details given in the 1880 censusboth parents born in Vermontthe aftermath of a loved one's passing is seldom the time for accurate reporting of such mundane details.

What those details did get me wondering was whether the "Orrilla" Grover Holman of Celestia's death certificate might have had anything to do with the Aurilla in the Richards family where we found Celestia residing in 1850.


  1. Between handwriting, spelling and pronunciation, it does get challenging. My recent revelation is that Ceslaus turns into Chester when polish is Americanized. I was having issues since all the sisters and sister in laws of that generation share names and I can't trace who is married to who. The answer came when I found "Cesclaw" in the census at one address and "Chester" at the same address 10 years later.

    1. Oh, Polish! That's another branch of my family's story I need to conquer! Sometimes, with all those name challenges, I wonder if it would be helpful to learn Polish phonics, to help me be able to spell (or misspell) Polish names in English.


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