Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Traveling Back a Bit Further in Time

Finding the surname Lewis on a photograph for a woman from Marshall County, Indiana, makes me recall another woman whose photograph I have recently rescued from a northern California antique shop. Granted, Lewis is a fairly common surnamealbeit frustrating to research, given the propensity of record keepers to inadvertently swap spellings from Lewis to Louis. But coupling the name with the location made me wonder whether there was any connection between the "Rebecca O." Lewis Purkey of the photograph I'm currently working on and the Lewis family of a previous project.

The curiosity was great enough to convince me to take a walk back through the decades since finding Rebecca Olive Lewis' marriage record from 1882. Even in that document, if you take a look at the original entry, the woman's maiden name was rendered two different waysat the top of the entry as Louis, then below, on the return after the marriage ceremony was completed, as Lewis.

Since we already knew from the 1900 census that Olive, as a married woman, reported her birth to have occurred in Indiana in September of 1862, let's start by finding her entry in the 1870 census. Fortunately, at that time, the Lewis family was residing in Marshall County, and we see that Olivelisted there with the same moniker as we saw in her later family photo, "Rebecca O."was the second oldest of the five children of Amasa J. and July A. Lewis. An encouraging sign was that her mother declared her own birthplace to be Ohio, just as we had seen in Olive's entry concerning her in the 1900 census.

Following the records for this Amasa Lewis of Marshall County, Indiana, moving back another decadeof course predating the arrival of Rebecca Olivewe find a possibility for his entry in 1860 under the name M. J. Lewis. The wife's name there in that Marshall County record shows as Julia—probably the more accurate spelling rendition of her true nameand their one child, who was listed only as "baby."

What is interesting about that entry is the one appearing directly above it. Likely for one of Amasa's relativeswe'll check further on thisthe listing was for a Joseph and Susannah Lewis. Included in that Lewis household was a family by the name of Webb: Francis and Rachel Webb and their two young daughters.

Seeing that connection, I wondered just how Amasa Lewis and Rachel Webb might have been related, so I pushed back another generation. This timewe're back to the 1850 census by nowthe Lewis family of the elder Joseph and Susannah was in Cass County, two counties to the south of Marshall County. There, in their household was Rachel, predating her marriage to Francis Webb, along with four other children with the Lewis surname. The youngest of those five children in Joseph and Susannah's household was named Amasa.

Of course, when we are dealing with any census record before the 1880 census, we have no guarantee that the children showing in a man's household were actually his own. But we do, at least, have a record showing some sort of connection between Amasa Lewiswhom we later learned was father of Rebecca Olive Lewis Purkeyand the woman known as Rachel Lewis Webb.

Things get complicated when we reverse our time-traveling engines and fast forward to Rebecca Olive Purkey's last days. Despite having her death certificate completed with information provided by a granddaughter, the document makes permanent the listing of her father's name as Mason Lewis.

No matter which way the name was actually renderedand we'll explore more about Rebecca Olive's parents soongoing back, decade by decade, through the documents reveals that there was some sort of relationship between Olive Purkey and Rachel Webb. That explains, for people as curious as I am, why the same collection of abandoned family photographs included both of these women. Despite the appearances of the different married names, these two Lewis descendants were likely aunt and niecewith the niece turning out, herself, to be grandmother of the woman whose collection unwittingly ended up in my possession.

Above: Remember Rachel Lewis Webb, the woman with the penetrating gaze whose photograph from Chicago not only contained her name but location of her home? It is she who likely was related to the Rebecca Olive Lewis who married Erastus Manford Purkey in Marshall County, Indiana.


  1. Replies
    1. I couldn't believe it when I realized what happened, Far Side! Makes me take care to proceed more slowly with this connection. May have some more surprises!


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