Monday, May 18, 2020

Dispensing Justice

According to the Greencastle, Indiana, Press, Esquire Parker had "dispensed justice" on two cases in the week leading up to the newspaper's March 15, 1871, edition. The second of those cases may be of interest to us, as we determine just what became of William F. Riley's children.

Taking an almost jocular editorial tone, the clipping from the Press went on to explain,
An unmarried woman named Mary Riley added to the last census to the amount of about nine pounds. The paternity of said filius mulieratus being charged to Richard Bugg, a widower of considerable family, he was entreated to shell out a few hundred as a compensation for wounded honor; but "Dick" obstinately refused, whereupon he was arrested and brought before Squire Parker. Col. Matson appeared for the State, and after a long and tedious trial, Bugg was recognized to the Court of Common Pleas, in the sum of two hundred dollars.

While the editorial tone may have struck some in Greencastle as amusing, there are a few problems with this report. Let's set aside the possibility that the Mary Riley in this newspaper insertion may have been someone other than our Mary Riley, daughter of William F. Riley, and focus on these other issues.

First, let's tackle the Latin term, filius mulieratus. Not being a lawyer—and not even playing one on television—I had to look that one up. Never mind that our friend Google produced two different definitions; the gist of the term is that a couple had a son—legitimately—even though they might have had other children prior to the official date of their marriage.

There is a problem with the usage of this term, given the editorial intent of the article. This article was printed in 1871, referring to a birth which would have been included in the previous census in 1870.

By the time of the next census in 1880, our Mary was married, all right—but to a different man. I can find no indication that she ever married the man named in the lawsuit—Richard Bugg—either before or after the complaint was brought to court. By 1880, Mary had been the wife of John Shellenbarger long enough to have had a seven year old daughter. My guess would be that a reasonable date for a Shellenbarger marriage might have been 1882.

Furthermore, it is unlikely that the daughter born to the Shellenbargers in 1883 would even have been the child fathered by Richard Bugg, the defendant in that paternity suit. For one thing, the age given missed the mark by too long a time. But what became of the Bugg-Riley child? No child is named, and though the "filius" infers a son, the not-quite-correct application of the term in the one instance might hint about sloppy editorial usage also blurring other aspects of that precise phrase.

Looking for the culprit himself—Richard Bugg—it was not hard to locate him in the Putnam County census in 1870. As the newspaper entry had suggested, the Bugg household was indeed without a wife. A thirty three year old man headed up a household with three children, ages twelve, nine, and six. No sign of any infant.

Nor was there an infant in Mary Riley's parents' home. The June census showed a sixteen year old Mary, along with her younger sister and brother, but no baby.

Since the reason for our curiosity was merely to determine whether, decades later, that same infant from the early 1870s would turn out to be the unexplained Bettie Taylor to whom notification of William Riley's death was sent in Tennessee, we still are not one step closer to forming a hypothesis about her identity. Even considering one of my long-term research goals—building out a tree which includes descendants of all my ancestors for genetic genealogy purposes—I'm left with unfinished business.

For now, given the resources I'd need to access in person to get any further answers to my questions about the Rileys, I'll have to set aside this research goal for a later date.

There is, however, one other discovery I made while trying to complete the "reverse genealogy" project for William Riley's family. Though it provides not one solid clue to this research goal, it does help explain another research dilemma that I'm sure you've faced as well as I have: relatives who simply "disappeared."

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