Friday, April 2, 2021

Invisible Women: Spotting the Details


Researching our female ancestors before the 1850 census can be challenging. Women from that century and previous ones seem to have been near-invisible. If not invisible, perhaps they can only be spotted as the shadows that followed the men in their lives.

That, of course, makes our April research goal of discovering all I can about my mother-in-law's third great-grandmother all the more difficult, because she lived her brief life and was gone by 1812.

To start with, let's list what we already know about this Mary Carroll, who eventually became the first wife of the migrating William Gordon of Frederick County, Maryland. According to Howard L. Leckey's The Tenmile Country and its Pioneer Families, Mary was born August 29, 1773, and married William Gordon in 1793. Based on the report that their eldest son, James, was born a year later in Washington County, Pennsylvania, it may be possible that the Carroll-Gordon marriage occurred in the same vicinity.

Though Leckey provides a date for Mary Carroll Gordon's death, we need to keep in mind that his book did contain some assertions which have not been corroborated by other means. For instance, Leckey's book gives Mary's year of death as 1814, while a Find A Grave volunteer's photo of her headstone clearly shows June 3, 1812. True, perhaps the marker is a memorial with an unfortunate error etched in stone, but it may be just as likely that the error was embedded in the pages of Leckey's tome.

At any rate, we note that, at the end of her brief life, Mary was buried at the Gordon family cemetery in neighboring Greene County, Pennsylvania. Whether Mary's life began in the same region where it ended, I have yet to determine. What I do know, however, is that after her passing, William added to the eleven children of his first marriage by wedding a second Mary, moving from Pennsylvania to Ohio, and fathering an additional eight children.

Most of Mary Carroll's children were born early enough in the nineteenth century to produce a lifespan which missed the mark of death certificates which included the names of parents—those didn't begin to be issued until the start of the subsequent century. Thus, even after her death, Mary's existence was nearly a well-kept secret—if, that is, it weren't for the several genealogy aficionados among her many descendants diligently attending to their family history.

There was, however, one document which did reveal information on Mary's identity: the will of one Anthony Carroll, who died, according to the recording of his will, sometime during or preceding February of 1830. 


  1. I love starting a new chapter in your research book!

    1. Glad to hear that, Miss Merry. A fresh challenge certainly perks things up.


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