Tuesday, November 23, 2021

Effie Aurilla's Great-Grandmother


Our task, as family historians, is to push back ever so tentatively through the years from where our known ancestors used to live to their earlier records. So far, in exploring the Williams line of Maude Woodworth Bean's ancestry, we traced her mother, Effie Aurilla from her 1890 marriage to William Woodworth in Iowa to records of her earlier years in the Dakota Territory household of her father, Eugene Williams. But what about Eugene's earlier years?

Despite Eugene's claim to have been born in New York, we found a possible candidate for this young man in the 1860 home of Martin and Mary Williams of Marcellon, Wisconsin. Since Eugene was born in 1846, I wanted to see if I could find him in the 1850 census. Sure enough, there was a family which included a four year old boy by that name—but the family lived in New York, not Wisconsin.

Leading off at the top of the page for a town in Allegany County called Centerville, I found the impossible scrawl of a hasty enumerator who had jumbled ten people with two different surnames into the same household. The head of the household was fifty five year old Solomon Williams, but in addition to baby Frances and her four year old companion Eugene, the household included a ninety one year old man by the name of Philo Hawley and a female companion of the same surname trailing Philo by only a few years.

Somewhere in that same household was the name we are looking for—Martin Williams—exactly ten years younger than the age we had found him at in the 1860 census so many miles to the west of this New York location. Still, that would not be too alarming, considering our Eugene had claimed through most of his life that he had been born in New York. Perhaps this was home and Solomon was Martin's father.

What attracted my attention to this household was not just the jumble of names or the spread of ages, but the particular name of the woman listed right after the line for the head of this household. Her name—and I'm presuming this would turn out to be Martin's mother and, eventually, Effie's great-grandmother—was Aurilla.

Now, before you go regaling me with warnings about coincidences, let's just take a look at one thing—or at least as close a thing as we can get to actual documentation. Consider the name Aurilla. How often do you see a name like that? 

Just in case, I did a little exploring. I checked the name data tucked away in a fun little corner of the U.S. Social Security website. For the earliest year I could find listed on the site—the decade of the 1880s—Aurilla did not even make a showing in the list of the top two hundred names for girls. Looking at this from another angle, for a baby girl's name in 1885, the earliest date I could bring up on another website, the name Aurilla ranked 881 in popularity for that year. If families routinely named their babies after older relatives, those stats echo a quite limited number of honorary namesakes.

That said, while I consider this to be a promising sign that we are on to something with the household of Solomon Williams, you know we can't just stop there. We'll have to do some more exploring to confirm this hypothesis that Eugene Williams' dad was the Martin Williams who used to call Centerville—and more importantly, the household of Solomon and Aurilla Williams—home.

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