How I Found My Orphaned Milkmaid (Susan Tucker Kelley – 52 Ancestors #40)

Susan (Tucker) Kelley

Susan (Tucker) Kelley

Finding the parents is the ultimate question in genealogy. The parents of my great-great-grandmother Susan Tucker should have been easy to trace. But the search for Susan and her origins ended up being the case study I used when I applied to become a Certified Genealogist.

Discovering Susan’s maiden name wasn’t difficult. I first found it on the death certificate of Susan’s daughter, my great-grandmother Melzena Kelley Ramsey. 1)Melzena Ramsey death certificate, certificate #41254 (1914), Ohio Historical Society, Columbus. Also available on FamilySearch.org. I had also quickly found the burial place for Susan and her husband John Kelley in Hopewell Methodist Episcopal Cemetery in Perry County, Ohio. 2)Susan Kelley, FindAGrave.com. The tombstone listed Susan’s date of death as 23 February 1914. Bingo! She should have a death certificate and that should name her parents.

I found her death certificate 3)Susan Kelly (sic) death certificate, certificate #10989 (1914), Ohio Historical Society, Columbus. Also available on FamilySearch.org easy peasy. Her parents names, however…

Susan Kelly [sic] death certificate, Ohio certificate number 10989 (1914), downloaded from FamilySearch.

Susan Kelly [sic] death certificate, Ohio certificate number 10989 (1914), downloaded from FamilySearch.

Father: First part name unknown Tucker. Mother: Unknown.

Ok. Maybe her obituary has something.

susan-kelley-obitFinding that obituary 4)Mrs. Susan Kelly obituary, New Lexington (Ohio) Herald, 5 March 1914 was the shortest Genealogy Happy Dance in history. “Yes! I found it! Wait, it doesn’t tell me anything.” What about Susan’s marriage record to John Kelley?

John Kelley and Susan Tucker marriage, marriage volume 4, page 231, Perry County, Ohio. Downloaded from FamilySearch.

John Kelley and Susan Tucker marriage, marriage volume 4, page 231, Perry County, Ohio. Downloaded from FamilySearch.

That marriage record 5)John Kelley and Susan Tucker marriage, marriage volume 4, page 231, Perry County, Ohio. Downloaded from FamilySearch. was less than helpful. Hmmm, they didn’t get married until 1863. Susan should be in the 1850 and 1860 censuses with her parents.

Susan Tucker in Metzer Kindall [sic] household, 1850 U.S. census.

Susan Tucker in Metzer Kindall [sic] household, 1850 U.S. census.

Metzer Kendall household, 1860, Perry County, Ohio. [Note: this household goes across two pages; this image is a composite from both pages.]

Metzar Kendall household, 1860, Perry County, Ohio. [Note: this household goes across two pages; this image is a composite from both pages.]

Who are these Kendalls and why is Susan living with them in 1850 6)Metzer Kindall household, 1850 U.S. census, Hopewell township, Perry County, Ohio, page 384B. and 1860 7)Metzar Kendall household, 1860 U.S. census, Hopewell Township, Perry County, Ohio, page 413.? It was at this point that I started calling Susan “my little orphaned milkmaid.”

What I Did Next

I researched the people who I knew were in Susan’s family: her husband John Kelley and their children. After searching through probate, land records, county histories, and other records, I found no more clues as to Susan’s parents.

Since they didn’t give me the answers I sought, I turned to the next group of people I had associated with Susan: Metzer and Sarah Kendall. Who were they? Metzer Kendall married Sarah Nixon in Perry County in 1845. 8)Perry County, Ohio marriage volume 2-3, page 117, Perry County, Ohio Probate Court. I found no earlier marriages for Sarah, which seems to eliminate the possibility that Susan was her child from a previous marriage. Susan was not mentioned in any of their probate, land records, or in their biographies in the county history.

The Tuckers, Kendalls, and Nixons

I knew three things about this group: Susan was a Tucker, she lived with Metzer and Sarah Kendall, and Sarah Kendall’s maiden name was Nixon. Are there any other connections between the Tuckers, Kendalls, and Nixons? I found one:

William W. Tucker married Mary Ann Nixon in 1836 in Perry County.9)Perry County marriage volume 1, page 183, Perry County, Ohio Probate Court. The 1840 census of Jackson Township, Perry County lists a William W. Tucker with the following household:10)William W. Tucker household, 1840 U.S. Census, Jackson Township, Perry County, Ohio, page 130.

  • 1 male age 20-30
  • 1 male age < 5
  • 1 female age 15-20
  • 2 females < 5

This looks like a young family – a young husband and wife and three small children. Susan was born in 19 March 1840, so she would fit as one of the females under the age of 5.

Following William and Mary Ann, there were no clues in their land records; they sold all land that they purchased, and there are corresponding purchases for all the land they sold. No probate records have been found for them in either Perry or Hocking counties (where they also owned a small amount of land).

The Breakthrough

It was a short record in the Perry County Clerk of Courts records that started to crack the brick wall. On 29 January 1848, it was ordered that Levi Nixon be appointed guardian of:

  • Rachel Tucker, age 11 (born c1837)
  • Greenbery Tucker, age 9 (born c1839)
  • Susan Tucker, age 7 (born c1841)

Further, Isaac Nixon and Solomon Nunamaker were sureties with $100 bond.

Now we have even more of a connection between Tuckers and Nixons. Further, the age of the children exactly fit the ages of the children in William W. Tucker’s 1840 household. Also, the age for Susan in this January 1848 record is consistent with my Susan, since she wouldn’t have had her 8th birthday until March 1848.

The Final Piece

The next phase of research was into Levi Nixon and Isaac Nixon, the guardian and the surety. The History of Fairfield and Perry Counties, Ohio (1883) noted that Levi was the son of Robert and Catherine Nixon.

Robert Nixon’s will, dated 1828, was probated in Perry County. It names the following:

  • wife Catherine
  • sons John, Levi, Isaac, Jonathan and Elijah
  • daughters Elizabeth, Mary Ann, Susannah, and Sarah

All of the Nixons who have a connection with Susan Tucker are in this record. Guardian Levi. Surety Isaac. Foster mother (for lack of a better term) Sarah. Knowing that things like guardianships and sureties typically were not carried out by strangers, my conclusion is the following:

Susan Tucker was the daughter of William and Mary Ann (Nixon) Tucker. Something happened to William and Mary Ann between 1840 and 1848. They had no outstanding property in 1848, so there was no probate. The legal interests of the Tucker children were small, accounting for the small amount of the surety. Susan’s guardian was her uncle Levi, with surety provided by her uncle Isaac. Susan actually lived with her aunt Sarah.

No one piece of documentation states that Susan Tucker was the daughter of William Tucker and Mary Ann Nixon, or that Susan was the granddaughter of Robert Nixon. But taken as a whole, this conclusion fits the facts.

References   [ + ]

1. Melzena Ramsey death certificate, certificate #41254 (1914), Ohio Historical Society, Columbus. Also available on FamilySearch.org.
2. Susan Kelley, FindAGrave.com.
3. Susan Kelly (sic) death certificate, certificate #10989 (1914), Ohio Historical Society, Columbus. Also available on FamilySearch.org
4. Mrs. Susan Kelly obituary, New Lexington (Ohio) Herald, 5 March 1914
5. John Kelley and Susan Tucker marriage, marriage volume 4, page 231, Perry County, Ohio. Downloaded from FamilySearch.
6. Metzer Kindall household, 1850 U.S. census, Hopewell township, Perry County, Ohio, page 384B.
7. Metzar Kendall household, 1860 U.S. census, Hopewell Township, Perry County, Ohio, page 413.
8. Perry County, Ohio marriage volume 2-3, page 117, Perry County, Ohio Probate Court.
9. Perry County marriage volume 1, page 183, Perry County, Ohio Probate Court.
10. William W. Tucker household, 1840 U.S. Census, Jackson Township, Perry County, Ohio, page 130.

14 thoughts on “How I Found My Orphaned Milkmaid (Susan Tucker Kelley – 52 Ancestors #40)

  1. Ellen

    Nice piece of research. Similar to what happened to my GGGrandfather, whose parents both died in 1843/1844, leaving very young children who were split up among households. There was no will but I eventually found information in orphans court records. Thanks for sharing!

    Reply
    1. Amy Johnson Crow Post author

      Thanks, Ellen! Sometimes, it’s the harder-to-find ancestors who keep us going! Though there are times when you just want to say, “Ok, I’m interested. You can show yourself now!” :)

      Reply
    1. Amy

      Thanks, Cathy! When you come across a problem like this, you have to be open to researching people who may or may not be related to you.

      Reply
  2. Celia Lewis

    I’ve got a family in the early-mid 1800s in my ex-husband’s family who have two little boys (with totally different surname) living with them until they’re in their 20s, then living nearby. Couldn’t find the boys’ surname living anywhere within the counties surrounding the ‘foster’ family. Surely they’re related… but I have yet to find out how. Later. In the new year!

    Reply
  3. bethbenko

    I really enjoyed reading this case. Great job of detective work. My father’s family is from the same area – mostly Hocking Co., but some in Perry, Fairfield, and Muskingum counties. They are not related (that I know of) but, I have seen Nunamakers in census records. They were neighbors of my ancestors.

    Reply
  4. Peggy Lauritzen

    Amy, this was absolutely excellent. The research you did, in addition to putting together the puzzle pieces was a good lesson for us all. I remember an article you wrote quite awhile ago that mentioned how we are all beginners, for we are constantly starting over when we run across a new surname or family line. This makes me want to go back and look at lines that I had no hope in.

    Thanks for writing this. I’m hanging on to this one!

    Reply
    1. Amy Johnson Crow Post author

      Thanks, Peggy! I’ve been meaning to write this up for OGS, but just haven’t gotten around to it.

      Re: lines with no hope — it amazes me sometimes what I find when I go back to a line I haven’t looked at in ages. That distance can give us fresh eyes to see those answers we’ve been missing!

      Reply
  5. Jessica

    I was at your session at midwest roots in Indy this year when you told this story… it inspired me so much and gave me the will ( and some helpful tips) to keep plugging away at some of my difficult ancestors! Thanks!

    Reply
    1. Amy Johnson Crow Post author

      You’re welcome! Thank you so much for stopping by and for the kind words! Good luck with your research!

      Reply

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