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. I had also quickly found the burial place for Susan and her husband John Kelley in Hopewell Methodist Episcopal Cemetery in Perry County, Ohio. 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 easy peasy. Her parents names, however…
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.
Finding that obituary 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.
That marriage record 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.
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 and 1860 ? 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. 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. The 1840 census of Jackson Township, Perry County lists a William W. Tucker with the following household:
- 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).
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.