Monday, July 8, 2013

Mystery Monday: Who is Aunt Betsy Jenkins? Part 1

Over the past two days, I have taken the time to research a bit of a history mystery. I don't know about my fellow genealogists but every time I take a look at my family tree I see gaping holes! My cousin Diana and I, having conversations on our Plymouth County Massachusetts roots recently piqued my curiosity. So naturally, my interest as of late has landed on my 2nd great grandmother's (Agnes Ellen Gurney) family tree. Dear grandma Agnes left a wonderful gold mine of information when she wrote her memoirs late in life "Some Recollections of a Long Life". In her story she names many family members but unlike a genealogist she doesn't include maiden names or other important facts but, what she does leave are clues, a trail of bread crumbs to follow.

Agnes Ellen Gurney's Family Tree
As I have it so far

Her parents were Ebenezer Henry Gurney (he went by E. Henry much of the time) and Mary Williams Orcutt. Until recently I had known little about this couple but with some digging I have unearthed a few interesting facts previously unknown to me.

The Gurney's of Hanson, Massachusetts were a musical bunch. E. Henry's father was Ebenezer Bourn Keen Gurney who directed the first all brass band in North America. E. Henry's grandfather Thomas Gurney was said to have been a composer.  I am unsure if this is true or not having done a very brief search into music composed by Thomas and coming up with nothing.

E. Henry was born 20 Jan 1841 in Hanson, son of E.B.K. Gurney and Almira Jane Josselyn. On 27 Jan 1861 he married Sylvina W. Everson and that same year he signed up to fight in the American Civil War. At first he was stationed at Fort Monroe down in southeastern Virginia along the coastline. After his initial three month term, E. Henry signed up a second time, this time for a full year during which he went with General Sherman on raids down in Georgia.  He was the company's chief bugler. This last bit information is according to E. Henry's youngest sister, Ella Josephine Gurney, which I have not confirmed at this time.

During these Civil War years E. Henry and Sylvina had two daughters, Amy Semple Gurney and Ella Laforest Gurney. Unfortunately nine months after Ella was born Sylvina died of consumption or for those of you who do not know what consumption is, tuberculosis, on 7 Dec 1866 leaving E. Henry alone with two small girls. 

The mourning period did not last very long as within less than a year after his wife's death on 3 Sept 1867, E. Henry and his very pregnant new bride, Mary Williams Orcutt, eloped to Brookline, New Hampshire to get married. Their daughter and my 2nd great grandmother Agnes Ellen Gurney was born a month later on 12 Oct 1867. If I have done my math correctly E. Henry would have found comfort in the arms of Mary only one month after his wife Sylvina had passed!

Mary Williams Orcutt born on 13 Aug 1844 in Abington Massachusetts was the daughter of Oran Orcutt and Mary J. Jones. According to Agnes Gurney's story her mother Mary Williams Orcutt had a lovely voice and took singing lessons from none other than E. Henry Gurney.  Here is the account in her own words:

"To begin with, I was the child of two old New England families. My father, E. (Ebenezer, probably) Henry Gurney, was a teacher of voice in Boston, and my mother,  Mary Williams Orcutt, was his pupil. I am told she had a very beautiful voice which he took pleasure in developing when he fell in love with and married her."

She goes on to say later on the same page:

"I was born in Pepperell, Massachusetts, on October 12, 1867. When I was three months old my mother brought me to live in the town of East Abington, Plymouth County. Very soon the name of the town was changed to Rockland."

Mary left E. Henry only four months after they were married! What happened I wonder? After a brief search for a divorce record I came up empty so I went looking for the next record that could tell me something, the 1870 US Federal Census.  Sure enough I found Mary and her toddler Agnes living with a Nathan S. and Betsey Jenkins in Abington, Massachusetts.  Again, I went back to the story Agnes told in her later years:

"We boarded with my dear Aunt Betsey Jenkins, and for nine years, that was my childhood home. Aunt Betsey was my grandmother Orcutt's first cousin. She was an unusual woman, with a good mind, but with an uncommon amount of New England reticence and reserve."

So, Aunt Betsey Jenkins was Agnes's grandmother Orcutt's 1st cousin. Grandmother Orcutt's name was Mary J. Jones.  Looking through my family tree I had no good candidates for a Betsey Jenkins. Two obvious questions came to mind and plagued me to no end.  Who was Aunt Betsey and how did she fit in the family tree?

Almost as an after thought to the Aunt Betsey questions, I asked, "Where was E. Henry Gurney in 1870?" I quickly found my answer after a little digging.  He was living in Pembroke, Massachusetts with his eldest sister Almira J. Gurney Bryant and her family working as a music agent.

Looking at E. Henry's 1870 US Federal Census one more question begs to be asked. Where are his two daughters by his first wife Sylvina? They are certainly not living with him when the census was taken.  The answer is...Amy Semple Gurney is living in Hanson Massachusetts with E. Henry's sister Deborah Gurney Hood and Ella Laforest Gurney is living with her dead mother's parents William and Salome Everson also Hanson Massachusetts. Easy enough to find but sad that the young two sisters couldn't stay together.

So back to original question. Who was Aunt Betsey Jenkins? More on this later...

1 comment:

  1. FYI: The Hood family and Everson family lived diagonally across the street from each other on Pleasant St. Hanson MA so the sisters became neighbors.