Writer's note: this ended up being a much longer article than I had anticipated. Please let me know whether it is too detailed, and I will adjust future posts accordingly.
This set of photos came to me in a slightly interesting manner. Most photos I pick up at auctions or antique stores. This one however was purchased for me by my parents after mentioning that I was interested in old picture frames. The frame that held these two photos was smaller than I had wanted, but it certainly provided me with a new family to explore!
These photos were both tucked inside the same frame with names, and in the case of Anna Stebbins, her birth date, the name of her husband and marriage date, and her death date on the back.
Anna is in the photo in the top left, Ellen the top right. Ellen's photo was behind Anna's and is obviously newer.
Ellen Parker's photo on the other hand is a snapshot from a personal camera. You can even see the shadow of the person taking the picture. It's hard to tell whether the photographer was male or female based on just the shadow though.
My initial impressions of Ellen was that she was probably in her 40s or 50s, and the photo was likely taken in the 1920s. Based on that, I felt it was possible she was Harvey W. Parker's second wife, sister, sister-in-law, or possibly daughter or daughter-in-law (though that seemed a bit less likely).
Now to the research!
First, I started with Anna since the photo had already provided me with all the essential data. Parker is a common name but I thought, how many Anna Stebbins could there be! As it turned out, more than I thought. There was even one almost exactly the right age in the 1860 census in Michigan. I entertained the idea for a while that she could have been from Michigan, but moved past it. I knew my parents had not purchased the photo anywhere near Michigan so I decided to do what I don't always like to do. I checked the public tree database at Ancestry.
Now, for anyone who has looked for people there, there are two absolutes,
(1) Pretty much anyone you search for pre-1880 will be there in at least name
(2) Many trees are created by overusing the copy/paste function without proper verification
As for the second point, I will admit I was guilty of this myself early on in my search. I remember spending many nights adding in "relatives" to my tree from other researchers trees, presuming they had done their due diligence. What a mess that created! In some ways I was lucky. I have very few colonial lines and most of the errors I had added were along those lines. Where I was not lucky though? Several of the large trees I had added through "download". I am not sure if Ancestry still allows this, but back in the day you could say "link to this person in my tree" and then it would ask if you wanted to download just ancestors/descendants/or both. In many cases I chose both. This has left me to the unpleasant task of weeding out these now unconnected descendants after deleting our "common" ancestors.
Now, I will generally trust any information post 1850. Not enough to add to my tree, but enough to contact the owner and/or use as a reference for my own research. Anything before that is highly suspect since this is where most of the errors lie. That is my long two cents on the public trees! Now back to Anna!
As it turned out from the public trees, I was correct. The Anna Stebbins from Michigan was in fact not the Anna Stebbins I had pictured. The real Anna Stebbins was the daughter of George W. Stebbins and his wife Jerusha. I had been unable to locate them in the 1860 census originally because Anna's name was incorrectly recorded as "Adda".
In 1860 her parents were both 32 years old. The family was living in Portland, Chautauqua Co, NY. George was a farmer, and his wife was a housekeeper. Anna was recorded as six months old and their only child. In actuality though, she would have been seven months and nearly eight. Born December 13th 1859, the census was recorded on the 10th of August 1860. I cannot explain this discrepancy but can only say that inaccuracies in age are not uncommon, especially in census records.
Next up was the 1870 census. Now here is one instance where public trees are not correct on post-1850 data. Every tree I clicked on had both of Anna's parents dying in 1865. So I was anticipating I would find an orphaned girl living with a relative of one of her parents. Instead I found she was living with both parents who were still very much alive!
In 1870 the family was still living in Portland, her parents now 42, and her father George still a farmer. Anna was listed a 10 years old and she now had a younger brother John aged 8. All born in New York.
The 1880 census was when I knew for a fact I had the right Anna Stebbins. In 1880, her parents George and Jerusha were now listed as living in Chautauqua, Chautauqua Co, NY. Her brother John E. was 17 and still living at home. It was here that I learned that although both George and Jerusha were born in New York, George's parents were from Massachusetts, and Jerusha's were from Vermont (or at least her father was, her mother's place of birth was blank).
Anna Stebbins Parker and her husband Harvey were also recorded in Chautauqua, Chautauqua Co, NY in 1880. Anna aged 20 and Harvey 25 were recorded 4 pages away from her parents, and were at the time living with Harvey's parents, William Parker aged 68 and his wife Sarah aged 63. Both were born in England. In addition, Harvey's older brother Edwin W. aged 31 and his wife Eva, aged 20, were living next door. And coincidentally or not, Harvey's other brother Ellis was living two doors down from Anna's parents with his own family.
Skipping to the 1900 census, we can essentially seen Anna and Harvey's entire marriage. They are still living in Chautauqua, and on the surface very little appears to have changed except that they now have seven children living with them. Anna is recorded as having given birth to eight however, so we know one died young. Their children are Frederick age 19, Grace 16, Albert 14, Grant 12, Edna 9, George 4, and Ruth 2. All in all they appear to be living a very happy, stable life. Based on the photo though we know that is about to change shortly.
In 1903, Anna dies leaving Harvey a widower. With their youngest child Ruth only 4, this must have been a terrible shock. Harvey never remarried after her death. He also outlived Anna by 47 years, dying in 1950. Throughout his life it appears his daughter Edna stayed with him, taking care of him and never marrying herself.
I finally found an article on Harvey in the history of Chautauqua county, which I have posted below for anyone interested. Please excuse the sizing issues, I cannot figure out how to set them correctly at the moment!
Since this is a long enough post already, Ellen Parker will have to wait for part 2!