Saturday, June 22, 2013

Kindly Relatives Build a Brick Wall

I have run smack into a brick wall on my maternal family line, and I'm stumped about how to bust it down. Mary Jane (Andrus) Bair was my 3rd great-grandmother. She is my mother's mother's mother's mother's mother. In other words, she represents my direct maternal line. The question is who was her mother?

Mary Jane was born December 9, 1862 in Bradford County, Pennsylvania. Her mother, identity unknown, died when she was three weeks old. According to Mary Jane's death certificate, issued in Kansas on July 24, 1945, her father was Jerome Andrus, son of Darwin and Elizabeth Andrus. Her biological mother was listed as "unknown".

Mary Jane's obituary says that, following her mother's untimely death, she was left to "kindly relatives, Mr. and Mrs. Jared Beardsley, who adopted her as their own on January 3, 1863." The Beardsley family soon moved to Iowa where Mary Jane met and married Michael Theodore Bair on May 15, 1878. Shortly after their marriage, they moved to Kansas in a covered wagon. They raised a family in Rooks County that boasted sixteen children.

I have not heard any family rumors or speculation about the identity of her mother. Her father was an Andrus, and Jared Beardsley's wife was named Elizabeth (Betsy) Andrus. I'm uncertain of the relationship between these two - perhaps cousins.

If the "kindly relatives" are through Jerome Andrus' line, that may mean there's no blood connection between the adoptive parents and the biological mother. That further complicates the search. I corresponded with the Bradford County Historical Society, but they were unable to turn up any leads.

I was hopeful they would find record (newspaper clipping?) of either a young woman dying during childbirth, a burial record for a young woman from this time, or an official adoption record. However, I'm unsure of whether the adoption would need to be official in 1863 (the height of the Civil War) - meaning there were courts and legal documents involved.

Perhaps this is the end of the line?


  1. It's a bit hard to give any advise without knowing all the resources you've already checked (the 1860 census, for instance), however, I would start with the following: First, learn about the relevant courts in Pennsylvania and who has custody of their records. Second, find out everything you can about the subsequent history of her biological father and her adoptive family. Did her father remarry? Sometimes the first daughter was named to memorialize the first wife. What church did her adoptive family attend in their final location? There's a good chance her parents were married in the same denomination. Finally, look at the counties surrounding Bedford, including those in Maryland and West Virginia. Just because her adoptive family was in Bedford doesn't mean that her birth family was in the same county.
    Good Luck,

  2. Thanks for this feedback, Mike. These are great suggestions. I've had some difficulty in figuring out what happened to her father Jerome, but mapping out his whereabouts would likely provide additional clues. Your point about the first daughter named to memorialize the first wife is noteworthy. I hadn't considered that possibility, but will investigate. You've given me a lot to chew on. I appreciate it!