Thursday, February 6, 2014

Finding Nettie

Clarissa Janette Wiggins Owen 1855-aft 1920

     Doctor Richard Wiggins...sounds grand doesn't it?  He was my 3rd great grandfather and I know next to nothing about him.  The 1850 census claims he was a "physician", both of them.  I say both because the census taken in Rome Township, Lenawee, Michigan on September 10 says he lived there in 1850 with his five children ages 10-2.  The 1850 census of the Township of Wolcott, New York taken July 29 says he was there with his parents William and Elizabeth along with two of his children, John and George.  The two oldest, William and Charles are missing and so is Hannah, the baby.

     This is my quandary, was he visiting back east in 1850?  Was he about to move to Michigan when the census taker knocked on his parent's door?  And where were his three other children while he was in New York?  Or the children's mother Hannah Ostrander for that matter, who isn't in either census?  I know she died around that time so presumably she was in a cemetery.  It's all very odd.  There is another mystery here too, and her name is Clarissa Wiggins.  It appears that after his first wife died, Dr. Richard married Susan Gray, presumably in New York since Susan was born there and so was their child Clarissa, in 1855.  That much all the censuses agree on.  Doc died in 1857 and is buried in New York, at least there is a stone with his name on it there.  But somehow, Susan and Clarissa wound up in Michigan?????

     Doc's parents moved to Michigan by 1860, maybe they took his widow Susan and Clarissa with them?  At any rate, they moved to Michigan too and the 1860 census taken there shows Susan now married to Abel Aldrich, old enough to be her father by the way, with Clarissa Wiggins also in the household.  Susan came to a sad end; Abel died, she wound up in the poorhouse with consumption, and died herself in 1870, leaving Clarissa an orphan at age 15.  For a time I feared Clarissa had met the same fate, I could not find her in the 1870 census.  The only clue I had about Clarissa was the obituary of her half brother William H. Wiggins, my great-great-grandfather.

    William H. Wiggins, seventy-six, died yesterday at the home of  his daughter, Mrs. Mary Lash.  He was a veteran of the Civil War and besides his daughter is survived by two sisters;  Mrs. Hannah Beasley, of Ithica Michigan, and Mrs. Nettie Owen, of Auburn, Michigan...

     Hannah is obviously the baby in the 1850 Michigan census, but who was Nettie?  Could it possibly be Clarissa?  It could!  Today I was running some searches on Ancestry and found an entry for Clarissa Janette Wiggins, and a photo.  Right age, right birthplace.  Note the spelling of Ja-NETTE, accent on the second syllable. In 1860 she is recorded as Clarissa, in 1870 she is Janette, (no wonder I couldn't find her), in 1900 she is Clarissa J. Owen, since she had married, and in 1910, a spelling challenged enumerator wrote Ginette C. -- Janette, Nette...Nettie, I think we have a winner!

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