Saturday, June 08, 2013

New conclusions from old clues

Sometimes old documents, revisited,  shed new light, as in the following case:

The re-reading of  a newsy letter to my paternal grandmother, written by her older half-sister, recently stirred me to action --  suddenly I was determined to try to find out more about the people whose names were scattered in its pages. The missive was dated July 14, 1916, just a few weeks before its writer, Jaley Howard Parkison Green,  died in Kansas City, MO.  My grandmother, Mary Elizabeth "Matie" Howard Cain, was living in tiny Rome City (Noble County), Indiana, at the time, but both women had grown up near Rensselaer, in Jasper County, Indiana.
Jennie Parkison (L), and  Mary E. Howard

Jaley writes about hearing of “Jennie Moody’s passing away so peacefully with all her children with her for weeks before.” She adds some details about those attentive children, then continues: “Jennie was a little school girl when I lived at her father’s home when Frank (Jaley’s son) was 5 years old. Jennie was a sweet good little girl and grew to make a good mother of a lovely family…”

I knew that Jaley had been widowed in 1862 when her first husband, Benjamin Franklin Parkison, died in the Civil War, and that she had borne a son, Franklin Lee Parkison, five months later. A quick look at the 1870 census for Jasper County showed her and Frank (by this time 7 years old) in the household of William Kenton Parkison, who was Benjamin’s brother. Also in the household was Jennie Parkison, age 13.

The Parkisons were a well-established, and prolific, family in the area, but since the only link to my Howards was this brief marriage, I had chosen not to follow up on their various other families or offspring when I first learned of the connection. I told myself there were far more closely related names I should be examining.

That resolve faded with my decision to work on Jaley’s references. Various online searches yielded the fact that one Jennie P. Moody in fact had died on July 4, 1916, in Jasper County.  And if my Jennie was living in the William K. Parkison household in 1870, as  both the census and Jaley declared, it was apparent that the intial “P”in her married name stood for Parkison. Later I found confirmation in a marriage record for Jennie Parkison and Granville Moody, in the same county.  So that nice little bit of research added some background to the remarks in Jaley’s letter.

[These searches, as you know, aren’t done in tidy chronological order. You start with what you have -- a married name and approximate death date in this case, with reference to a time and place that might be confirmed by the census, and go from there.]

But that wasn’t all.

 I keep a journal of my genealogical efforts, for inspiration and enjoyment, and yesterday I was browsing recent entries when a sentence jumped out at me: “Scanned a photo of Matie  with a playmate named Jennie.” Oh yes!!  From the styles, and my grandmother’s known birthdate, I estimated the year at about 1867, and the two girls were surely close family friends in order to have posed for a formal photograph.

The 1900 census shows Mary J. Moody (by then Jennie was Granville’s wife), was born September, 1856. My Grandmother was born a year later. All these facts, put together from a letter and a photograph, and supported by census, marriage and death records, convince me that the “Jennie” of the picture is Mary Jane (Jennie) Parkison Moody. So now I not only know who the Jennie of the Jaley’s letter is, but I have what is most likely a picture of her as a child!

It does go to show that it is important to return again -- and again -- to documents and photos for new clues, or old clues that lead to new conclusions.

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