#52Ancestors: 12 kids in 24 yrs, then 36 yrs a widow: the life of Eunice Loomis Bartoo [Tweet this]
What are the basic components needed to build an ancestor profile? If there is a “Step One” to assembling the puzzle pieces of a person’s life, what would that be?
Eunice Loomis. Isn’t that a lovely name? She was once the bride of Jesse Bartoo and lived in Chenango county NY, and as I write these words, that is the sum total of what I know about her. I picked a relative I have not researched before for this post—and here we go!
I know of Eunice Loomis’ existence from Our family records, Eli Bartoo, 1938, Record V-5, Jesse Bartoo, page 28 (via Ancestry.com), a compilation and therefore a derivative source. Rather than simply copy its details, I want to take a more methodical approach.
Step #1. Locate your ancestor in every available census.
I found her (as Eunice Bartoo, of course) in the 1850 Federal enumeration, the 1855 New York State census, and on the 1860 Federal mortality schedule.
Pre-1850 Federal censuses are a challenge when looking for persons other than the head of household, but I was able to locate tic marks likely to represent Eunice in 1800, 1820, and 1830.
All records refer to Greene, Chenango county, New York, USA, except as noted.
- 1800: Inferred to be the female age 16-25 in the household of Jesse Bartoo.
- 1810: Not found in a manual search of the census record for Greene, New York.
- 1820: Inferred to be the female age 26-44 in the household of Jesse “Bartlow.”
- 1830: Inferred to be the female age 50-59 in the household of Smith Barto.
- 1840: Not found as a possibility in Hiram or Smith Bartoo’s households.
- 1850: Eunice Bartoo, mother, age 71, is listed in Hiram Bartoo’s household.
- 1855: Eunice Bartoo, mother, age 76, is listed in Hiram Bartoo’s household.
- 1860: Eunice Barto, age 81, died within the census year. Recorded at Columbus, Chenango county, NY.
Rabbit hole #1.
Jesse Bartoo’s Find-A-Grave index entry put his death at 12/24/1823. As I searched, this record kept popping up, and no matter how much I did not want to look at it in this early stage, there it was, tainting my conclusions. I didn’t acknowledge it until I realized that the clue about Jesse’s death was driving my search for Eunice with her children in 1830-1840. (That and the fact that Jesse didn’t appear in the censuses, obviously.)
Of course, Eunice herself was also listed on Find-A-Grave. I made a note of the details included in her record, then set them aside in hopes of finding better quality records.
Step #2. Arrange known life events into a rough timeline.
Creating a timeline helps contextualize the many scattered details found in census returns. A linear framework helps focus the rest of the research.
Eunice’s age is reported consistently across records, so I’m fairly confident she was born in about 1779 in Massachusetts. Her son Hiram was born in about 1798, so if he is her oldest, we can infer that she was probably married to Jesse Bartoo by the time she reached age 18.
She moved to Greene, Chenango county, New York in about 1805 (but from where?) and lived there the rest of her life. Her widowhood lasted over thirty years and was spent living with her children. She died of dropsy in November 1859.
(Quick side note: if you don’t know what dropsy means, you’re not alone. I’ll be posting about resources for historical medical references in April, so subscribe now and don’t miss it.)
Step #3. Validate timeline events with other sources.
Once I constructed a framework for Eunice’s life, I was ready to seek other records to confirm and refine the details. Theoretically.
Unfortunately, I struck out on birth records and marriage records, except for the U.S. and International Marriage Records, 1560-1900 database on Ancestry. It validated the union between Eunice Loomis and Jesse “Barteau,” and gave his birth year as 1775, which matches Find-A-Grave.
I still didn’t want to use the details from Find-A-Grave as a source, however, so I kept looking.
Rabbit hole #2.
I spent some time browsing probate records on FamilySearch in hopes of locating some pertinent details about Eunice. I did not succeed. That’s life.
I did, however, read her son Hiram Bartoo’s will, and I determined that there are many, many Loomis wills to read in Chenango county, should I find myself wishing to do so.
Back to Step #3.
After a good bit of fruitless searching, I turned to the histories. However, I want to highlight that it was important that I spent time going after other sources first. Otherwise, how would I have known that this……was almost completely wrong?
The histories fill in names, dates and places, although I still wish I could verify them with original sources. However, the most revealing detail I learned about Eunice was the long list of her children’s names and dates of birth and death. Jesse and Eunice had twelve children between 1798 and 1821—one every two or three years like clockwork. When Jesse died suddenly on his 48th birthday (and Christmas Eve, no less), eight of their twelve children were under age 18—and four were under 10. Those were certainly hard years for her.
Nonetheless, there is a silver lining here, too. All twelve of her children outlived her. She didn’t have to grieve a one of them.
Step #4. Put your ancestor’s life in context.
As long as we’re looking at the history books, it’s a good time to ask some broader questions. What was happening in the world, in the United States, in New York, in Chenango county, when Eunice was alive? We know about her family life, but what did her town look like? What were the important topics of her day?
To answer that question fully gets beyond the scope of a blog post, but we can sketch out some details. According to History of Chenango and Madison Counties, New York : with illustrations and biographical sketches of some to its prominent men and pioneers, James H. Smith, Syracuse, N.Y.: D. Mason & Co., 1880 (via Ancestry.com):
The town of Greene was settled in 1792. The native American populations were the Oneidas, who remained in the area, mingled with the settlers, and were reportedly friendly toward them. Between 1792-1796, a settlement of French refugees of the Revolution both formed and failed.In 1794, Derrick Race and John Hollenbeck made settlements on the west side of the Chenango River. Race was a surveyor from Egremont, Mass., and it seems likely that his efforts ushered other settlers from Egremont, the Loomises and Bartoos included. Perhaps the French presence was attractive to Jesse, as at least one record retains the “Barteau” spelling of his French ancestors, but that is merely speculation on my part. By the time this history was published in 1880 (granted, more than 20 years after Eunice’s death), the town had grown up and boasted churches, schools, stores, shops, a newspaper, a bank, and more.
Rabbit hole #3:
An interesting note I can’t help but include: in 1829, a large circular mound about 2 miles south of Greene was found to be a mass grave, full of rudely buried human bones along with relics and artifacts. Whether it belonged to the Oneida or another people group was not determined. Can’t you just imagine what a local stir that discovery would have caused?
Step #5. Put together your ancestor profile.
At the end, it’s a simple matter of putting the pieces together. Or in this case, mostly, circling back around to the original source with a level of confidence that the information it contains is true.
It’s a start
Of course, building an ancestor profile doesn’t mean your work is complete. In some cases, it’s merely the foundation for complicated puzzles you’ll spend years solving.
Need a roadmap? Click here to download a free, editable ancestor profile worksheet for Excel. using the steps described in this post.
Disclaimer, disclaimer! I’m an amateur researcher, learning as I go along. Also, my main job is writing fiction … so, making things up. Just wanted you to know. 😀
What about you?
Share your tips and perspectives on creating personal profiles for ancestors in the comments below. I’m particularly interested to hear from Fold3 users. Do you make use that sites functionality to create personal profiles? Do you find it helpful?
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I love discoveries related to namesakes and naming patterns, so next week we’ll talk a bit about analyzing onomastic evidence!
P.S. As promised: here are the numbered sources for this post!
(7) Federal Census Mortality Schedules, 1850-1885 (via Ancestry.com). New York State Education Department, Office of Cultural Education; Albany, New York; U.S. Census Mortality Schedules, New York, 1850-1880; Archive Roll Number: M3; Census Year: 1859; Census Place: Columbus, Chenango, New York. Record for Eunice Barto.
(8) Record for Eunice Loomis. U.S. and International Marriage Records, 1560-1900 (via Ancestry.com). Yates Publishing. Source number: 1056.000; Source type: Electronic Database; Number of Pages: 1; Submitter Code: LSM. Original data: Extracted from a variety of sources including family group sheets and electronic databases. Originally, the information was derived from an array of materials including pedigree charts, family history articles, querie.
(9) History of Chenango and Madison Counties, New York : with illustrations and biographical sketches of some to its prominent men and pioneers, James H. Smith, Syracuse, N.Y.: D. Mason & Co., 1880 (via Ancestry.com). Chapter XIX, Town of Greene.