The Journey to Finding the Parents and Grandparents of an Illegitimate Child

22 Nov

I was recently contacted to do some research for a client whose Great-Grandmother was born 1863.  Although she was found on the 1870 census of Delaware County, Indiana; it was clear that the head of this household was not her father.  The great-grandmother’s name was Minnie Priest; according to that census; as well as other records that had been previously discovered.  Although most records gave Minnie’s maiden name as “Priest”; there were a couple of records that gave her maiden name as “Tweedy”.  However; based on the number of records that gave the maiden name as Priest; it was likely that Priest was her maiden name.  I still did not want to ignore the name Tweedy.  After all; we had 2 records that gave that name.  Obviously; someone had reason to believe that Minnie was a Tweedy.

Minnie - 1870 Census


On the above census; we see that Minnie is in the household of Leonard Halstead.  My first instinct was to locate Leonard in 1860 to see if there were Priest families living nearby.  After all; it appeared likely that Minnie’s father or mother was a Priest.

Having been unsuccessful in locating Leonard in 1860; I needed to try other avenues in order to piece things together.  Since Leonard was in Perry Township, Delaware County in 1870; I decided I should still check for Priest’s who may have lived in Perry Township in 1860 (Minnie having been born in 1863).  Indeed; in 1860 I found a household headed by Jeremiah Priest in Perry Township in 1860.  In the 2 images below; Jeremiah’s household begins at the bottom of a census page; and continues on the next page (thus the two images below).


Knowing that this Jeremiah Priest was in Perry Township in 1860; just 3 years before Minnie was born; I wanted to try to learn just how close this Priest family might have lived to Leonard Halstead; even though both were not in Perry Township on the same census.  To determine this; I started looking at the neighbors of Leonard Halstead in 1870; and of Jeremiah Priest in 1860.  Something jumped out at me!

I noticed the Isaac Peters family that was next door to Jeremiah Priest in 1860.  I remembered seeing 2 Peters children in the household of Leonard in 1870!  So… I looked at that 1870 census again.  The oldest of those 2 Peters children who were living with Leonard Halstead in 1870 was Samuel Peters; who was 13 years old.  Notice that this Isaac Peters had a 3 year old son, Samuel; on the 1860 census; and was living next door to Jeremiah Priest!

Because Isaac’s son, Samuel Peters was living with Leonard Halstead (of course Minnie was in Leonard’s household also); I now had reason to believe that Jeremiah Priest and Leonard Halstead had been neighbors at some point between 1860 and 1870; although they were never in the same Township during the census records.  I also have a suspicion at this point that Isaac’s wife, Vesta Jane Peters, might have been a Halstead.  This was something to look for.

At the library the next day; I located the marriage of Isaac Peters to Vesta Halstead!  Bingo!  I now knew that the 2 Peter’s children living with Leonard Halstead in 1870 were actually his grandchildren.  Was Minnie Priest also a grandchild?  After all; Leonard Halstead did have a daughter, Nancy; who was 26 years old; and still living with him in 1870.  I had also found a marriage in 1871 between Nancy Halstead and Barnett “Tweedy!  There’s that Tweedy name!  I knew this meant that it was likely that Nancy Halstead; who later married Barnett Tweedy in 1871 (when Minnie would have been about 8 years old), was probably the mother of Minnie.  That would explain why descendants later would think that Minnie’s father was a Tweedy.

Next I knew I needed to search the court cases in Delaware County.  I now suspected that either Jeremiah himself; or his son Mark or Samuel could be the father of Minnie.  Both Mark and Samuel were old enough to have fathered Minnie with Nancy in 1863.

So…. to the court cases I went.  Searching the court cases; I quickly noticed a Bastardy case in 1864 between Nancy Halstead and Samuel Priest.  The case was over 30 pages in length; and gave a lot of details.  Although it did not specifically name the child; Nancy did state that she had a child fathered by Samuel; who was born in April of 1863.  Although we did not have an exact birth date for Minnie; the 1900 census did give her birth month as April; and she was 7 years old in 1870; placing her born in April of 1863!  This left no question that Nancy Halstead was the mother of Minnie; and Jeremiah’s son, Samuel was the father.  Of course we also had the next generation now as well; knowing that Nancy was the daughter of Leonard Halstead; and Samuel was the son of Jeremiah Priest.

This has opened up many more doors for my client’s research.  She can now pursue these lines further back; being armed with a lot more information.

The moral of this story…..  Pay attention to the little things.  The 13 year old Samuel Peters who was in Leonard Halstead’s household in 1870 was a key piece of information; that lead me down the path I took to finally finding Minnie’s parents.  Also; looking at the marriages in Delaware County of all of the Halstead’s lead me to finding the marriage of Nancy Halstead to Barnett Tweedy.  Of course I had also payed close attention to the neighbors of Jeremiah Priest in 1860; and of Leonard Halstead in 1870.  That was when I discovered Isaac Peters (and 3 year old Samuel Peters) next door to Jeremiah in 1860.

As you can guess; my client was thrilled at finally finding the parents of Minnie; after having searched for several years.  She had even made trips to Delaware County in the past to try to find the answers.  I am thrilled that I was able to help her find those answers.

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Posted by on November 22, 2014 in General Genealogy


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