Monday, January 18, 2010

I Think Elizabeth's Mother Was Not A Bell

From family records we know that Elizabeth Armitage was ...
...the wife of Henry C. Meinzen (married April 1870)
...the mother of my grandfather, William Carl Robert Meinzen
...the daughter of Abel Armitage, and
...the sister of Ann Armitage

Early in my family history endeavors, Alan H. passed on the information that Elizabeth’s parents were Abel and Ann (Bell) Armitage.

Further research indicated that Elizabeth was born in England and came to America in 1864 (1900 census); and confirmed that her father’s name was Abel Armitage (Ohio death certificate).

The strange thing was that on her death certificate, the space for mother’s name was marked “unknown.” I started to wonder why Elizabeth’s family wouldn’t know her mother’s name if they knew her father’s name, especially since Abel and Ann Armitage, with a number of children, also lived in Steubenville where Elizabeth and Henry lived (1870 and 1880 census).

I found the death certificates for several other of Abel's and Ann’s children and all of them noted Abel as the father and Ann Bell as the mother. If the other children knew both parents’ names, it didn’t make sense to me that Elizabeth wouldn’t know her mother’s name – unless Ann Bell was not her mother. And if Elizabeth and both parents were living in the same city and had all come to the U.S. from England, why would Elizabeth not have told her children (one of whom completed the information on the death certificate) her mother’s name, too -- unless Ann Bell was not her mother?

Not long after I found these bits of information, I learned that the British census records were available online. I checked the 1861 British census, the first in which Elizabeth would have appeared, since she was born in 1852. I found this, lines 2-5:

There’s Elizabeth with Abel, Ann, plus siblings Ann and Peter Bell Armitage living in Trimdon Colliery Villages, Trimdon, Durham, with Abel working as a coal miner. Living beside them are Peter and Isabella Bell with their children. Since the relationship notation for those in the household is “relation to head of family,” I didn’t feel convinced yet that Ann was Elizabeth’s mother.

Next I searched for Abel and family in the 1851 British census, and found this, lines 7-9:

Abel and daughter Ann are there, along with Abel’s wife, Eliza. They are living in Slater’s Square, Bowling, Bradford, Yorkshire, and Abel is working as a rail porter. Is it a stretch for Abel to be a porter in 1851 and a coal miner in 1861? Is it possible that Abel became a widower and married twice?

I requested a birth record for Elizabeth based on the year and quarter she was born with her father Abel as the father. But the record I requested did not have Abel as the father. I read somewhere that in England there was a fee to register a birth. Sometimes if parents didn’t have the money to pay the fee, a birth was registered late and they named a later than actual birth date in order to avoid paying an extra late fee. Perhaps this happened in Elizabeth’s case.

My theory is that Elizabeth’s mother is Eliza and that Eliza passed away sometime between Elizabeth’s birth in August, 1852, and 1858. I have no real evidence yet. I need to find Elizabeth’s birth certificate which should tell me her mother’s given and maiden names (which I hope will be Eliza _____). Then I need to find a death certificate for Elizabeth’s mother and a marriage certificate for Abel and Eliza.

My search continues.

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