Thursday, June 5, 2014

The Puzzle of Jacob Froman's Marriage - 52 Ancestors

There were not many Fromans in Mercer County, Pennsylvania in the late 1800s so I thought research for Jacob Froman would be fairly straightforward.  Some of it is, but there was a surprise in the records that's created an uncertainty for me.

Jacob is the second child and second son of John and Catherine (Saylor) Froman.  According to his father's intestate court file he was born on October 20, 1864.

U.S. Census records give the following accounts of Jacob.

1870  Pymatuning Township, Sharpsville P.O., Mercer County, PA
  • 5 years old
  • living with his parents (not identified as such)
  • 4 siblings (not identified as such):  John, 7; Lizzie, 4; Theressa, 2; and Adam, 1
  • in the household:  Catherine Botany, 25, servant; and Casper Froman, 18. 

1880  Pymatuning Township, Mercer County, PA
  • age 15 
  • single
  • living with his widowed mother, Catherine, and
  • living with siblings:  John, 17; Elizabeth, 14; Teressa, 12; Adam, 11; Gustave, 9; Kate, 8
  • coal miner, unemployed 4 months
  • attended school

1900  Lake Township, Mercer County, Pennsylvania
  • age 35, born October 1864
  • widow
  • living with brother, John as head of household; and mother, Catherine
  • coal miner, 0 months unemployed
  • can read and write

1910  Lake Township, Mercer County, Pennsylvania
  • age 45
  • widow
  • living with brother, John (head of household) and Rebecca; mother, Catherine
  • farmer, general farming
  • can read and write

1920  Stoneboro, Mercer County, Pennsylvania
  • age 55
  • single
  • living with mother as separate family but in the same house as brother John & wife Rebecca on Linden Street
  • neighbors include brother Gust Froman and sister Elizabeth (Froman) Proud and their families
  • section foreman at railroad
  • can read and write

1930  Stoneboro, Mercer County, Pennsylvania
  • age 65
  • widow; first marriage at 23
  • living alone, Linden Street
  • next door neighbor is brother John F. and wife
  • laborer working on streets
  • can read and write

I have the briefest information on this family from family records given to me by my father's half-sister, Tressa (Doyle) Wilson.  I'd entered Jacob's birth and death years into PAF (which transferred to RootsMagic) but little else since this is my first real focus on the Froman family.

When I typed Jacob's name and birth year into the search box at FamilySearch, up popped a marriage record.  Ah, I thought, even if I don't know his wife's death year, I will at least know her name.

From the marriage record I learned that
Jacob Froman, a resident of Stoneboro,
born in Pennsylvania,
age 24 years, 7 months, 12 days
Nancy Clark, a resident of Stoneboro,
born in Ireland,
age 22 years, 6 months, 16 days
obtained a marriage license on June 1, 1889.

They were married on June 4, 1889 in at Jamestown, Pa, by J. T. Davis, Minister.

I am always thrilled when I can obtain a document for an ancestor's marriage.

Last night before bed I took just a moment to do one last search for Nancy (Clark) Froman and Jacob Froman.  Oh, surprise!  Another marriage record for Jacob Froman.  With someone who wasn't Nancy Clark.  Hmmmm.

What I noticed was that Jacob Froman of Mercer County, Pennsylvania had been divorced and was obtaining a license to marry Maria Watts.  Oh, wait!  Nothing was making sense.  I couldn't think straight about the dates let alone the information.  I was just too tired to deal with it -- and went to bed with Jacob and his marriages on my mind. 

This morning I opened RootsMagic to remind myself what information I already had.  Then I looked at my aunt's family records information again.  And I looked at the records from Oak Hill Cemetery where Jacob was buried again.

In my aunt's information I saw "wife was Marie - born 1875 - died 1899.  They had one son, Jacob, died at 7 months in 1899."

The Oak Hill Cemetery Records are handwritten transcriptions given to me on request from the Cemetery secretary.  They read:

               Lot 117E, Owner Jacob F. Froman, deed dated Dec. 20, 1928
               Jacob Froman age 70 March 26, 1925
     side margin note:     moved from 97H Nov. 10, 1930
                                     original owner of 97H was Jacob Froman, deed dated 9-1-1899
               Jacob Froman age 24 Feb 1, 1899
               Marie Froman age 7 mo. Sept. 14, 1899

When I opened the marriage record for Jacob and Maria, I saw with fresh eyes.

Jacob Froman, born in Greenville, Mercer Co., Pa
on 24 October 1864, residing in Stoneboro,
a  farmer, married before, divorce obtained at Mercer in 1893 [on] ground of desertion
Maria Watts, born in England
on 5 September 1874, residing in Stoneboro,
a housekeeper,
obtained a marriage license on April 12, 1898.

They were married on April 14, 1898 by Rev. David Porterfield.

I suspect that parts of the Oak Hill Cemetery record transcription had been reversed and should read
               Maria Froman, age 24
               Jacob Froman, age 7 months
But I have no way of knowing if the dates of death were reversed or not.

It all makes sense now:  Jacob was married twice.  But how sad for him to have been deserted by his first wife then lose his second wife and baby so soon after marriage.  Were there complications at childbirth?  Did Maria die during or soon after childbirth?  Or did the baby die first?  Was there some illness that took them?  I know there's more to this story but I don't know that I'll ever learn more unless threads were published in local, gossipy newspapers.  I know Mercer County kept court records of deaths during some years because I've seen them at the very beginning of the marriage records on FamilySearch but I don't believe they're open to the public, at least not yet.  If they ever open them I may learn more then.

I'm always pleased to learn marriage information for an ancestor, especially when the marriage didn't result in divorce!
. . . . . . . . . . . . . .

This post is in response to Amy Johnson Crow's call to her readers to write about 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks


© 2014 Copyright by Nancy Messier. All rights reserved.


  1. I love it when I have very little info on an ancestor and then with a few clicks I find the mother lode.

    I wonder why Jacob's burial plot was moved.

    1. Yes, Wendy, it is such a nice surprise when so much information becomes available quickly. It actually feels like progress!

      Jacob bought a plot for his wife and son when they died in 1899. When I look all all the information from the cemetery my impression is that when John's and Jacob's mother died in 1928, John bought a plot large enough for not only her but many others in the family. It was after that purchase that the decision was made to move little Jacob and his mother, Maria, to the plot John bought. I have no idea how the decision came about, of course. Jacob is buried there in the plot with his wife, his son, his mother, and his brother and sister-in-law, John and Rebecca.

      I thought perhaps the plot where Maria and little Jacob were buried were given to another member of the family and it may have been, but I don't have information about that. I only know it was not to either of his brothers, Adam or Gust. It could have gone to one of his sisters, but I only requested cemetery records for Fromans, not for Turners, Prouds, or Doyles. One more thing to add to my to do list!

  2. In looking at the cemetery record, I would guess that they just mixed up the names. That makes sense as the "easiest" mistake. By this I mean that you have three facts for each person: name, age, death date. Already we know the names were transposed. If the death dates are also transposed, that would be a second mistake, It isn't impossible, however it makes more sense that just one error was made in the transcribing. Also, the deaths are 7 months apart, so if the child died in September, that makes the February date very close to his birthdate. Again, it isn't verifiable, but childbirth is probably the likeliest cause of death to a young woman in those days. Therefore, I think it is a safe guess (until you have further information) that the deaths are correct for the mother and child.

    1. I'm thinking the same way you are, JoAnne. I may try to clarify the info either with a letter to the cemetery or seeing if the library has an index of the cemetery with transcriptions for grave markers. I guessed, almost assumed, death at childbirth because of the difference of 7 months in dates. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on the situation. It's always good to have another person's thoughts on the situation.


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