Did I solve this mystery correctly (despite illegitimacy and inaccurate census information)?

+2 votes
164 views

I have long tried to solve a genealogical mystery of apparent illegitimacy, but census information was a big problem.  Did I solve it correctly?  An additional marriage record and/or 1870 Census record would be helpful. The death record of Silvester Davis (1845?-1928) gives no father's name, but mother's name was Polly Ann Filigel.   Filigel is almost certainly a misspelling of Flegal.  The 1880 Census calls her Mary Ann Davis (but says age 51, born Ohio).  I finally think I have found them in the 1860 Census (but not with the surname Davis) listed as Silvester Flegal (age 11) and Mary Ann Flegal (but her age listed as 25, born Pennsylvania), living with her apparent father Jacob Flegal.   Gets even more confusing, since she is with Jacob Flegal in the same county and township back in the 1850 Census, but her age says 26 (even older than in 1860), and a son named Lewis (age 3), not Silvester (age 1) as I expected.   So I don't know if Silvester and Lewis are the same son (one name a middle name?) or if Lewis died in the 1850s and Silvester was born after 1850 Census (thus really 9 or 10 in 1860, not 11).  Anyway, in spite of all this messiness, I think she is actually even older, Mary Ann Flegal (born 1819) daughter of Jacob Flegal.  If I am right, Mary Ann should have been listed as 41 (not 25) in 1860 and 31 (not 26) in 1850.  And she should have been 61 in 1880 (not 51).  If I am right, the real puzzle arises of why Silvester and mother Mary Ann are listed with the surname Flegal (not Davis) in 1860.  Did she have an illegitimate son Silvester by a Mr. Davis?  Or did she have this illegitimate son with someone else and then finally got married after 1860 to a Mr. Davis (who would then be stepfather to Silvester)?  I guess one might argue that Mary Ann Flegal and Silvester Flegal of 1860 aren't really Mary Ann Davis and Silvester Davis of 1880.   However, Silvestre Davis was born in Williams County (where the Flegals were in 1850 and 1860).  And even more supportive of my theory, Jacob's son William Flegal had daughter Harriet born in Williams County, Ohio (same county where Sylvester Davis was born).   And what really FINALLY convinced me, William Flagel's granddaughter Vera (Flegal) Finisy (https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/113745733/vera-ruby-finisy) is buried in the very same cemetery up in Michigan where Sylvester Davis is buried.   Surely that cannot be just a coincidence.  So my question is, are there any holes in my theory other than the inaccurate information given in the various census accounts?  But if I am right, there is still the question of whether Davis was the surname of Silvester's father or of a stepfather?  I suspect a stepfather, but still need to find a marriage record of Mary Ann Flegal to a Mr. Davis between 1860 and 1880.  Would also be helpful to find Silvester and Mary Ann (surname Flegal or Davis) in the 1870 Census.  

  Silvester Davis:   https://www.wikitree.com/wiki/Davis-71697  (burial:  https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/116663639/sylvester-davis)  

WikiTree profile: Mary Davis
in Genealogy Help by Kenneth Kinman G2G6 Mach 6 (67.7k points)
edited by Kenneth Kinman

1 Answer

+2 votes
Have you considered the next family down in the 1850 census, that seems to list a Maryjane Flagel, daughter of William Flagel? Perhaps William the brother? Could it be that these families are closely related and the daughters have been at some point confused or conflated?  And that this might account for the discrepancy in birthdates?

I note also that Jacob is listed as 66 in 1850 and 81 in 1860.
by Lois Tilton G2G6 Pilot (127k points)
edited by Lois Tilton
Actually I read William's daughter name as Maryann (not Maryjane), born about 1842.  I think William must have named her after his sister Mary Ann (b. 1819).  Maryann born 1842 is not involved in any of the census records that I am researching, and she was married in 1865 to George Albert.  If my theory is correct Maryann (b. 1842) was the niece of Mary Ann (b. 1819).  So yes, I have considered her as a relative, but she does not seem to cause any confusion.
It is quite a scrawl down at the bottom of the page there, hard to parse it exactly.  Just a thought.
Mary Flegal is listed in the household of her father William in the 1860 Census and her age given as 17 (which also indicates a birthyear of about 1842).  And as stated in my previous comment she was married in 1865 to George Albert.  Anyway, William Flegal seems to give accurate ages in his census records, while his sister Mary Ann seems to constantly try to pass herself off as being younger than she was.
Not unknown for women to do that, especially if looking for a marriage prospect.

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