Need help finding proof that Mary Jane Watkins was the mother of Stella Ann (Fitzgerald) Greenfield Wells

+7 votes

Before my great grandmother Stella died, no one in family had ever met, or knew anything about her mother, only that she had told one of her daughters that her mother's name was Mary Hanks, and another daughter her mother’s name was Mary Jane Watkins, and she told my mother (her granddaughter) that her mother died & was buried in Cotton Plant, Arkansas, USA, (abt 1899), however no record has been found of this.  My mother spent a vacation one year scouring all the cemeteries in that area & found nothing.  When my mother was in the 2nd/3rd grade, she remembers asking Stella what her nationality was, to which Stella responded Black Dutch.  I'm trying to find proof for the biological mother of Stella Ann (Fitzgerald) Greenfield Wells (Fitzgerald-2642 on wikitree).

ADDL INFO: Regarding the marriage record for Jerry Fitzgerald & Sarah Pate, & the 1880 census including Sarah E Pate; we have seen these (my mother came across the marriage record some years back & believed this to be the girls’ mother, & I recently came across the 1880 census w/Sarah E Pate, and also found a photo of Sarah E Pate. )   At this point, however decided this is not her mother (due to various reasons which I’ll mention below).

2 months back we were visited by the last surviving child of Stella, & when we asked her what she might know of her grandmother, she said she only knew what her name was, which Stella told her was Mary Jane Watkins.

My mother has taken the MtDNA full sequence test in the hopes it might provide a clue of some type.  She has gotten her results which are listed on her wikitree profile as well (Genseal-1).  I’m wondering if it would be helpful to have last surviving child (daughter) take MtDNA full test as well.

Also, my mother ordered a copy of Stella’s original application for Social Security benefits, on which she states that her mother’s name is Mary Jane Watkins.  Also, when Stella put her name on the application, she (clearly) put Stellar as her first name.  I did a bit of research on the name Stellar, & found it was not an uncommon name for Native American women, and can be found throughout various Indian census rolls.

If you were to see Stella, you would probably agree that she most definitely, was not of Irish decent (Fitzgerald name).  Stella was my great grandmother, & my memories of her, as a child, were with eyes full of wonder, in how I got a an Indian great-grandmother, as she looked (to me) just like you’d imagine one might look – very short, probably about 4ft 8in in height, and her skin was not pale/white as mine, but much darker.  She was a stout woman, bow-legged, and she never wore shoes,  & wondering why she always (as in, never, ever removing it) had this copper ankle bracelet wrapped around her ankle, which seemed to be put there permanently, as there were no clasps on it, nor were there any way of removing it.  I never saw her without it on.  I recently asked my mother about it, & if she knew why Stella wore this, & she said Stella said it was for her arthritis.  (I didn’t think doctors were using metals/magnets and such at that time (1900’s) for relieving arthritis pain; I know now that this is used, &   with good results, but in 1900?)  I also remember that she never ever cut her hair – never.  As I remember, her very thin grey hair reached below her hips (she also never wore it loose-I only saw it like this following a bath/shower) but was always braided, & wrapped into a bun, of sorts, at the back of her neck. 

I remember that home was very plain, as was her clothing – no pictures on the walls, no nick-knacks, or end tables.  I remember bare walls, and only a old rocking type chair, a small table & 1 chair in the kitchen, and old, flat pillow resting upon a single mattress pad on the rickety old metal frame holding it, and a single, old, faded plaid blanket.  And, an old coffee can which she kept next to her rocker, for her to spit into – as she chewed tobacco constantly.

The first record the girls are found in is the 1910 census w/Jerry Fitzgerald.  From that point, every single census record that Stella and/or her sister Georgia are found in, they always gave a different answer, when asked where their mother was born.   One time, it was Tennessee, another it was Arkansas.  Verbally, they both told the family that she was born in Tennessee & died shortly before 1900 in Cotton plant, Arkansas, but as I mentioned, we’ve been unable to find any proof for any of this. 

Sorry for the length of this, but I feel if anyone might be able to help us find any answers, they must also know what we know at this point– which doesn’t seem like much.

I loved my great grandma Stella, & I am saddened by the thought that, for reasons known only to her, and her sister, she must hide who she was & where she came from; she meant so much to the family, so much more than she could ever really know.

WikiTree profile: Stella Wells
in Genealogy Help by Cathy Spry G2G1 (1.4k points)

UPDATE: It's now 18 Jan 2022.  I've still been unable to turn up anything solid regarding Stella's mother.  I am excited to see that since I originally posted this, on 2 May 2016, 163 other people have also viewed this post, many of them looking for same answers as myself, I'm sure.  I know with this many eyes on this, it's only a matter of time before someone who does have the answer reads this too.  Then, all of us bound together by the invisible thread called family, we'll all have the answers we're looking for regarding this mystery.  I also know many family member's have also had DNA testing done.  I've done my autosomal DNA, and my mom (Stella's granddaughter) has also done her autosomal, and her mtDNA.  As mtDNA is passed down from mother to daughter, and for for the most part remains unchanged, it means that since my mom's mtDNA placed her in H5a1d haplogroup after testing, this would also be my mtDNA haplogroup (H5a1d/I'm her daughter), as well as her mom's haplogroup being H5a1d (also my maternal grandmother), and her grandmother's (and my great grandmother) Stella Ann Fitzgerald also in H5a1d haplogroup, as well as Stella's mother (my mom's grandmother/my great grandmother) Mary Jane Watkins (if this was her name) also H5a1d haplogroup.  I have learned that it's not necessary for Stella's last living daughter to have mtDNA test done, as her's will also be H5a1d haplogroup, so I guess I've learned something.  I'm fairly certain that this will be how we all find the answers we're looking for here - through her mtDNA haplogroup H5a1d, and autosomal DNA matching.  Now I'm waiting, hoping another (maybe younger?) family relative who has tested and understands how to use DNA to answer genealogy questions will come forward, and possibly explain to the rest of us how we can use this in our research too.  At 57, I find it very difficult to learn a subject like DNA on my own (sigh, if only I were young again).  I'll keep on trying though, as I know this is a valuable tool to have in our family history research arsenal.  Even more so if you really know how to use it, right?

1 Answer

0 votes
G'day. The only proof i can find is this ( ) which is from the Family Tree website "Geni".
by Steven Smith-Fisher G2G Crew (590 points)
edited by Steven Smith-Fisher
Profile manager for her on Geni is family member, so this is ours.

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