Monday, December 28, 2009

Chasing Clarissa Across the Internet

I always enjoy the time between Christmas and New Years Day. It's a time I always have off from work (I'm a middle school staff member), the pressure and stress of preparing for the Big Day has come and gone, the house is still clean (!), and I feel I can relax without guilt and wallow in genealogy and the Internet simultaneously!

Christmas Night I started out on a hunch to try to find the parents of my brickwall ancestor, Clarissa Mary CLEVELAND (c. 1832 - 1877). I knew from the Civil War Veteran's pension file of her husband, Levi Edward McLALLIN (sometimes spelled McCLELLAN[D]) that they had been married 6 August 1848 in Cottrellville Township, St. Clair County, Michigan. Levi and Clarissa can be found in the 1850 U.S. Federal Census in China Township, St. Clair County along with a woman named Rachel who is probably Levi's mother, and a man named Reuben, likely Levi's brother. I've been poking and prodding at the McLALLIN family tree for sometime now, trying to find out what became of Reuben and a man named William with the same surname that served in the same unit as Levi during the Civil War, and I'm not coming up with much success. Part of the problem is the complication of the surname spelling and variations, even using Soundex searches (Mc vs. Mac or no prefix at all; Cl vs. L or no leading C or L at all [McCALLUM or MELLON]; -n vs.-nd vs. -m). However, I realized that CLEVELAND has a lot less variations, and it was likely Clarissa had parents, siblings, or other relatives living in St. Clair County at that time.

My first search for any CLEVELAND household in St. Clair County in 1850 brought up the China Township household of Wm R. CLEVELAND (b. c. 1795, MA), his presumed wife Lydia (b. c. 1797, NY), and their presumed daughter, Catherine (b. c. 1838, NY). Those of you familiar with the censuses understand that relationships of those in the household to the head of that household are not stated until the 1880 census. Also in this household are John (b. c. 1822) and Ann (b. c.  1823) KELLY and their children Robert (b. c. 1844), David (b. c. 1846), and Sarah (b. c. 1849). All the KELLY family members were born in Canada.

Searching in St. Clair County for CLEVELANDs in 1860 brings up William R. and Lydia CLEVELAND once again in China Township (minus Catherine, who may have been married or deceased by this time). It also finds in the same location the household of Ambrose CLEVELAND, b. c. 1828 in New York, his presumed wife Jane (b. c. 1833, NY), and their presumed children Sylvia (b. c. 1849), William (b. c. 1853), and Margret (b. c. 1857), all born in Michigan. At this point, I'm thinking Ambrose is William and Lydia's son and possibly my Clarissa's brother.

Next, I found William in 1870 in the household of Jacob (b. c. 1834, NY) and Cordelia (b. c. 1839, NY) ALLEN in Casco Township, St. Clair County. Interestingly enough, there is an Ada McCLELLAND (b. c. 1862, MI) also in the household! This is my little bit of evidence that suggests that Clarissa is William and Lydia's daughter!  Why would Clarissa (and Levi)'s (possible) daughter be living with William, Jacob, and Cordelia? Perhaps she was helping out Cordelia with housework, as there are no other children listed. Perhaps Levi and Clarissa were having difficulty feeding all the mouths in their own household. For whatever reason, this census record gives evidence that there is a relationship between this CLEVELAND household and a McCLELLAND household that likely could be--or linked to--my Levi McLALLIN/McCLELLAND and Clarissa CLEVELAND. Also, it appears that Cordelia is another daughter of William and Lydia CLEVELAND.

William does not appear in the 1880 census, so my next stop was FamilySearch's Record Search, in the Michigan Death Records. I looked for both him and Lydia, knowing she probably died between 1860 and 1870 and that Michigan started keeping track of death records in 1867.  I did not find Lydia, but I did find William's death record. He died 17 March 1877 in Chesterfield Township, Macomb County, Michigan. Chesterfield is a location where the two eldest children of Clarissa's daughter, my ancestor Cornelia McLALLIN, were born. His parents are listed as [--?--] CLEVELAND and Sylvia [--?--]. Ambrose CLEVELAND's oldest daughter is named Sylvia. Also, in attempting to find Lydia's death record, I found the death record for Mrs. Cordelia ALLEN (b. c. 1838). She also died in Chesterfield on 2 February 1878, the daughter of William R. and Lydia CLEVELAND.

Further searches at FamilySearch to locate the whereabouts of Ann and John KELLY, Catherine CLEVELAND, and Jacob ALLEN after his wife's death, were futile. I then went to Seeking Michigan and looked up Ambrose CLEVELAND's death certificate, verifying that he was the son of William CLEVELAND and Lydia SHAW. Aha! a maiden name for Lydia at last! Ambrose was born 1 March 1828 in New York and died 10 March 1908 in Riley Center, St. Clair County. Riley Township was the location in which Sylvester FREDENBURG, Clarissa's son-in-law died in 1879.

So far, I've verified that William R. CLEVELAND and Lydia SHAW had at several children, Ambrose (b. 1828), Catherine (b. c. 1838), and Cordelia (b. c.1839). It's possible that Catherine and Cordelia are one and the same person. Ann KELLY is another possible daughter, and Ada McCLELLAND may be a granddaughter. This CLEVELAND family lived in locations that mirror those of my McLALLIN family and their descendants.

So where can I go with this? I've already searched through online versions of the history of the CLEVELAND family and so far can't place William definitely in any of the family groups listed within those volumes. I did find another researcher on a message board who is researching "William Riley CLEVELAND and Lydia SHAW, " who has information on two more daughters; Lucretia, b. 1818, and Sylvia, b. 1824. Both were born near Troy, New York. Lucretia married Stephen PARTLOW, possibly in Rensselaer County, New York, and Sylvia married John PARTLOW. The latter couple went to Wisconsin. I will be contacting this researcher and perhaps we can put our skills and resources together to find out more about this family group.

What offline resources can I check out? A probate record of William R. CLEVELAND could tie in my Clarissa as a daughter of his, although it's possible it might not. He died in March 1877 and she died in September of that same year. I should find the marriage records of Ambrose and his wife Jane, and Cordelia and her husband Jacob, to see if Clarissa appears as a witness on them. I should also reexamine my McLALLIN records to see if any of the individuals or surnames mentioned above appear in any of their documents. I'll be checking the Family History Library Catalog for microfilms of the records I need and order them to my local Family History Center.

While I don't have solid evidence that William and Lydia are my Clarissa's parents, my theory is still a strong one and I'll continue to pursue these leads until I am certain they either are or are not!


Word Designer said...

Whew! It's important to be a detective in your search, isn't it? Good luck in your search.

Happy New Year!

Word Designer

Miriam Robbins said...

Yes! Being a genealogist is very much like being a detective...that's why genealogy is so addicting!

Cathy @ palmsrv said...

I remember you mentioning Clarissa Cleveland as your brick wall when I did a post on my Cleveland ancestors. Your leads look very promising. Keep us posted!

Charley "Apple" Grabowski said...

Congrats on finding a great lead and probably breaking down a wall. I would also look for both William and Lydia's obituaries. Iffy from that time period but worth a shot.

Miriam Robbins said...

Cathy, thanks, I will!

Apple, good idea. While I'm not so sure about obituaries for this time period, it's likely there was a death notice, especially for William (I've noticed it was the men, and not necessarily the women, that had a death notice in the local papers before the early 1900s).

Anonymous said...

I decend from William Riley Cleveland and Lydia Shaw through their daughter Sylvia Cleveland. Looks like you have done your search well. You found exactly what I have on them. I also have William's death record, it states his mother was a Sylvia and later I found out through someone else that her maiden name was Riley,that is probably why William had Riley as his middle name. I did a search on her with no results. I have a copy of an old photo of William and Lydia and their daughter Lucretia who married Stephen Partlow, my John Partlow married her sister Sylvia Cleveland


Anonymous said...

I decend from William Riley Cleveland and Lydia Shaw through their daughter Sylvia who married John Partlow. I do have William's death certificate and it lists his mother as Sylvia, it may be possible that her maiden name was Riley, hence the Middle name for William. Another researcher said she was sent that info from one of her cousin's. I have done a search for Sylvia Riley with no results. It is not sure if William was born in RI or Mass. You are right he does not show up in the CLEVELAND FAMILY books however there was another William Riley Cleveland born 1839 in Penn., I really wonder if they are connected somehow.


Miriam Robbins said...

Sandy, I would love to correspond with you. Can you please e-mail me at It would be great if we could work together on this line, cousin!

Brian said...

My Wife has some CLEVELANDs in her tree that I can only trace back to somewhere in New York. The last sourced individual I have is George Henry CLEVELAND (b.1871 Wisconsin) though it lists his parents as being born in New York. Wonder if there is some distant connection?