Friday, November 9, 2007

I Am My Own - Well Not Quite ....

Earlier today, Randy Seaver posted about songs on genealogy, and one of the songs mentioned was "I am my own grandpa." Randy's post reminded me of an ancestor who participated in a situation similar to the situation described in the song and I decided to write about it.

My ancestor, Jacob Detwiler, was married twice. He first married my ancestor, Barbara Housholder/Householder on 8 December 1836 in Pennsylvania. They had at least six children who lived to adulthood. By the 1870 Census, Jacob and Barbara were living on their own, as their children had all been married by then. By October of 1871, Barbara had died. I was not able to determine when she died exactly from her grave marker, even though it appears as though there might once have been a date of death on the stone. The cemetery transcription for Riverside Cemetery suggests that she died on 25 April 1871, but since there isn't a death registration for her, I have to find some other record that would indicate when she died. I have not yet checked with the Sexton of the cemetery to see if there are any records on her burial. It may be possible that I'll find more information on her and what the cause of death was.

How do I know that Barbara was dead by October of 1871? Jacob remarried that month, to a much younger woman. On the 24th of October 1871, Jacob married Alwilda Arnold in South Bend, Indiana. Although I have not been able to find any church records that give birth dates for Jacob, Barbara or Alwilda, census records do indicate when they might have been born. Barbara was born either before or about 1810. Jacob was born about 1815, and Alwilda appears to have been born about 1850, give or take a couple of years. The most shocking instance for me about Jacob's second marriage is that Alwilda was almost the same age as Jacob's youngest daughter. In other words, Jacob was old enough to be Alwilda's father. The newspaper articles listed that both Jacob and Alwilda were residents of Three Rivers before they got married in South Bend.

I wonder, though, why they married in Indiana. I realize that the Saint Joseph River runs through Three Rivers and South Bend. It may be that Alwilda had family there, but one has to wonder how Jacob's grown children felt about his remarriage or how the community might have felt about the marriage. If Barbara did die in April of 1871, Jacob remarried within six months. To me, remarrying within six months of the death of a spouse seems too early. As far as I know, Jacob did not have any young children living in his household, and all of his children were grown by 1871. Is it possible that either Jacob's children or his neighbors were against him remarrying because his wife had been dead for only a short amount of time? Did Jacob and Alwilda get married in Indiana instead of Michigan as a result of possible disapproval? At the moment, I don't know what Jacob's faith was because he and Alwilda and several of his children were married by a Justice of Peace, so I don't know if there are any records that might indicate why he chose Indiana.

Jacob and Alwilda would have at least one son, Charles, who lived to adulthood, and they may have had another son who died at the age of one. There is a death record in the Saint Joseph County, Michigan County Clerk's office for a Casey E. Detwiler who was born in Indiana. The problem is that the mother is listed as Emma. It could be a mistake for Alwilda's name since the marriage record gave her first name as Elwilda. I have not found any other Jacob Detwiler's in the Southwestern Michigan and Northwestern Indiana area who would have been old enough to have been the child's father. It is always possible that this child is another couple's child. Whether or not Jacob and Alwilda had one or two children, the birth of Charles probably confused later descendants of his relationship to other Detwilers in the area. As I mentioned before, all of Jacob's older children were married and had children. Jacob was already a grandfather before Charles was born, and Charles' birth would automatically make him an uncle to the children of his older half-siblings. I can only wonder how confusing it might have been to be one of Jacob's grandchildren; several of Jacob's grandchildren would be older than their own uncle.

Jacob Detwiler died on 21 December 1879 in Saint Joseph County, Michigan. I have not yet found his probate file, but it is always possible that I missed it while looking for other probate files.


(I don't have my sources with me, but I have tried to list as much of my sources as I can remember.)
  • "Married." Huntingdon Gazette, December 28, 1836, page 3,
  • Household of Jacob Detwiler. 1850 U. S. Federal Census, Walker Township, Huntingdon County, Pennsylvania. (Note Detwiler for this family is spelled Ditwiler in this census.)
  • Household of Jacob Detwiler. 1860 U. S. Federal Census, Lockport Township, Saint Joseph County, Michigan. (Detwiler is spelled Detweiler in this census.)
  • Household of Jacob Detwiler. 1870 U. S. Federal Census, Lockport Township, Saint Joseph County, Michigan.
  • Saint Joseph County Genealogical Society, "Riverside Cemetery," in Cemeteries of Saint Joseph County, vol. 4.
  • Saint Joseph County, Indiana Marriages, Saint Joseph County Clerk, book 6, page 391. (Note: Detwiler is spelled Detwilder and Alwilda's name is given is Elwilda.
  • Saint Joseph Valley Register and National Union, (no date or page number. These newspaper articles and the marriage record above were kindly looked up for me at the beginning of this year.)
  • Household of Alwilda Detwiler. 1880 U. S. Federal Census, Lockport Township, Saint Joseph County, Michigan.
  • "Death record of Casey E. Detwiler," Saint Joseph County, Michigan death records, book one, page 59.
  • "Death record of Jacob Detweler," Saint Joseph County, Michigan death records, book one, page 122. (Note: Jacob's last name is spelled Detweler in this record.)

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