Monday, May 2, 2011

Matthews or Matthew or Mathews or ...

Seems like I've posted a lot lately about my 2nd great-grandparents, so I thought I'd stick with that but switch to the ancestors of my paternal grandmother, Nellie (Church) Kuhn.  Her mother was Lenora (Summers) Church, daughter of Joseph and Martha E. Summers.

Martha E. Summers
I originally thought Martha's maiden name was Martha Ellen Matthews according to a handwritten family document I was given years ago ... until I found the official register documenting her marriage in Taylor County, West Virginia, where her last name appears without the “s”:  Martha E. Matthew.

Now I know that spelling errors occur frequently, even in official records - so I still figured that the handwritten document would prove to be the correct spelling.  After all, it seemed more likely that a clerk would misspell the name than a family member.  But wait ...

On Martha's death certificate in Calhoun County, West Virginia, for which one of her sons was the informant, her maiden name is spelled with the “s” but with only one “t”:  Martha Mathews.  Again, you would think a son would know the correct spelling, yet this certificate lists her birthplace as Tyler County and her father as James Mathews ... as opposed to all the other sources I've found that indicate her parents were William K. and Nancy and that she was born in Barbour County.  Coupled with the fact that the son gave no birthplace for James and no info at all for Martha's mother, I'm not so sure he's an ideal source!!

On the other hand, Nancy died from diptheria at the young age of 39, and the informant son wasn't born until 15 years later.  So he would never have known his grandmother Nancy.  But who is James?  Was Tyler County written in error instead of Taylor County?  (Taylor and Barbour are neighboring counties, and Martha did live in Taylor County for several years.)  Those are questions for another day.

While I'm talking about Nancy, her two youngest children also died from diptheria a few months after she did – and all three of them appear in the death register on three consecutive lines written in the same hand, but with two different spellingsMathew and Mathews.

Federal census records don't help a whole lot as the surname spelling for the William K. household (including Martha) was Mathew in 1850 and Matthews in 1860.  By the time of the 1870 census, Martha was married to Joseph Summers so she finally had a surname with no question about the spelling!  Interestingly, the 1870 census does show several Summers and Matthew families living next to each other in Taylor County.

At this point in my research, I have no reason to doubt that Martha Ellen is correct for her given name, but was her maiden name Matthews or Matthew or Mathews or Mathew?  The answer appears to be that ... the answer is unclear!!

No comments: