Thursday, January 29, 2015

52in52: Mary "Polly" Ferguson Graves, b. 1798-1799 Vermont, m. Daniel Graves, d. ???

I was chatting on Facebook with a distant cousin the other day, and I realized I had never fully shared the story of Mary "Polly" Ferguson on this blog or anywhere else. Week 3's theme for 52 ancestors in 52 weeks was "Tough Woman" and I think Polly is the epitome of "tough".

Years and years of family lore and documents from the children of Daniel Graves have listed Mary Ferguson of Vermont as being the wife of Daniel Graves. When I was at the University of Illinois at Chicago, I found the below in their early newspapers collection, from the Bennington, Vermont Bennington News Letter on 6 July 1813. Polly is a common nickname for Mary, so it fit like a glove.


Problem solved, right? WRONG! ;-) This newspaper publishing is the only mention of this marriage. There is no record of it in the town clerk's records, nor in the town's church records, nor in the state of Vermont's vital records.

So I did the logical thing - I hired the local researcher from the museum at Bennington to help me figure out what the heck is going on. Unfortunately, this only added to the mystery:

"Then there an official record of the marriage of Polly Graves and Sebastian Wager on Nov. 18, 1834, signed by the town clerk of Bennington. So, what do you suppose happened to Daniel Graves? There is no death record for him in the Vermont vitals and no burial record in any Bennington cemetery."

I started looking into Polly Graves and Sebastian Wager/Wagar, and realized that this Polly Graves referred to is someone else, Polly Thomas Graves:

(Vermont, Vital Records, 1760-1954," index and images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.1.1/V894-VFJ ), Polly Wagar, 27 Apr 1866, Death; State Capitol Building, Montpelier; FHL microfilm 27,716.)

So Polly Thomas married a Graves (researchers are currently unsure of who, as of 2012), and then married Sebastian Wagar. So that's a dead end as well.

About this time, I found an 1850 census entry in Gouverneur, St. Lawrence, New York that fit the family well:

(Year: 1850; Census Place: Gouverneur, Saint Lawrence, New York; Roll: M432_589; Page: 192B; Image: 392)
Which clearly show  Polly as alive and well, age 52, born in Vermont with her children John, Justus, Sheldon "Hawley", Hazelton, Lewis, and Betsey (where Enoch, Hezekiah, Rebecca, and Pittman are...well, that's another story).

It was about this same time that I was able to reach Michelle Knoll of Ontario, who has done quite extensive research on the Ferguson family in Vermont. Her research is where I believe we are going to find more information on just who Mary "Polly" Ferguson really is.


As you can see here, Michelle believes that Mary "Polly" Ferguson fits in as the first daughter of Thomas Ferguson and Lydia (possibly Lydia Fraser).

As you can see by the text style, this was some years ago when I contacted Michelle, and I had completely forgotten about her work with this family until I started piecing together Daniel Graves and Mary Ferguson for a week 1 "52 ancestors in 52 weeks" blog. Daniel's going to have to wait, but I think Mary "Polly" Ferguson's story deserves to be told. She's a "tough" woman in that she lived in early Vermont and traveled through Vermont to multiple residences in New York, Ontario, and back again, but also in that what information we have has been pieced together extremely slowly and with a lot of off-line genealogy. This is not an ancestor where you can click twice and have a full ancestral profile!

Mary "Polly" Ferguson's life is not yet complete - we know she was in Bennington, Bennington, Vermont around 1798 through her marriage in 1813, Aurelius, Cayuga, New York in 1820, Auburn, Cayuga, New York in 1830, Lyme, Jefferson, New York in 1840, and Gouverneur, St. Lawrence, New York in 1850. Where she lies today is still a mystery. As I chip away at the years of missing time between when the Graves children leave New York and come to Michigan, I hope to find more about her. For a relative back far in my past with little documentary evidence, she has captured my imagination and I've continued to work on her slowly but surely since I started in genealogy nearly 24 years ago and will continue to work on her as I progress through new records coming online every week.
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