This is a classic example of a genealogy conundrum I’m faced with. I’m searching for more information about Emily Peterson, wife of John “Johnnie” Matthews, one of my 2x greatgreat-grandfathers. Below are two 1870 Census documents for two Emily Petersons born in or near 1862 in South Carolina. And of course, there is no county of birth for the Emily Peterson I’m researching. That might have had the potential for making it easier. Nor have I been able to locate a birth record for her, which would have definitely made things easier. Last, but not least, I haven’t been able to locate a marriage record for her which would have cited her parents’ names – thus removing the need to trace her through census records.
I limited my search for Emily in Edgefield County. The rationale for this was fairly straightforward: people tend to marry those they meet within their immediate geography. My Mathews/Mathis ancestors and their extended family members lived in Edgefield County and the vast majority of them tended to marry people from the same county. I’m hedging my bet – a safe one in my book – that John’s bride also came from this county.
On the surface, Emily Peterson, born 1862 and living in Blocker, Edgefield County, South Carolina in 1870 was a perfect match. The year of her birth was match and she was resident in a town where many of my Matthews ancestors lived. Using my standard trick of scanning the census returns to see who she lived near, a Harling family lived not too far from Emily and her family. Granted, this Harling family was white. However, initial research has shown there was an acknowledgement of familial ties between the white and black side of the Harling family (more on this in a later post). It wouldn’t have been inconceivable for Emily to have met Effert through this connection.
However, Emily Peterson, born 1867 and living in Saluda, Edgefield, South Carolina in 1870 is an equally strong contender. The year of birth doesn’t match the 1862 that I was looking for. However, census returns are notorious for being mildly and wildly incorrect when citing a person’s date of birth. Saluda is also a town strongly associated with my Matthews ancestors. When scrolling through the census returns this Emily lived nearby to a small Mathis[Matthews] family group. Although this group of Matthews/Mathises weren’t directly related to Effert they were more than likely cousins. This Emily could have easily been introduced to Effert through these cousins.
Getting it right matches her with the correct Peterson family. Chances are both Peterson families are related. However, only one set of Petersons would be direct blood ancestors while the other would be indirect relations through marriage.
Either of these Emilys could be my great-grandmother. Or neither – as there is always that alternative too. However, I’m confident that one of these ladies would indeed become John’s wife. Time – and a birth, marriage or death certificate – will tell me which woman it is.