Matrilineal mergers: Part One

Jefferson County, Kentucky Marriage Licenses and Bonds, 1810-1814, showing the 1814 bond between William Shake and Stephen Smith.

An “added” middle name is something that comes up quite a lot when seeing family trees online and can sometimes be difficult to detect. Middle names in the eighteenth century in the present-day United States are rare, and even though they gained popularity during the nineteenth century, numerous people get their mother’s maiden name (or what a descendant thinks it is) added into a name online.

I’ve always been interested in matrilineal lines, and seeing how far back I could trace my mother’s mother’s mother, etc. However, for my four grandparents, I can only trace the matrilineage of my paternal grandfather beyond the late eighteenth century.[1] For the matrilineage of my two grandmothers, both have been victims of having a middle name added to them in online trees as a result of “merger” with a different woman who is not my ancestor.

For the matrilineal ancestry of my maternal grandmother (my own matrilineal ancestor), I can trace her line to her great-grandmother Nancy (Shake) Haines (1827-1885) of Big Springs, Boone County, Indiana. (Several years ago I wrote about DNA matches I had with descendants of Nancy's sibling and a paternal first cousin.) Numerous online trees have identified Nancy’s parents as William Shake and “Sarah Martha Smith” [born Virginia, about 1793], but are they Nancy’s parents?

Numerous online trees have identified Nancy’s parents as William Shake and “Sarah Martha Smith” ..., but are they Nancy’s parents?

While Nancy has a death certificate in Indiana in 1885, it does not identify her parents. Her marriage to Henry J. Haines in Oldham County, Kentucky on 29 October 1845 gives her father (who consented to the marriage) as William Shake. “Wm Shake,” aged 55, born Kentucky, is enumerated in Oldham County in 1850, with “Martha Shake,” aged 57, born Virginia. William Shake married “Sarah Smith,” in nearby Jefferson County, on 14 January 1814, with the above marriage bond (also signed by Stephen Smith, relationship not stated) giving Sarah’s father as John Smith.

Out of that 1850 census entry and 1814 marriage record, “Sarah Martha Smith, born about 1793 in Virginia,” was created. No middle names or initials were given in either record, just the first names Sarah and Martha. Martha is William’s second wife. William Shake married Martha Norton in Oldham County on 21 February 1834. William’s youngest child (another William) was 21 years old in the 1850 census, so the first wife Sarah died sometime between 1829 and 1834.

With regard to my last known matrilineal female ancestor Sarah (Smith) Shake, I do not know when (or where) she was approximately born. The “ca. 1793 in Virginia” referred to William’s second wife Martha from the 1850 census. William is in Jefferson County in the 1820 census, with a woman between 16 through 25, likely making Sarah born between 1794 and 1804. The elder female in William Shake’s household in 1830 (now in Oldham County) is between 20 through 29, so born between 1800-1810. If that is Sarah, she was very young [14?] when she married William Shake in 1814. While possible, this woman could be someone besides William’s wife. While I have tried to research John Smith of Kentucky, Sarah’s mother, the next generation in my matrilineal ancestry, remains known to me only as “Mrs. John Smith.” Lucky me!

Part Two will conclude with my father’s last known matrilineal ancestors, connecting (on first look) to families in Pennsylvania, Delaware, New York, and … South Carolina?


[1] I can trace my paternal grandfather’s matrlineage back twelve generations in America and one generation back in England: Henry Thurston12 Child (Lucy Belle11 Healy, Elizabeth Eaton10 Larned, Lucy9 Holmes, Lucy8 Tourtellotte, Abigail7 Carroll, Lucy6 Hosmer, Rachel5 Pierce, Mary4 Wyman, Mary3 Carter, Mary2 Parkhurst, Phebe1 Leete, AliceA Grundy). The Parkhurst family of Ipswich, Suffolk, England, first settled in Watertown, Massachusetts by 1642. The English and first few American generations of this family are treated in John Brooks Threlfall, Fifty Great Migration Colonists to New England & Their Origins, 256-88, and I have traced matrilineal descendants of Phebe (Leete) Parkhurst through her four surviving daughters.

Christopher C. Child

About Christopher C. Child

Chris Child has worked for various departments at NEHGS since 1997 and became a full-time employee in July 2003. He has been a member of NEHGS since the age of eleven. He has written several articles in American Ancestors, The New England Historical and Genealogical Register, and The Mayflower Descendant. He is the co-editor of The Ancestry of Catherine Middleton (NEHGS, 2011), co-author of The Descendants of Judge John Lowell of Newburyport, Massachusetts (Newbury Street Press, 2011) and Ancestors and Descendants of George Rufus and Alice Nelson Pratt (Newbury Street Press, 2013), and author of The Nelson Family of Rowley, Massachusetts (Newbury Street Press, 2014). Chris holds a B.A. in history from Drew University in Madison, New Jersey.View all posts by Christopher C. Child