There are lots of enhanced family stories that I recall from my childhood. One of them revolves around this family line. The Holmes family makes it’s first appearance in our tree when Susannah marries William Francis in Mt. Sterling, Ohio.
Apparently not only was grandma Dougherty one to embellish on the notoriety of a family name but so did the Francis’. Instead of just saying that “great grandma was a Holmes, you know like Oliver Wendell Holmes.” I was led to believe that “we are related to Oliver Wendell Holmes.”
Well, there has been no direct connection found to date, to prove any relationship to the “Oliver Wendell Holmes”. The Jurist Oliver was born in Boston to Oliver and Amelia (Jackson) Holmes in 1841. While Susannah Holmes was born 22 Nov, 1806 in the Shenandoah Valley , Virginia.
The Holmes name is a recurring surname on our tree. Susannah Holmes is the daughter of Peter and Elizabeth (Redman) Holmes. Peter’s sister Sabitha or Tabitha Holmes married Joseph Francis , Sabitha and Joseph have a son, William Henry Francis. William Henry married Susannah Holmes his first cousin on 29 July 1826. In my last blog I wrote about William Henry Francis.
I always thought that first cousins should not marry and have children, because those children are at a higher risk of being born with a birth defect. But looking into the genetics a little closer it appears that the increased risk is a very small percentage and the practice is less frowned upon then I had supposed and even some cultures encourage the practice. It might be prudent to have a clear understanding for all of us to know more about our own genetics if we want to have ” perfect children”. And now exactly what is “perfect”? Who’s to say? William and Susan had 12 children? Were the odds against them having 12 perfect children? It was a hardship just physically for Susannah to give birth to that many children in the first half of the 1800’s. The likelihood that they would not survive their childhood was high. Infant mortality rates were not recorded in the 1800’s but looking at the statistics in our own family it appears that approximately two (2) out of ten (10) children did not make it to becoming adults. By 1930 in the United States the infant mortality was about 30 per 1,000 births and is now around 6 per 1,000.
In the 1830 US Census for Hopewell, Ohio we find Peter Holmes (Susannah’s brother) and his family living nextdoor to William Francis (Susannah’s husband) and their family.
In looking at the specifics (click on image to enlarge) William Francis is head of household with 1 male less then 5 years of age, 1 male between the age of 5 & 10, one male age 30 to 40 (William), one female less then 5 years of age, and one female between 20 and 30 years of age (Susannah). Referring to the 1850 US census, where we have everyone in the household named, we find that the male 0-5 is most likely Simon and the male 5-10 may be Thomas, William’s son from his first wife, since William and Susannah have only been married for 4 years. The female 0 to 5 years of age would be Sabthia Ann.
Here in the 1840 US Census we see the family has grown, there are now 3 boys and 4 girls. In trying to put names to the tick marks in the census record, the boys, Simon and Thomas may be the older children and George may be counted as younger then he was, otherwise Thomas may not be living at home and it is George and Simon as the older boys and perhaps another boy who did not survive to the 1850 census. The girls are straightforward; Susanna the youngest, Margaret and Mary next, then Sabitha Ann is about 12 in this census.
In the 1850 US Census we find that William is no longer with the family and at 44 Susannah has 10 children at home which includes twin boys 3 years of age, one of the twins (James) is listed as idiotic.
In 24 December 1851 Sabitha Ann is reported as dying.¹
By the 1860 US census Susannah has moved to her parents home which was near by. Susannah is 54 and her parent are 80 and 73.
The children living there are Simon(31 y) , Peter (22 y), Susanna (18 y), and James (12 y) who is now listed as “born blind”. Jesse is not listed in the house hold but is not reported¹ as dying until 1898. Mary Isabella is listed¹ as dying 7 October 1859. Mary is also noted as being blind in the Francis Family of Fauquier County, Virginia¹
In May of 1862 Susannah loses her son Andrew at Stoney Point Tennessee¹. There is an Andrew Francis buried at Shiloh National Cemetery who was a private in the 78th Ohio Infantry that fought at Shiloh 6 April 1862.
Susannah’s father Peter Holmes also died in 1862 and her mother died in 1869.
This census shows Susannah 64 with sons Peter and Jesse F. now Jesse is listed as Blind.
In the 1880 census Peter is listed as a Widow as is his mother Susannah. Jesse is listed as blind.
In 1882 her son Simon Henry dies. Simon had married an Emily Holmes (daughter of George Holmes and Alicinda Fry), not sure how close a relative she was.
In 1893 son Peter Gilmore dies in Visalia California. His tombstone indicates that he was in Co. H 113 Ohio during the Civil War.
In 1896 on 02 April, Susannah (Holmes) Francis dies. She is buried in the Mt. Sterling Cemetery, Muskingum county, Ohio.
There are lots of questions to be answered.
We still need:
- The military records for Andrew and Peter to understand more their parts in the the American Civil War.
- Peters marriage.
- Jesse and James were they both blind, the same person, or when James died and why.
- Death or Probate for Susannah
It appears we have only skimmed the surface on the Susannah story. With the large family she had and the challenges that Jesse and Mary had to face she must have lead a stressful life. Peter stayed with his mother until her death and then he travelled out to California where other family members had previously located.
¹The Francis family of Fauquier County, Virginia by Albert Oscar Felchlia, (out of print) available at the Family History Library, Salt Lake City, Utah and also available on microfilm.