Louisa Ann Watson (1820-1906), Ancestor No. 52

For this lauded position in the archive – the 52nd Ancestor in 52 Weeks – I’ve chosen a 4th Great Aunt on my father’s side. Hers is something of a Case Study in genealogical research – a great example of why I do it, and proof that nothing, but nothing, trumps first-hand accounts and primary resources!

My 2nd cousin (twice removed) John Clark Watson’s research archive surfaced in the summer of 2013 – the man whose retirement project turned me on to genealogy when I was just a kid. And as a result of finally seeing his files, I gleefully spent late 2013 cracking all sorts of Watson mysteries. In the case of today’s subject, Unnamed Watson Daughter, as I’d referred to her for ages, suddenly had a name, a husband and children. And a face – her file included a photograph!


Louisa Ann (Watson) Clark (on the right) was the second child of John & Margaret Watson, born March 14, 1820 in Middletown, Saratoga County, New York, at the confluence of the Hudson and Mohawk Rivers.

Louisa married Delos White Clark in Saratoga County in 1843, and they high-tailed it to Wisconsin. Fox Lake, in Dodge County, to be exact – located in some very sparsely-peopled acreage about mid-way between Madison and Oshkosh. I have trouble imagining life today in such an isolated place, much less 170 years ago!

Louisa gave birth to twin boys in 1848, but both died in infancy, but three healthy babies followed – Ellen (1849), Frederick (1853), and Martha “Mattie” (1861). Each of the three married, and the girls stayed in the general area. (I don’t know much about them.) Frederic and his family ended up in Chicago.

Back to the photograph –
With Louisa are her son Frederic Delos Clark, his daughter Cora Viletta (Clark) Wheeler, and the baby, Cora’s daughter Ruth (Wheeler) Baldwin. Ruth was born in October 1903, so the photo probably can be safely dated 1904. Louisa died at her home in Fox Lake a couple years later (January 23, 1906), having been widowed in 1902.

For me, the big fun started when I pursued Cora’s family. She and her husband Harry moved around – a lot. They were married in Milwaukee in 1900. Headed off to Fremont, Nebraska, Minneapolis, back to Fremont, Cincinnati, and finally to Kalispell, Montana.

Fremont, Nebraska is just outside of Omaha – and for close to 20 years, including most of the years the Wheelers were in the area, my Great-great grandfather Rev. T. S. Watson was posted in small-town Methodist Churches between Omaha and O’Neill – including Fremont! Rev. Watson was Cora’s father’s first cousin. I would love to know if they knew each other, and if they knew they were kin!

From all appearances, Ruth Wheeler (the baby in the photo) was the first of her family to go to Montana. She married Boyd Franklin Baldwin in Butte in 1927. Her parents, Harry & Cora, were in Cincinnati in 1930 but moved to Kalispell in the early ’30s. Her sister Winogene (love that name!) was still in the Cincinnati area when she married in 1937. And her brother Harry was married in Choteau, Montana in 1938, and lived in Great Falls in 1940. The gang’s all here!

Amazing how quickly a blank page can fill up with wonderful detail. And all from a stack of papers and pictures that had been gathering dust since the mid-80s. Honestly, without his work and the contents of his files, I would know next to nothing about my father’s family at all!

Census reports weren’t a huge help. Early Censuses (1790–1840) listed by name only the heads of households. The others were represented by numbers – males grouped by age, and females grouped by age.

Yes, chances are she was the younger of the two children listed in John Watson’s household in 1820. And chances are she was the one female child, 5-9, in 1830, and the one female child, 15-19, in 1840. Except I suspected then (and have since proven) that in 1830 and 1840, when one girl was tallied in her age group, there should have been two.  Louisa’s file confirmed her identity; and the death certificate of Elisabeth Spaulding (born 1824) who died in Michigan in 1911, named her parents as John and Margaret.

Federal records aside, there’s also the fact that New York State was the absolute gold standard in Lousy Record-keeping until about 1880. John & Margaret were married (no record); they had eleven children (no records); and there were as many as eight marriages in Saratoga and/or Fulton County involving their children (no records). I’ve never seen a local record concerning the deaths of John or his parents, Margaret or her parents, son Samuel, and daughters Margaret and Susannah. (Just tiny death notices in a newspaper for John and Susannah, and listings in the Census Mortality Index for Sam and daughter Margaret strictly because they happened in 1849, a census year.)

If money were no object, I’d fly to Saratoga and pitch a tent in every courthouse and town hall until I had unearthed all the hard documentary proof I really need! It HAS to be there!

Maybe someday.

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