11 March 2015

Tracking Difficult Women and Restless Men

Tracking Difficult Women and Restless Men
Imogene Emma (Swarts) Vanderpool Davis (1852-1928)
John S. Davis (ca 1805-1852)

By Myra Vanderpool Gormley

Long suspected, but now the proof stares me in the face — I am addicted to genealogy.

The proof came by the dawn’s early light (when some my best discoveries have happened) as I looking for information about when and where the father of Harvey Smith Davis died. Not that it really matters. After all, this Davis family is not in my family tree and appears only as an in-law line in my husband’s and then indirectly (via marriage) to one of my Vanderpool cousins. Nevertheless, I am a sucker for trying to resolve glaring discrepancies, especially when they light up a pedigree like a blinking neon light.

I had no intentions of tracing the lineage of Harvey Smith Davis — I just wanted to know whether his father had died in Vermont (as one researcher claimed) or in California (as another has recorded). There are too many miles between Vermont and California to brush this off as a minor discrepancy. Plus, there was inconsistency in the year of his death. Neither researcher had provided a source for the claims, so obviously it was up to me to ascertain the date and place of death.

A search in the Vermont Vital Records, 1720-1908 database at Ancestry.com produced a record for a John S. Davis of the right age and with the correct wife’s name (at least based on what I had from the 1850 Wolcott, Lamoille County, Vermont census). The extracted (printed) information I found gives his death age as 48, the death date as 26 September 1852, the cemetery as Fairmont, and place of death as “Vermont, USA.” However, upon examining the actual image of that record at the website — a card — under remarks it says John S. Davis “died in Calif.” The record says it is a “true copy” and it is signed by the town clerk of Wolcott and dated 16 November 1920 (perhaps when the cards were created and/or compiled?).

Why is it in genealogy when you obtain one answer it just creates more questions?

It appears that John S. Davis died in California in 1852 — and one assumes he was one of the many forty-niners from Vermont who went in hopes of striking it rich — but was his body shipped back to Wolcott for burial? That would have been expensive. Of course, if he had found some gold, the cost might not have been a factor. If he died in 1852, obviously he was not buried in 1851 as another online source indicates.

His death left his widow, Caroline, and three children — ages 14, 12, and a four-year-old son (Harvey Smith Davis), the original object of this search. I discovered that Caroline died in 1861, which left Harvey an orphan at age 14 in Vermont.

What happened to his two older siblings? I found him with his mother and older brother, Loren, in the 1860 census, but by 1869, Harvey has left Vermont and arrived in Missouri, where he married Irena Eve, a daughter in my husband’s Pierson family. Harvey's sister, Mary Smith Davis,  married first John Ferris Morrill who died during the Civil War and married secondly Henry Fisher. She died in 1875 at the age of 35 years, 7 months, 9 days. I have not found anything more on Harvey's older brother.

About two or three years after the death of Irena Eve Pierson in 1889, Harvey married secondly Imogene Emma (nee Swartz) Vanderpool and then with her, their two little daughters, and several of his children by his first wife, they removed to the Indian Territory. My guess is this took place about 1894, but at least some time  before the 1900 census when they are enumerated in the Cherokee Nation of Indian Territory.

Now I have even more questions, plus I have discovered that one of Harvey’s younger sons married a Cherokee girl who has an extensive and well-documented family tree.

Ah, the entangled roots and branches we encounter in our searches. No wonder some of us become addicts.

You can read another article I wrote about Imogene Emma (Swartz) Vanderpool Davis in Ancestry Magazine called "Dealing with a Difficult Woman" at