Mary Isabella Welch

This afternoon I was recording census information on my great-grandfather’s brother, James Alexander Welch, including tracking his children and their marriages. In that process, I always search a page or two either side of the page on which I find the family member. That often provides insight into other family members and/or clues to follow.

My great-grandfather, William Thomas Welch married Mollie Sanford and as I looked over the 1910 census page on which James Welch’s son, Murphey, was listed, I noted a Charlie Sanford living as a boarder. In previous censuses, I had noted some proximity of Welch families to Sanford families, particularly her brother John Rufus Sanford, so I went back a page to see who this Sanford was living with. He was living in the home of Jahue A. and Isibell Maddox, which rang no bells until I thought a little about her first name.

My great-grandfather had a sister named Mary Isabella Welch who was born about 1858 and whom I’d not been able to find a viable marriage for. Other researchers found a marriage for Mary Elizabeth Welch to Taylor Tolliver and assumed the Mary I. Welch of the 1860 census was just an error. Even when I found the administration papers for their father’s estate that named each child with a full name, including hers as Mary Isabella, some researchers still thought Elizabeth and Isabella sounded enough alike that the clerk recording the information could have misheard Isabella instead of Elizabeth. However, once I discovered the second marriage for their mother and found Mary listed as Isabella on the 1870 census, I could no longer believe the Welch/Tolliver marriage rationale.

Consequently, when I looked at the age of this Isibell Maddox, noting she was born about 1858, and her proximity to a Sanford and a Welch, this was too big a coincidence for me to ignore. So, I started a new search for Jahue and Isabel Maddox to see what I might find.

I found a 1900 census for the couple in the same location [Stonewall, Fayette, Alabama], but this time she was listed as Mary I. Maddox. There was a more interesting piece of information – Mary Isabel’s mother was living with them. My Mary Isabella’s mother’s name was Sarah A. Farquhar Welch Jackson who was born in about 1833. This Mary Isabel’s mother’s name was Sara A. Edmondson who was born about 1833. I knew from the 1880 census that Mr. Jackson had died between 1870 and 1880, so Sarah Jackson was a widow and could easily have remarried within that 20 to 30-year-period.

Next step was to look for marriage information for Jahue and Mary Isabel[la] to see if I could find a maiden name for her. Based on the 1900 census, I knew that Jahue and Mary Isabella had married about 1883. I found a Fayette County marriage for November 12, 1882 for J. A. Maddox and Mary T. Welch. Because all documentation in this time period was done with handwriting, it is frequently difficult to discern whether an initial is an I. or a J. or a T. because many people wrote those characters similarly.

With all of these factors – first name, middle name, maiden name, birth year, mother’s first name, middle initial, and birth year, proximity to a Welch family and a Sanford family, I believe I found my missing great-grand aunt and the last of my great-grandfather’s siblings. There are still questions to be answered, including that this 1900 census said Sarah had borne 5 children of whom 4 were living – meaning there was another sibling (no clue as to whether this was another child of Robert Welch or one she had while married to Mr. Jackson). I still also would like to find a marriage between Sarah A. Jackson and an unknown Edmondson, photographs of all of them, as well as burial locations for her and Mary Isabella, but there are surely more clues to find and trails to follow.