Sometimes the best information turns out to be wrong!
Such was my research into the life of Annie J. Adams, sister of my 2x great grandfather, Calvin Segee Adams. Annie was the younger sister of Calvin and they were two of the nine children of Daniel Adams and Sarah Ann Parker of Calais, Maine.
I don’t know what it is about researching Calvin’s daughters, but they seem to be getting lost to time through human error. Way back when, I wrote about his sister Emeline who married William Seonnig, the man who never existed, and who was actually a man named Loring Bill.
I knew that Annie had married a man named Sturgis A. Thomas on 23 August 1886 in Calais. However, Annie was 34 at the time – her first marriage – and Sturgis was 39. It was also his first marriage. Sadly, Sturgis died just three years later on 12 October 1889 in Lincoln, Sunbury, New Brunswick, Canada.
Thanks to a digitized version of the 1886 Public Works book, it appears that they lived on what was called Road 15 in Lincoln:
Sturgis A. Thomas on Road 15
I can’t tell if he was a worker who was paid $25.00 for putting a roadway through a field or if he was the owner, paid for the loss of his land, but either way, he was living in Lincoln, Sunbury County in 1886.
I didn’t know what happened to Annie, except for this mention in the obituary of her brother, Calvin, published on 19 January 1921 in the Calais Advertiser newspaper:
Calvin S. Adams, a retired boat builder, an aged and respected resident of Calais, passed away at the Chipman Hospital Saturday at the advanced age of 77 years and 12 months. He is survived by a widow Mrs. Nellie F. Adams, one son, Charles E. Adams of Calais, a daughter, Mrs. P.E. Chadwick of Boston, one brother, Mr. Lowell R. Adams of Boston, and two sisters, Mrs. Annie Sturgis of Los Angeles, Cal. And Mrs. Carrie Crogan of Boston.
Here was the crumb trail I needed, or so I thought –
Mrs. Annie Sturgis of Los Angeles, Cal.
Off I went to the 1920 census, hoping that Annie was living in California at that time. Annie wasn’t found in 1920, but backing up to 1910 I came across this entry:
Annie & Clara Sturges, 1910, Los Angeles, CA
Annie was already widowed by 1910, but daughter Clara lived with her. Clara was born about 1893 in California.
Jumping back another ten years, I found the young Sturges family, again in Los Angeles:
Wm. A, Anna and “Claecy C.” Sturges
There were a couple of inconsistencies between these censuses. In 1910, Annie was 60 and in 1900, she was 50 – my Annie was born in 1852 so either whoever reported was unsure of Annie’s age or else Annie was misinformed. Secondly, in both censuses, she reported that her father was born in England. Daniel Adams was not born in England, he was born on Adams Island in the West Isles of New Brunswick, Canada, off the coast of Maine.
On the other hand, Annie’s age wasn’t too far off and William and Annie had been married for ten years, so married about 1890, which fit perfectly with Sturgis Thomas’s death date in September 1889.
Was this just wrongly reported information or did I have a problem here? Regardless, I kept digging and eventually discovered that William Sturges died of a broken back after falling off a wagon in Los Angeles. Clara apparently married a man named Virgil Thompson and they, along with mother Annie, moved to Pacific Grove in northern California. I found no evidence that Virgil and Clara had had any children, but could also not locate any death information for Virgil, Clara or Annie.
I pretty much left this collateral family branch at this point, as there didn’t appear to be any descendants and I could find no new records about the family. This research was done a number of years ago – 15 or 20 or possibly even longer ago than that. I even visited William Sturges’s grave at the I.O.O. F. Cemetery in Los Angeles.
Fast forward now to the last couple of years. It is always worth taking a new look at old research because of the on-going availability of easily accessible records.
Two, in particular, caught my eye when I took a fresh look at Annie Adams:
- William Sturges’ and Annie Adams’ marriage in Los Angeles
- Annie Adams’ and Samuel Henry Conroy’s marriage in Boston
First, here is William and Annie’s marriage in Los Angeles:
William A. Sturges’ Marriage Record in 1889
William married a woman named Joanna Farrow shortly after they applied for a marriage license on 23 September 1889! Joanna obviously went by Anna or Annie. No parents names were given and Joanna Farrow looks to be a different person than my Annie unless Annie married a man named Farrow after Sturgis Thomas died. There is a second, even bigger problem here, though. William and Joanna filed for a license about three weeks before Sturgis died in Canada, over 3,000 miles away. Did Annie and Sturgis separate or divorce? It was possible, but I needed to keep sleuthing. It was also not impossible because the Adams men were sailors, captains and boat builders and I knew that Annie’s uncle had been in San Francisco on a trip to China.
Further detective work (with thanks to newly digitized records appearing online every day) found a marriage record for an Annie Adams in Boston, Massachusetts to a Samuel Henry Conroy:
Conroy-Adams Marriage, 1906
Here we have Samuel Henry Conroy marrying Anna Jane (Adams) Thomas on 22 April 1906 in Somerville, Massachusetts and the marriage was also recorded in Medford.
Further information on the next page included:
Parents’ Names and Birthplace, # Marriages
This Annie Jane Adams Thomas was born on Adams Island, New Brunswick, Canada to Daniel Adams and Sarah Ann Parker. This was noted as her second marriage! This is clearly “my” Annie Adams and it is just as clear that William Sturges married a different woman who was close in age to my Annie and also born in Canada.
The 1910 census of Los Angeles includes Samuel Henry Conroy and wife Annie living in Los Angeles, but Annie is a widow living in a rented home in both 1920 and 1930. The 1910 census indicates that she never had any children. I have found no death record for her or a grave site, but she likely died between 1930 and 1940, as she was 78 years old in 1930.
How do I explain the 1921 obituary notice naming her as Mrs. Annie Sturges? Well, the Sturges part is easy. Someone forgot that Sturgis was her husband’s given name. Why was there no mention of her Conroy name? Perhaps Annie lost touch with the family after she left the Maine/New Brunswick area. I haven’t found her in either the 1900 U.S. census or the 1901 Canadian census so I don’t know when she removed to Boston. I imagine that whoever gave the obituary in Calvin’s obituary might also have forgotten that she married Samuel Conroy. Maybe that person didn’t even know she married again in Boston, just that she had moved to California.
Either way, Annie has been found and remembered.
One thought on “Being a Careful Researcher – Annie Jane Adams Thomas Conroy”
Great reminder that revisiting old research with newly available records and fresh eyes can lead to revised conclusions! I really enjoyed your article today.