I distinctly remember when I bought my first family history book. The book was Passamaquoddy, Genealogies of West Isles Families by Martha Ford Barto, published in 1975. I began researching my mother’s Adams family in 1979 and this book included her family roots, which extended into New Brunswick, Canada.
Remember, these were the days long before the internet and Canadian records, in particular, were hard to come by in the United States, especially for someone who lived in California.
Although the sources cited are presented as a bibliography instead of being linked to individual facts, it isn’t terribly difficult to determine where most of the names and dates came from. I found, after doing my own research, that the information compiled by Mrs. Barto was quite accurate.
However, I have been puzzled for many years by the marriage of my great great grandfather’s sister, Emeline M. Adams, to William Seonnig on 22 November 1866, place not given in Passamaquoddy, but probably Calais, Maine since that is where the Adams family was living in the 1860’s.
Initially, I was very pleased to see a nice unusual name like “Seonnig.” I figured how difficult could it be to find Seonnigs. Well, it was not only difficult, it was downright impossible.
I never delved too deeply into this mystery, though, because it wasn’t my direct line – there were plenty of other brick walls to keep me busy. From time to time, I did check the old AIS census index books for Maine and other New England states, but had no success. It crossed my mind that William Seonnig might have died young and Emeline remarried or, possibly, that both had died young.
Recently, I was taking another look at holes in family lines and again came across Emeline and William in the family tree. This was my opportunity to find out what happened to them since the internet age had arrived. The Adams family consisted of many boat builders and sea captains. They literally traveled the world and family members often moved between New Brunswick, Maine and Massachusetts so Emeline and William might be found almost anywhere. A couple of Adamses even made it to San Francisco by 1860.
Step 1 was to check Ancestry.com for Seonnig families. Hmmm. Not a single Seonnig to be found except for four Public Member Trees that listed Emeline and William and their date of marriage.
Step 2 was a check of FamilySearch. Double hmmm. Not a Seonnig to be found.
Step 3 – A Google search produced references to several family trees that again cited their names and date of marriage. There were also two Irish men noted in history with the given name of Seonnig, but no one was found having the surname “Seonnig.” Something was wrong here and it appeared to be the name “Seonnig.”
Step 4 – A return to FamilySearch to look for Emeline M. Adams instead of William Seonnig brought up one hit. Emeline M. Adams married in Calais, Maine (as I had expected) on 22 November 1866. So far, a 100% match. The big shock was that the groom was listed as Loring Bill!
Loring Bill??? Who in the world was that? Well, according to the FamilySearch, he was the husband of Emeline M. Adams. After half a minute, it came to me. Look at the shape of the name:
The first letter is a tall letter. The middle letters are all small, but sitting on the writing line. The last letter matches the height of the middle letters, but hangs belong the writing line.
Now look at this shape:
It is the exact same pattern.
Finally, think about reading a possibly faded old record with the elaborate script of the Victorian age and the capital letter “L” where the beginning stroke is low down to the writing line like in this 1860 census example:
It is now very apparent that the origin of “Seonnig” was a misreading of the name “Loring.” What about William? “Bill” is a nickname for “William.” On top of all that, it looked like the indexer might even have transposed the first name and surname entries for a Bill Loring.
Or did he?
A quick check of the 1860 census shows one William Loring living very near to Calais, Maine and he is 23 years old. Emeline was born about 1840, so this man is a good candidate to be Bill Loring.
Ooops – another stumbling block, as this William Loring married a lady named Mary Ann, had a family born through the 1860’s and 1870’s and moved to Wisconsin. There were no other viable candidates to be Bill Loring.
Step 5 – It was time for wildcard searches. Instead of assuming that Loring Bill was Bill Loring, I search for “L*r*n* Bill.” There were two very promising entries.
The first was the 1910 census of Boston, Massachusetts. Many Maine and New Brunswick residents lived in Boston at some point. Loren B. Bill, born 1840, Maine and Emma M. Bill, also born 1840, Maine were living with son Harrison W. Bill, age 33, born in Maine.
The second entry was the 1900 census listing of Eastport, Maine (very close to Calais, Maine) for the family of Loring B. Bill, born January 1841, Canada and Emma A. Bill, born May 1840, Canada and their children, Lina S., born March 1871, Maine and Harrison, born July 1876, Canada. Hints for Loren in 1900 included the 1881 census of Canada for “Banoni (Benoni)” Bill, wife Emma A. Bill, Lina, Harrison plus sons Charles E. and Horace.
Further research unearthed birth records for some of the children, further census records for the children as adults, marriage records and the knowledge that Emma lost two children before 1900 (an unknown child plus Horace). Among these records was proof that the wife of Loren Benoni Bill was Emeline (known as Emma) M. Adams.
Loren and Emma are last found on the 1910 census with son Harrison. No death records have been located for them in Massachusetts and they may have returned either to Maine or New Brunswick to live out their final years.
Mystery solved: Emeline M. Adams married Loren Benoni Bill on 22 November 1866 in Calais, Maine.
William Seonnig never existed!