Friday, August 7, 2009

Fix-It Friday: Who was the Wife of David Bean?

When my daughter was about four years old, she got very upset about a grocery store tabloid story about an alien's baby with two heads - or some such thing. I tried to explain that it wasn't true, and she said, "Mommy, if it's not true, then they shouldn't be allowed to print it!" Although we're consciously aware that not everything we read is true, our subconscious seems to echo my daughter. "It must be true. I read it in a book, or on line, or saw it on TV." And we all know that once something appears in print, it develops a life of its own. Correcting it is almost impossible. Genealogists have an even bigger problem. We publish the results of our research, and even though we may feel we have done a reasonably thorough job of searching the best sources, we know that new evidence may appear that invalidates our conclusions.

Unless we've published the material ourselves, we have limited means to posit a correction. In fact, our "correction" is only another conclusion based on what we consider best evidence. Here is a fix-it for the identity of Abigail, wife of David Bean, of Wheelock, Vermont.

The memorial for Abigail Bean, who is buried in South Wheelock Cemetery, can be found on Find A Grave. The information provided calls her Abigail (Stephens) Bean, born 1808 and died Dec. 30, 1861. The inscription is noted as including "w/o David," and there is a note, "Married in Kirby Dec. 3, 1848." There is no tombstone photograph. When I saw this, I immediately said, "Oh, no! I must have made a mistake! I thought David Bean's wife was Abigail Ward. What is my source?" I still think Abigail, wife of David Bean of Wheelock, Vermont, is Abigail Ward, daughter of Samuel and Tamson (Hall) Ward. Here are some highlights from my evidence.

1. Abigail's tombstone in South Wheelock Cemetery reads, "Abigail// wife of// David Bean// died// Dec. 30, 1861// ae 52 yrs". No help there for either the Stephens school or the Ward school.

2. There is a death record for Abigail Bean in Wheelock, Vermont, Vital Statistics 1: 89. It states that Abigail Bean died 30 December 1861, age age 52 years 4 months 15 days; cause of death, heart disease. She was married and her parents are recorded as "Abigail and Tamson Ward." Sometimes, things just aren't easy. This is the only entry in the entire volume that lists a female name first in the parents column, and it's definitely the only entry that records two female names in this column! I think the recorder simply repeated Abigail's name without thinking about it. Tamson Ward, widow of Samuel Ward, was still living in the area, either in Danville with son Samuel H., or in Wheelock with daughter Mary (Ward) Sherburn. Her husband, though, had died 26 years earlier, so a slip on his name is more likely than a slip on Tamson's. No informant appears in these records.

3. I have found no marriage record for David Bean and Abigail Ward, and their only son's marriage and death records don't give his mother's maiden name. However, that son, William W., was a Civil War soldier. His pension file contains several affidavits from members of Abigail Ward's family, none from any Stephens family.

4. Janice Boyko's wonderful site, Northeast Kingdom Genealogy, contains birth, death, and marriage announcements found in area newspapers. Two of them, the St. Johnsbury Caledonian and the Danville North Star, contain the announcement of the marriage of Reuben Bean Jr. of Kirby to Abigail Stephens of Kirby, 3 December 1848, in Kirby. I haven't seen the original newspapers.

5. David, Abigail, and William W. Bean are enumerated in Wheelock, Vermont, in both the 1850 and 1860 censuses. The household of Reuben and Abigail Bean is enumerated in Kirby, Vermont in the same census years. In 1850, Reuben is called Reuben Jr. and his household follows that of his probable father, also called Reuben. In 1860, the Reuben and Abigail Bean family is enumerated in the household of William Stevens, a man of an age to be Abigail's father.

Thus, my fix-it for the day: Abigail, wife of David Bean of Wheelock, Vermont, is Abigail Ward, daughter of Samuel and Tamson (Hall) Ward. Abigail Stephens, on the other hand, married Reuben Bean Jr., of Kirby, Vermont. If you're interested in any of these families, you can now judge the evidence.

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