Saturday, November 26, 2011

Case Study: Clements Family Arrivals

I know very little about my third great-grandparents, Joseph and Elizabeth Clements Allen.  They arrived in the US and were married before 1850, lived in Pennsylvania and Ohio, had at least seven children and were likely both dead before 1900.

I have found them in various records but have no idea where they came from (the majority say somewhere in Ireland) and when.  I still haven't located them in any passenger records, but I believe I might have found Elizabeth's family.

The Back Story
In 1850 Elizabeth and Joseph were with Elizabeth's parents in Shenango Twp., Lawrence, Pennsylvania.

1850 US Census Excerpt for the Clements Family
Also in the household are Elizabeth's siblings, Jane and John.  Jane is listed as being seventeen, which would place her birth date around 1833; John is fourteen, giving him a birth date around 1836.  Their parents, James is sixty (so born circa 1790) and Mary is fifty (thus born around 1800).

Elizabeth and Joseph were in Ohio by 1860 but her family is still in Pennsylvania.

1860 US Census Excerpt for the Clements Family
Elizabeth's father seems to have died, the family is enumerated as 'Cleymonds,' and they were in New Castle, Lawrence, Pennsylvania.  Mary is listed as being sixty-five (which would change her birth date to around 1795) and in the household are Jane and John (aged twenty-eight and twenty-three respectively) again.  Also in the household is someone new, likely another sibling of Elizabeth's.  Below mother Mary are ditto marks to denote another Mary, this one thirty-four (born circa 1826).

From these two census records we can create a rough sketch as to what the Clements family might have consisted of:

Father: James Clements, born circa 1790
Mother: Mary Clements, born between circa 1795 and circa 1800
Children: Mary, born circa 1826; Elizabeth, born circa 1828; Jane, born circa 1832/33; and John, born circa 1836/37.

The Mystery
I've looked for arrival records for the family before and never had much luck, until recently.


On 22 May, 1847 the ship Pioneer arrived in Philadelphia from Londonderry.  On board were Mary Clements, age fifty (born circa 1797); Mary Ann Clements, age twenty (born circa 1827); Jane Clements, age fourteen (born circa 1833); and John Clements, age ten (born circa 1837).

Is this my Clements family?  I'm not certain, but I think it is.  The names and approximate birth dates match up very well which makes me think these are my people.  The arrival date of 1847 also fits with the fact that they were enumerated in the 1850 US Census.

But where is James?  Where is Elizabeth?  Why didn't they travel with the family?

Occam's Razor
It is possible that James had come over earlier and sent for his family later but that doesn't explain Elizabeth's absence.  I have doubts that Elizabeth and Joseph were married by 22 May, 1847 (their first known child was born in 1850), though it is a possible reason why she did not accompany her family.

It is also possible that Elizabeth stayed with a sibling in Ireland.  Mary would have been in her late twenties/early thirties when she started having children if we assume Elizabeth and Mary were her eldest.  Considering the age in which they lived, Mary was probably married by 1820 and had at least one other child by the time Elizabeth and Mary came along in the late 1820s.  The family was poor and I doubt their relatives were much better off which makes me question whether anyone other than a sibling (or other close relative like grandparent, aunt or uncle) would take Elizabeth in.

Then there is always the possibility that she was already in the US when her mother and siblings arrived.  I have a hard time with this because wouldn't it make more sense to make that kind of a trip with her family?  And if she did come with her father (the only other person known to be absent from the above record), why would he have taken her over his wife and other children?

However, if you look at the history of Ireland, 1847 was an important year and one of Ireland's worst.  The famine was raging and had actually hit its height three months before the family reached the US.  1847 also saw massive evictions of tenant farmers by landlords in Ireland.

This leads me to Occam's razor ("the simplest explanation is the most likely one").  In this case, with everything that is thus far known, I think James and Elizabeth (and likely other family members), for whatever reason, arrived before Mary and the others in 1847.  With everything Ireland was going through in 1847, I have a difficult time believing Elizabeth's family (especially her mother) would have left her behind.

While that may be the simplest explanation, it doesn't mean it is the correct one - only time (and more records) will tell.

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