Matrilineal mergers: Part One

Jefferson County, Kentucky Marriage Licenses and Bonds, 1810-1814, showing the 1814 bond between William Shake and Stephen Smith.

An “added” middle name is something that comes up quite a lot when seeing family trees online and can sometimes be difficult to detect. Middle names in the eighteenth century in the present-day United States are rare, and even though they gained popularity during the nineteenth century, numerous people get their mother’s maiden name (or what a descendant thinks it is) added into a name online.

I’ve always been interested in matrilineal lines, and seeing how far back I could trace my mother’s mother’s mother, etc. However, for my four grandparents, I can only trace the matrilineage of my paternal grandfather beyond the late eighteenth century.[1] For the matrilineage of my two grandmothers, both have been victims of having a middle name added to them in online trees as a result of “merger” with a different woman who is not my ancestor.

For the matrilineal ancestry of my maternal grandmother (my own matrilineal ancestor), I can trace her line to her great-grandmother Nancy (Shake) Haines (1827-1885) of Big Springs, Boone County, Indiana. (Several years ago I wrote about DNA matches I had with descendants of Nancy’s sibling and a paternal first cousin.) Numerous online trees have identified Nancy’s parents as William Shake and “Sarah Martha Smith” [born Virginia, about 1793], but are they Nancy’s parents?

Numerous online trees have identified Nancy’s parents as William Shake and “Sarah Martha Smith” …, but are they Nancy’s parents?

While Nancy has a death certificate in Indiana in 1885, it does not identify her parents. Her marriage to Henry J. Haines in Oldham County, Kentucky on 29 October 1845 gives her father (who consented to the marriage) as William Shake. “Wm Shake,” aged 55, born Kentucky, is enumerated in Oldham County in 1850, with “Martha Shake,” aged 57, born Virginia. William Shake married “Sarah Smith,” in nearby Jefferson County, on 14 January 1814, with the above marriage bond (also signed by Stephen Smith, relationship not stated) giving Sarah’s father as John Smith.

Out of that 1850 census entry and 1814 marriage record, “Sarah Martha Smith, born about 1793 in Virginia,” was created. No middle names or initials were given in either record, just the first names Sarah and Martha. Martha is William’s second wife. William Shake married Martha Norton in Oldham County on 21 February 1834. William’s youngest child (another William) was 21 years old in the 1850 census, so the first wife Sarah died sometime between 1829 and 1834.

With regard to my last known matrilineal female ancestor Sarah (Smith) Shake, I do not know when (or where) she was approximately born. The “ca. 1793 in Virginia” referred to William’s second wife Martha from the 1850 census. William is in Jefferson County in the 1820 census, with a woman between 16 through 25, likely making Sarah born between 1794 and 1804. The elder female in William Shake’s household in 1830 (now in Oldham County) is between 20 through 29, so born between 1800-1810. If that is Sarah, she was very young [14?] when she married William Shake in 1814. While possible, this woman could be someone besides William’s wife. While I have tried to research John Smith of Kentucky, Sarah’s mother, the next generation in my matrilineal ancestry, remains known to me only as “Mrs. John Smith.” Lucky me!

Part Two will conclude with my father’s last known matrilineal ancestors, connecting (on first look) to families in Pennsylvania, Delaware, New York, and … South Carolina?


[1] I can trace my paternal grandfather’s matrlineage back twelve generations in America and one generation back in England: Henry Thurston12 Child (Lucy Belle11 Healy, Elizabeth Eaton10 Larned, Lucy9 Holmes, Lucy8 Tourtellotte, Abigail7 Carroll, Lucy6 Hosmer, Rachel5 Pierce, Mary4 Wyman, Mary3 Carter, Mary2 Parkhurst, Phebe1 Leete, AliceA Grundy). The Parkhurst family of Ipswich, Suffolk, England, first settled in Watertown, Massachusetts by 1642. The English and first few American generations of this family are treated in John Brooks Threlfall, Fifty Great Migration Colonists to New England & Their Origins, 256-88, and I have traced matrilineal descendants of Phebe (Leete) Parkhurst through her four surviving daughters.

About Christopher C. Child

Chris Child has worked for various departments at NEHGS since 1997 and became a full-time employee in July 2003. He has been a member of NEHGS since the age of eleven. He has written several articles in American Ancestors, The New England Historical and Genealogical Register, and The Mayflower Descendant. He is the co-editor of The Ancestry of Catherine Middleton (NEHGS, 2011), co-author of The Descendants of Judge John Lowell of Newburyport, Massachusetts (Newbury Street Press, 2011) and Ancestors and Descendants of George Rufus and Alice Nelson Pratt (Newbury Street Press, 2013), and author of The Nelson Family of Rowley, Massachusetts (Newbury Street Press, 2014). Chris holds a B.A. in history from Drew University in Madison, New Jersey.

16 thoughts on “Matrilineal mergers: Part One

  1. Luckily my umbilical line leads me to Portia Trovatino of the Island of Lipari, Italy. She was born about 1550. The island has church records going into the early 1500s so with a little dedication I was able to go that far.

      1. They were filmed by the latter-day Saints before the pope put the Kibosh on further church registers being filmed in other parts of Italy

  2. I have been fortunate to trace my matrilineal lineage back thirteen generations to one Sarah, successively the wife of Nicholas Pettigrew and Clement Palmer, who was buried 22 May 1667 in Townstall, Devon, near Dartmouth. Her daughter, Jane (Palmer) Deering emigrated from Dartmouth in 1679 aboard the “Hannah and Elizabeth” which arrived at Boston between 10 August and 14 September. At that time she was the widow of Roger Deering, who had died at Kittery, Maine in 1676.

  3. Fun project! And challenging. Some of my biggest triumphs genealogically speaking have been determining maiden names, the correct ones, not “Mrs. John Smith.”

    As to the William Shake 1820 census, you may never know. Unmarried sisters and sisters-in-law frequently stepped up to help with the widower’s household. If there was no farm to work, widower and children sometimes just moved back with Mom and Dad, at least in my family.

    How widows coped is much more complicated. It would be interesting to examine female heads of households in the pre 1850 censuses.

  4. Chris – fascinating report. It is interesting many of us can find a long matrilineal line from a paternal ancestor! But when it comes to our own matrilineal line, it may be a tough slog. My own matrilineal line hits the proverbial bricks with an Irish family that settled in Montreal in the 1790’s. Probably from County Wexford, but only a guess. And married an Anglican in Montreal, seems unusual. In contrast to my dead end, my wife is a matrilineal descendant of Jane (Bond) Coles of Preston-over-the-Hills, b. ca. 1512. We always say — 007 style — Bond, Jane Bond. Jane is one of many subjects of Julie Helen Otto’s research and the ancestress of Alice (Freeman) (Thompson) Parke and many progeny of both sexes in the U.S. However following the matrilineal lines coming down, it gets very hard to find uninterrupted female lines. And then they end with males. For example, we have two boys; my wife’s sister has two boys; her female cousin has three boys; no maternal second cousins, and of the third cousins, no female line that we have found. We will have to keep going back to find other matrilineal links from Jane Bond to a living female. As for Jane Bond, at least one on-line Geni tree shows Jane Bond’s matrilineal lines goes back to an Elizabeth Crouche, ca. 1412, through Prowse and Orchard families. But this seems unreliable, as it posits Jane as the daughter of a William Bond, to whom she was an heir. But she was also heir to Robert Bond who is identified as her father. William may have been an uncle or other Bond relation, by whom she came to additional wealth. To my knowledge, no one has identified Robert Bond’s spouse who would have been mother to Jane (Bond) Coles.

  5. I have many lines back to the 1600s, however, my first female ancestor with a middle name is a maternal 3rd great grandmother Damaris Hathaway Holmes b. 9/14/1812 in Halifax MA. She is the only female ancestor of that generation in my and my husband’s lines with a middle name and none of her siblings (a sister and two brothers) have a middle name. Also the name Hathaway does not appear in any of her ancestral lines. I have to do more research to see if i can find out where it came from. Curiously enough Hathaway is a surname in her husband’s ancestral line.

  6. My matrilineal line takes me back with proof to Ann Pierpoint who married James Clelland and lived at Fork of the Cheat in Virginia now West Virginia in the 1780s. There are clues to her parents and beyond but no proof. My father’s matrilineal line is a line of mostly women named Thankful beginning with his grandmother and interrupted once with a Mercy and once with a Content. The first with a middle name was Mercy b. 1825 given her mother’s maiden name Holbrook instead of her first name Thankful. The first Thankful in this line was Thankful Cobb born in 1687 in Barnstable MA the daughter of James and Sarah Lewis Cobb. Sarah’s mother Mary Doggett is the last female I have identified in this line. She was married to George Lewis in 1624, Horsmonden, Kent. Six Thankfuls in this line.
    My father’s father’s matrilineal line is interesting and I never looked at it this way before. Beginning with his grandmother Corrinna Kidder it goes back though 12 generations until it arrives at Ann Dudley and ends with her mother Dorothy Yorke. One more, my mother’s father’s matrilineal line can be traced back to Essex County MA to Elizabeth the wife of Samuel Symmonds. Two of her granddaughters were ancestors of my grand father one directly in his matrilineal line and the other on his grandmother’s father’s side.
    Thank you for leading me to this exercise

    1. My daughter Alice is the eighth Alice in my mother’s family over ten generations, but not exclusively matrlineal.

      The other thing I’ve also tried to track is who are the present “carriers” of a given matrilineal ancestor. For descendants of my matrilineal great-grandmother, as my sisters both do not have children, my 21 year old second cousin once removed is the only relative still possible to pass on my own mtDNA to later generations

    2. Good Morning Marian. I am Paul Morris Hilton of New Brunswick, Canada. I have a link to an Ann(e) Dudley and her Mother Dorothy Yorke. Ann Dudley’s Father was Governor Thomas Dudley -born1576 and Mother was Dorothy Yorke- born in 1582. Would these be the same folks that you refer to here. There is a huge link to the Hilton Family. I will be willing to help you with any data you might need in your research. Thank you also Chris Child for so much help. Sincerely, Paul Morris Hilton, Harvey Station, New Brunswick, Canada

  7. Chris, none of my four grandparents’ matrilineal lines goes as far as your paternal grandfather’s. I have one woman born ca. 1814, N. Y (maternal grandfather), one born ca. 1829, Ohio (myself), one born ca. 1770, Va. (paternal grandfather), and one born say 1750, Scotland (my father). However, I have known of my own line from Rev. Thomas and Mary (Parkhurst) Carter—via a son, Samuel—for as long as I’ve been doing research.

  8. Sarah Smith Shake is almost certainly the daughter of the “Judge” John Smith whose undated Cass Co IN will was proved in 1845. She is named as deceased in the will. Her husband William did marry a Martha in the 1830s, and his 1850 census wife is Martha in the 1850 census. So Martha is very unlikely to be Sarah’s middle name.

    The Charlotte of the will is a second wife (my line). I don’t know John’s first wife’s name, but the names of his children strongly suggest checking the Harding family. Sarah’s daughter Mary married a Harding, and there is a 1786 VA marriage between Wilmoth Harding and John Smith. Wilmoth is usually said to be the Wilmoth born in 1741, but she is already Wilmoth Smith in her father’s 1779 will. The Henry of the will is probably Henry Hardin Smith of neighboring Fulton Co.

    Much of this and more is now posted at

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.