Origin Story: Mary Dunlap Dwinells

First published on November 18, 2015.

Part 1: What I Know

I’ve been recently caught up researching Mary Dunlap Dwinells, my fourth great-grandmother. I’ve done a lot of work about her and in these next few posts, I’m going to talk about my process and the problems that I ran into. First things first, what I know about Mary Dunlap Dwinells.

Mary’s name shows up in 6 initial documents, and I found all of them through ancestry.com. The first of these is her marriage record from the Massachusetts Town and Vital Statistics:tumblr_inline_nxzk2wTlAl1qe1uf9_500

Her record is highlighted in grey. She was married to William Dwinells on December 31, 1817 in Haverhill, Massachusetts. It probably was a nice New Year’s Eve wedding.

Mary shows up next in the birth records of all her children, which is also found in the Massachusetts Town and Vital Statistics:

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All of her children are in highlighted in grey, and she had quite a few. Let me put them in chronological order for you.

  • Joseph James, November 11, 1818
  • Almira Ann, October 24, 1820
  • Charles Henry, August 24, 1822
  • Moses, October 11, 1824
  • Hannah Woodman, October 29, 1826
  • Daniel Bradbury, October 16, 1828
  • Leonard, September 29, 1830
  • Philip, January 15, 1833
  • William Jr., December 15, 1834
  • John Francis, May 28, 1837
  • George, July 12, 1840

That’s a lot of children! And for a span of 12 years, she was having children every two years around the same time. I’m not sure why some of her children have strange middle names like Bradbury or Woodman. It is amazing that Mary has so many children over a span of 22 years especially when childbearing was so dangerous during that time period.

Mary next shows up in census records. The ones I have found are from the 1850 United States Census, the 1865 Massachusetts State Census and the 1870 United States Census. Before 1850, the United States Census only had the names of heads of households and enumerated the number of other household members. So Mary’s name wouldn’t have shown up until the 1850 census. here are her records in chronological order:

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In the 1850 US Census, Mary’s age is listed as 55 and she is also listed as being born in Massachusetts. If Mary was 55 in 1850 then her birth year would be 1795. In this census record, it appears that she is still living with her husband and some of their children. Her youngest child, George was 11. Mary is listed as 68 in the 1865 census making her birth year 1797. She is no longer living with her husband who is deceased, and is living with her son, Philip. Here she is listed has being born in New Hampshire. In the last census record in 1870, Mary’s age is 75 again making her birth year 1795. She is also again listed as being born in Massachusetts.

This discrepancy is strange and perhaps points to the possibility that these census records don’t match. However, I do think that they are the same person and perhaps point to a problem with the person relaying the information to the census taker.

The last record that I have of Mary is her death record. This again comes from the Massachusetts Town and Vital Records:

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Her record is kind of hard to read, but Mary L. Dunlap Dwinells passed away on January 14, 1875 at the age of 82. That would make her birth year 1793. She died from dropsey, which is an old word for edema or swelling. She died in Haverhill, but her place of birth is listed as Concord, N.H. There are no parents listed for Mary but one is listed as also from Concord.

I said that this would be a short post and honestly this is only part of Mary’s story and part of my story trying to find more information about her. In the next part, I’m going to dive deeper and try to figure out all I can about Mary’s origin story.

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