Origin Story: Mary Dunlap Dwinells

Part III: What I Tried to Find Out

In my last post, I talked about the things I didn’t know about Mary Dunlap Dwinells (my fourth great-grandmother). The information I needed about her was where and exactly when she was born and who her parents were. I went through many different channels to try and figure out the answers to my questions.

Massachusetts has some pretty good records, and by this I mean the Massachusetts Town and Vital Records. There is some information missing from this huge database, but for the most part it is fantastic, especially because many of my ancestors lived in Massachusetts. It was a pretty easy search to see if Mary showed up in any Massachusetts birth records, she didn’t.

My next step was to check New Hampshire. It seemed pretty divided from my other information as to whether she was born in Massachusetts or New Hampshire. New Hampshire has some good birth records as well but they aren’t as easy to look through as Massachusetts. I still didn’t find any record of her.

With birth records a bust, I next turned to census records. The only records that I could find of her were after her marriage. This makes sense because before 1850 only the heads of families were listed on the census with all other family members just counted.

My last ditch effort to find something about Mary was to combine both the birth records and census data. I looked through the 1800 census in New Hampshire and found all the men with the last name Dunlap who had a female child between 0-10 years old. There were four possible fathers and through marriage records I was able to narrow those fathers to one.

Perfect! I found her parents right? Not yet, I had to make sure. The father I had found was Samuel Dunlap, of Dunlap furniture fame. I was excited but I had to make sure this was a sure thing. He had a daughter named Mary that was born in 1791. Looking through other family trees on ancestry I found this Mary a few times but some trees had her married to someone else. I couldn’t find any record to match this. I searched and searched but couldn’t find any records at all. Finally I found a book that listed the Samuel Dunlap’s genealogy and I found a record of that marriage, eliminating Samuel Dunlap as Mary Dunlap Dwinells’s father.

Unfortunately, that’s the end of the story for now. I’ve exhausted my research skills. I’ve come up with a few theories as to why I can’t find any record of Mary’s birth. Maybe those records were lost. Maybe Mary was adopted and her records are somewhere else. She also could have been lying about her name, that’s probably less possible.

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