The 24th in a series on my family tree
Prompt: Broken Branch
In 1986 I inherited a 100-year-old black leather railroad bag from my maternal grandfather, Stanley Lewis McDonall. It was filled with old family documents, including letters and photographs and handwritten historical accounts, and as I reviewed them it was like discovering a part of myself I hadn’t known existed.
For all his faults grandpa Stan was proud of his heritage, particularly his United Empire Loyalist (UEL) roots, and made a point of saving whatever records had come into his possession to form the foundation for our family’s genealogical archive. He had been particularly chuffed, as I understand it, about the Fairchilds (his maternal 3rd great grandmother was Ruth Fairchild who married Daniel Springer, both UEL) whose lineage was part of the family lore of possible links to royal lines. Were he alive today he’d have been satisfied (in his understated and ornery way) to learn that technological advancements in family research can indeed trace those UEL roots back to the Plantagenets, and beyond.
The subject here, however, is another branch of the family, the Beltons, whose documentation is not quite so conclusive even though much of what was in that black railroad bag belonged to them. The hope going forward is to continue to work from these documents, and available online resources, to mend this broken branch.
Lineage rabbit holes
Yes, thanks to the miracle of modern technology ancestral records that used to take months to access are now often available with just a few clicks of the mouse. Thirty-five years ago research was a paper slog. Between visiting family history centres and libraries/archives, writing letters to relevant organizations and genealogists and then waiting for their much anticipated (often dissatisfying) responses the whole process could take months. Now, of course, much of it (not all!) can be done electronically. Online family search groups and relevant websites, et al, are veritable treasure troves of genealogical data leading the hopeful researcher down a labyrinth of lineage rabbit holes. And yet, while the modern process can be fun it’s certainly not infallible. There are plenty of pitfalls as resources and records can be misread, misinterpreted, and mixed up creating quite a mess. As is our experience with the Beltons.
Having only recently returned to this ancestral warren of activity within the last year I’m still learning about the seemingly endless resources available online. The big challenge is wrapping my head around the new DNA component. Helping with this is my second cousin,, Kelly, who’s been dedicated to researching the family tree for a number of years now. Kelly and I grew up worlds apart and have only become acquainted within the past 10 years. The quest to reveal our mutual family’s ancestral truth has given a depth to our relationship we might not have had otherwise. And we’re having fun doing it. Despite living half a country apart we can bounce our ideas about missing links and genealogical mysteries back and forth, often in real time, all thanks to technology.
And so, to our most recent volley concerning the Belton’s broken branch.
June 20, 2022
Me: Hi Kelly … This week I tackle a “broken branch” and am trying to figure out what way to go. The Beltons maybe? The more I look at them the more I’m convinced George is son of John who came to Pratt’s Hollow. He did it after his wife, Elizabeth, died and most of the family went with him, according to all the timelines I’ve looked at. Also according to the timeline George either stayed behind to marry Catherine Davis before immigrating, or he went with them and returned to Ireland to marry her and then came back.
Still, we don’t have any verification, so technically it’s broken until we can patch it.
[Later the same day …]
Kelly: This Belton, Catherine Davis arm is so frustrating. What would be good is finding birth information for both of them. My gut thinks they married in either Canada or the US. We should try to get a copy of the Irish marriage certificate you found, to see where the marriage took place, and to try to get some parents’ names, if available.
They were married young, if our birth info is correct. Catherine would only be 17 .. George maybe a few years older. I believe John Belton sailed to NY and Pratts around 1808 .. that would make George born in the US .. which doesn’t jive with the Irish birth information he gives on the census. My thought is perhaps John Belton of Pratts is an Uncle?? Maybe part of the family left and some stayed in Ireland??
I have DNA matches to the Kearns, but some of the NY Beltons that ended up in Ontario I don’t match with. ?????? So … then I think we have no link to that gang. So frustrating. We will figure it out!! Need to get some records for George and Catherine … I think we may find something in London ON, library??? Someone out there knows something!!!
I still find it interesting that a Belton son, can’t remember which one .. might be Peter, stated on a few of the censuses, Presbyterian as religion… which is usually the Scots, right? Also, on Sophia’s [Catherine S.] death certificate where we find the ONLY reference to Catherine’s last name as Davis (and that info provided by her husband, Nelson Crouse) her birthplace is listed as Scotland. We find her on one census only .. 1851 and her birthplace is listed as Ireland … but who knows???
June 21, 2022
Me: Here is the timeline I have for George Belton on FamilySearch. He appears to have married later (age 34), and it looks like if he was in NY he returned to Ireland to marry after his father died. Maybe he returned directly to Upper Canada, especially if other family members had already moved up here. I’d have to review the other time lines to get a sense of that.
Kelly: That’s the other George Belton that settled near London .. he was born in 1798. Our George was born around 1813. I see a lot of info being mixed up online for those two.
Kelly: [Sends graphic of Roman Catholic baptismal record for a Catherine Davis, 8 July 1811, Wexford, Enniscorthy, Ireland]
Me: According to all the records I’ve seen our Beltons are Methodist. Would [our George] marry an RC?
Kelly: Probably not!
Sophia’s death certificate. To my knowledge, this is the only reference I’ve ever seen to Catherine’s maiden name….. from son-in-law, Nelson. Catherine was deceased for decades when Nelson married Sophia. I think we need to be careful with this unless we can get the maiden name confirmed somewhere else. Do you have another record with her maiden name on it?
[Kelly shares a WikiTree page highlighting “not our George” Belton, born 1798]
This is the other George shown in your time line. Not our George.
Me: Well, this is where the branch is broken. I will need to amend the tree … what are the dates for our George?
Kelly: I have our George about 1813 and have no record of his death. That birthdate is calculated based on the census data he gave. … No record of Catherine’s death either. They must be buried somewhere. George moves from Delaware to Caradoc at some point. I’ll try to get you a time line.
Just a note on  George … This George married Aletia Philpot, another Pratts Hollow family.
The Kearns, another Pratts family, also married Philpots. This is the DNA match that I seem to have.
I just found [a] DNA project for the Kearns … when I get back [from my trip] I’m going to see how to upload my DNA and see if I match.
Me: Sounds good …
[Sent copy of death record for William Belton, a son of George and Catherine Belton]
Kelly: Sadly, it seems like they all forgot about her. On Sophia’s marriage certificate too … Mother unknown 😢
[Sent marriage record for William Belton, mother mentioned as Catherine Belton]
Me: Always referred to as Catherine Belton, it seems.
Kelly: This is the Belton that marries his cousin, Annie Belton, from the Thorndale bunch.
[Sent information from 1851 Canada Census re: George Belton age 38 in Delaware, Ontario]
Kelly: This is our George.
[Sent information from 1871 Canada Census re: George Belton, age 60 in Caradoc, Ontario]
Kelly: This is the last census we find him on. He’s moved from Delaware to Caradoc.
[Sent Passage info for Catherine Davis, 1834 … (right)]
Kelly: This is interesting .. can you make out who accompanies her ?
Me: Looks like “James”
[Down another rabbit hole we go … referencing DNA info from Ancestry ]
Kelly: Here is Jane, one of the ones I match to … she marries James Evans. On the 1851 census, she is listed with her Evans family, plus her sister Harriett Kershaw, (maiden name Kearn) her Mom and Dad (the Kearn and the Philpot)
What’s interesting is the Thorndale Belton family is also on the same page as the census, so they were neighbours. I think our George is a brother to the Thorndale Beltons.
Me: I’ll get my DNA done soon. You said you wanted mom’s info?
Kelly: Yes, we’ll do it next week when I’m back home.
I never entered that data for the Kearns … that was a “hint” from ancestry. They suggest that relationship to the Kearns based on other peoples’ tree data. So if they have their tree data wrong, the relationship could be wrong. The DNA data is correct, but there is a possibility that I simply match to someone else in their tree. …That being said, I do match to TWO of them .. on the same line. You see the mother is Elizabeth Philpot. Remember the other George (not our George) married a Philpot. I’m sure we’re related to the NY bunch somehow …
We need to try to confirm Catherine’s maiden name!!!!!
Me: So does this mean there is a Catherine Davis related to us?
Kelly: What it means is Ancestry thinks our Catherine Davis is actually Catherine Kearn, and it’s based on those two people that are Kearn descendants matching DNA with me. It’s a very small amount of DNA.
She’s too young to have maybe been married to a Davis and widowed before she wed George Belton, but I had thought of that angle for a minute!
It says “occupation” wife … maybe James dies and she meets George in Philly.
Me: Interesting 🤔
[Later email including random reference to this passenger manifest found through FamilySearch]
Kelly: I love this !! 👏🏻👏🏻👏🏻👏🏻 It’s fuzzy, so I can’t make the detail out! I see a Davis, too ! Where was this boat from? Who are all the Beltons and their ages??
[Sent a copy of the digitized document]
June 22, 2022
Me: I hadn’t realized that we had a double Belton/Crouse connection until I looked at this more closely, and the death certificate for Catherine S. Belton that you sent along. Nelson was her second husband after her first (Grafton) died. No details. And no extra info on Catherine Davis, sadly.
Kelly: Yes, it’s Nelson providing the family information for the death certificate. That’s why I think we should be careful with the data for Catherine Davis. That’s the only document I’ve ever seen with her maiden name on it, and it comes from Nelson. … On the marriage document I’ve seen for these two, Sophia lists her mother as unknown.
So maybe she was a Kearn and not a Davis? On the census, she says she was born in Ireland, but Nelson says Scotland.
We need to find more data for them. Maybe a Delaware [Ontario] genealogy centre?? George and family were on the same piece of land in Delaware for a long time. I can send the parcel number if it would help.
We also have another Sumner crossover, too. I think Lucinda Sumner marries one of the Thorndale Beltons!
And that’s where we ended it for now, but only because we both have lives!
We’ll keep sifting through available records and work with DNA to find our elusive 3rd great grandparents. As Kelly said, they have to be out there somewhere.
Perhaps I need to take another look at the contents of that old railroad bag. Hmmmmm ….
To be continued … ❦
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