I’ve decided to start the 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks challenge. And although the challenge does not require a blog, I’ve been thinking of starting one anyone, so no time like the present!
After much deliberation on how to begin, I have opted to start a with brick wall I’m currently trying to break down, my 3rd great grandmother, Elizabeth Weeks. And while I plan throughout this challenge to write about ancestors that I know something about, I have more questions than answers when it comes to Elizabeth (and her husband).
Here’s what I know….
Elizabeth Weeks was born somewhere, sometime. She married John William Kirkland and had 9 children, the eldest of which was my 2nd great grandfather, John W. Kirkland, who was born in Fredericton, New Brunswick about 1832. They had children born in Fredericton, in Chatham (Miramichi), New Brunswick and in Prince Edward Island, where their youngest child, Emma Lydia, was born about 1851 (or maybe 1855). She died on January 26, 1858, in Newcastle (Miramichi) New Brunswick.
That’s it. That’s all I know.
When I first starting researching this line a few years back, I found my John W. Kirkland (the younger) with his wife and three children (including my great grandmother, Wilhelmina, then aged 2) on the 1861 New Brunswick census. Living with the family was John’s brother, Charles Kirkland.
When I couldn’t find any information on John’s parents, I decided to research Charles. I thought I had struck gold when I found a wonderful profile of Charles, who had died on the Titanic. The profile, written in 2006, included the following:
Charles Leonard Kirkland was born in March of 1841 in Miramichi, Northumberland County, New Brunswick, the fourth child of John V. Kirkland and Elizabeth Sarah Weeks. The Weeks family had emigrated to New Brunswick from England circa 1820 and John Kirkland, a silk merchant, had emigrated to New Brunswick from Glasgow, Scotland in the early 1830’s.
Yay! I had parents’ names and countries of origin. I figured it might be a bit challenging finding an Elizabeth Sarah Weeks, born in England who came to Canada around 1820, but at least I had something to go on.
So I kept digging. And here’s what I found…
On the 1891 Census, son John W. Kirkland’s mother is said to be born in the US.
Likewise, on the 1880 census, son Charles Kirkland’s mother is said to be born in Minnesota. Minnesota?! Were there even settlers in Minnesota at the time she would have been born?
On the 1891 Census, daughters Emma and Leavinia both have their mothers’ birth places as Prince Edward Island. Leavinia’s birth record has her mother’s birth place as Fredericton, New Brunswick. On the 1900 US Census, sons James and Charles have their mother’s birthplace as Canada.
See what all of those have in common – not a single one has her birth places as England! So, was she born in New Brunswick? Prince Edward Island, the United States (perhaps Minnesota?) Where did the information about her emigrating from England come from?
And what about her date of birth? Daughter Leavinia’s Late Registration of Birth (issued in 1929) says Elizabeth was 47 at the time of Leavinia’s birth in 1849, which would make her birth year 1802. However, Leavinia was more likely born in 1844, which could make Elizabeth’s birth year as early as 1797. Her death notice in the newspaper says that she was 44 at the time of her death in 1858, which puts her birth at 1814.
If she were born in 1814, she would have had her children from ages 18 to 37 (or later, as sources differ on Emma’s birth date as well). A birth date of 1802 would put her between 30 and 49. The later date is probably more likely, but either is plausible.
So where do you even start looking when you have a 12 year range and multiple possible locations (some of which have minimal records for that time period)?
I’m hoping that DNA will help.
I’ve tested my mother at both Ancestry and FamilyTree DNA and have uploaded the results to GEDMatch. I’ve been spending lots of time lately going through her matches to identify those with a Weeks connection. By using shared matches, and building out some people’s trees, I have identified 12 family groups who descend from 4 of John William Kirkland and Elizabeth Weeks – John W., James, Emma Lydia and Leavinia. Now that I’ve identified these groups, people who match 2 or more of the known descendants are most likely to either a) also be Kirkland/Weeks descendants or b) are descendants of an ancestor of either John Kirkland or Elizabeth Weeks. This latter group could help me break through the brick walls. I’m currently combing through their trees to find common names and locations.
A couple of those shared matches are descendants of a Weeks family from Maine, which goes back to New Brunswick. It’s too early to determine whether Elizabeth is indeed connected to this family, but it’s looking promising!
Meanwhile, if you’re a descendant of Elizabeth Weeks and John William Kirkland, and you’ve done an autosomal DNA test (or plan to), please do let me know and upload your results to GEDMatch. Even if you don’t match me or my mother, you may match some of the other known descendants. Likewise if you have Weeks from New Brunswick or Maine in your tree, I’d love to hear from you!
May 2018 be the year I (finally!) break through this brick wall!