Roots & Branches: Genealogy at HSP
A Single Fact May Be a Breakthrough
As a genealogical researcher, I always feel disappointed when I have worked for a client for two hours or more, and I have found little, sometimes nothing, in the way of new information. That’s not exactly true, since I will provide (as part of HSP’s Research by Mail service) a detailed list of what I have looked at, which does provide a service—these sources don’t need to be looked at again. Still, it is a little frustrating.
Recently, I was researching the Stringfellow family of Delaware and Chester counties. I was restlessly casting about for the parents of a Mahlon Stringfellow, the great great great grandfather of the client, and for information on his marriage to Margaret Williams, who (according to an unverified account) came from a prominent Quaker family. Some of the Stringfellows were Methodists. After the allotted two hours, I had not found anything.
The client asked if I could search a little more. I searched some more, and, just as I was about to stop, I finally found a Darby Monthly Meeting minute of significance—on November 29, 1825, a Margaret Stringfellow (formerly Williams) was disowned for marrying out of unity with Friends. In other words, Margaret Williams had married a non-Quaker, which was a violation of Quaker discipline, and she had not (at least adequately) condemned her own action. (By the way, if Margaret had issued an acceptable paper of self-condemnation, she would have remained a Quaker in good standing, and remain married to Mahlon Stringfellow, since separation or divorce was an even more serious moral transgression.) I also discovered that Margaret evidently was the daughter of Thomas and Sarah Williams, who later moved, and were accepted by Concord Monthly Meeting (and later moved again, returning to the jurisdiction of Darby Monthly Meeting).
In any event, after 3.5 hours, I did not feel I had found that much. But the reaction from the client indicated otherwise. Eureka! Verifying the marriage had been a brick wall for 10 years! This was a breakthrough! It was also exciting because Margaret had braved strong disapproval to be with Mahlon, and had refused to disavow her marriage, an action also taken by a Lucy Malin, who was disowned by Goshen Monthly Meeting for marrying George Stringfellow, another of her Stringfellow ancestors. I steered the client toward the Friends Historical Library at Swarthmore University, which very possibly holds the testimonies of disownment of Margaret and Lucy Stringfellow. The client was very happy, and I was happy, too.
About the Author
About Roots & Branches
Roots & Branches is our blog about genealogy and family history. Here you'll find posts about new resources in our library, upcoming events and workshops at HSP, and much more. We look forward to helping you learn more about your roots!