Sunday, September 17, 2017

How I Found My Great-Great-Grandfather: Joseph Elliot Schofield, 1887-1951

Ever since I first began my genealogy research in 2010, I have felt that a huge part of my heritage was missing. I was very upset to learn from my family that my great-grandmother, who grew up as Clara May Campbell and married James Abram "Garfield" Quinn, was not a Campbell at all. I heard many contrasting stories from several family members: that she had no idea who her father was, that her father could have been a male family member of her mother's, and finally that her father might have been named Schofield.

Most of the official records that genealogists usually look at were dead ends for me. Clara had a delayed certificate of birth, with only the most tenuous documents used as "proof" of the information's validity: the affidavit of a non-relative, the birth certificate of one of Clara's children, and a life insurance policy. It is very surprising that the delayed certificate was issued, considering that the information on these documents had to come from Clara herself.

Clara, somewhere around middle age. Circa 1950-1960.
I found the mostly the same information on other documents: marriage records, census records, and social security records all said that her name was Campbell. The only document that seemed to reflect any kind of corroboration with the old family story that she wasn't William Campbell's daughter was an application for social security benefits from the 1950s; the document listed her birthplace as Denver, Colorado.

With a bit of searching, I was able to find a multitude of information about the family of Clara's mother, Mary Ellen Walter. Most of the lines in that family had already been well-researched and thoroughly documented, with most being traced back to at least early colonial times. Mary Ellen's family had resided in Ohio for several generations by the time of Clara's birth. So why had she been born in Colorado, of all places? Mary Ellen had no family there. The common denominator had to be Clara's father. And so I wrote to the Colorado Division of Vital Statistics and explained the situation to them: I gave them Clara's birthdate, location of birth, and several last names to search for (Walter, Campbell, Schofield, etc.). After several long weeks of waiting, I received a reply. Their search had turned up no results.

Up until this point I had avoided using family tree sites to assist me in my work. I didn't want to be considered one of those "internet genealogists" who take everything they read on for granted. But I finally caved and bought a subscription to Ancestry, in the hopes that it would provide me with records that I couldn't find elsewhere. 

Clara "Campbell"'s delayed certificate of birth.
The Ancestry subscription paid off. I was able to find a few records that I hadn't found before, including a census record from 1910. In 1910 Clara was about three and a half years old and was living in Trimble, Athens Co., OH with her grandfather, Amzi Walter, Amzi's "nephew," William Campbell, her mother, Mary Ellen, and her infant brother, Harvey. But here was a new development: Mary Ellen, Clara, and Harvey were all listed with the surname of Abbott, and Mary Ellen was listed as a widow.

I knew good and well that William Campbell wasn't Amzi Walter's nephew, because I knew that he would go on to marry Mary Ellen. I also had strong suspicions that the name Abbott was an alias and that she had never been married at all, but in the spirit of being thorough I did a national search for marriage records including brides with the surname of Walter and grooms with the surname of Abbott. I found several, but none of them pertained to Mary Ellen. Another dead end.

Mary Ellen Walter, mother of Clara May "Campbell"
At this point, I knew that record-keeping wasn't going to be what solved this mystery. If it had any hope of being solved, science was going to have to solve it. So in February of 2017 I had my DNA tested through, thinking that I might be able to use the cousin matches to find a common match. When I got my results back, the number of matches was staggering. I had more than 650 PAGES of results - thousands of matches. I knew that I would probably be looking for at least a third cousin match, but I didn't count on the shockingly high number of people who have their DNA tested and then never create a family tree to go along with it. I did have several matches with the names Schofield and Abbott in their trees, but neither are uncommon names; many of the matches had only very small trees with minimal information, or were related to me in other ways and just so happened to also have the names Schofield or Abbott in their tree. It was beginning to look like another dead end.

I had the idea that if I could persuade one of Clara's two remaining children to take the test, perhaps we could get a closer and more definitive match. I asked them both, and they both refused. "But this man was your grandfather!" I protested. "Don't you want to know who he was?" But not everyone shares my obsession with their roots, and so this route was yet another dead end.

After this disappointing turn, I began to look at other options. I searched for people who were showing as 3rd-4th cousin matches who had names completely foreign to me in their trees. I found several of these, and began to reach out. I found many who were willing to help in any way they could, and a few who didn't appreciate me implying that one of their more recent ancestors had an illegitimate child. But ultimately I never got anywhere with any of these matches either.

While all this was going on I kept an eye on my matches, which continued to steadily grow. I discovered that two of my second cousins - who are great-grandchildren of Clara, just like I am - had also taken the test. I also had both of my parents tested when Ancestry happened to be having a sale on them, and was pleasantly surprised when their results were back in less than a month (I waited well over two months for mine). Naturally, I began looking through the results right away.

My mother, myself, and my second cousins, all
grandchildren of Clara, matched this DNA profile.
Just earlier this week, I finally had the break that I had been hoping for. I did another search for matches with the surname of Schofield in their trees, but this time from my mother's DNA matches. And lo! I found one: showing up as a third cousin match was a man named Robert, who matched my mother, myself, and both of my second cousins.

In looking at Robert's tree, there were two people who were within the age range to be Clara's father: Robert's grandfather, Joseph Schofield, and Joseph's brother, James. I immediately reached out to him and explained the situation, and he responded promptly. Among other family details, he told me that his grandfather had lived an interesting life, traveling in the rodeo circuit.

That bit of information got me thinking - a traveling rodeo might well be the missing link between a man from the Pacific coast and a woman from Ohio, who gave birth to a child in Colorado. I knew from a city directory record that Mary Ellen's family was living in Zanesville, OH at the time when she would have become pregnant with Clara. So I began to search for newspaper records of rodeo shows being in the area at the time, and sure enough: Pawnee Bill's Wild West Show was wintering in the neighboring county of Noble Co., OH beginning in November of 1905. They would have been there until at least March or so, and undoubtedly the many people who traveled with them would have made trips to the neighboring city of Zanesville. They also came back to Zanesville in September of 1906, less than a month before Clara was born. 

From the Zanesville Time Recorder, Friday,
November 17, 1905
From the Zanesville Times Recorder,
Friday, September 14, 1906
Mary Ellen undoubtedly met and entered into a relationship with Joseph Schofield while he was wintering in Ohio with Pawnee Bill's Wild West Show, and at some point she went back West with him and made it as far as Colorado. Whether she went before or after the September performance in Zanesville is unclear. We have no records of them between Clara's birth on October 1, 1906 and the 1910 census, but at some point during that time they must have broken up. Mary Ellen and Clara returned to Ohio, and by 1910 Mary Ellen was in a relationship with William Campbell and had born their first child, Harvey.

Joseph Schofield and his first wife,
Mary Madden.
After seven long years of searching, after repeated hopes and disappointments, there it was, laid out "in black and white," as the old newspaper saying goes. My head was spinning. A quick look at trees of shared DNA matches on Ancestry turned up a photo of Joseph Schofield (from his marriage to his first wife, six years after Clara's birth) and a photo of Joseph's parents, George and Mary Dotson Schofield. I couldn't believe that I was finally looking on the face of the man that I had searched for for so long, that I was beginning to think that I would never find. I posted the photo to my Facebook page with a brief explanation of who he was, and family members immediately began commenting and saying how he resembled Clara's children. Several of them messaged me, asking how I found him and for more information.

    Joseph's Parents, George Schofield and
Mary Dotson.
I am still piecing together details of Joseph's life, but I believe that it is safe to say that all of the circumstantial and DNA evidence has proved beyond reasonable doubt that Joseph Schofield was Clara's father. The 5-way DNA match is undeniable; the information that Clara's family members gave about her believing her father's name to be Schofield, Robert's information about his grandfather being in a rodeo, and the newspaper articles about a rodeo being near Mary Ellen's hometown at the right times all support and corroborate with the DNA evidence. Ancestry mistakenly included Robert in my mother's 3rd cousin matches because Robert's mother and Mom's grandmother were half-sisters instead of full siblings, making their number of shared DNA segments smaller. So instead of being third cousins, they are actually first cousins once removed (meaning that Robert and Mom's father are first cousins).

We look forward to learning about the newest branch of the family tree, and to getting to know our new cousins. I am forever grateful to them for their cooperation and the information that they provided.

So the great 116-year-old mystery is solved. What next? I need a new ancestor to find....

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