Saturday, June 16, 2018

Nancy Jane "Bradley" (1855-1926): Daughter of James Pettry (1831-1909)

*Edit* With the help of my wonderful readers, I found out that Joshua Bradley had actually passed away by the time that Nancy Jane "Bradley" was born, and that was why it was recorded that Nancy was "sworn to James Petry." I will leave the post here for archival purposes. Many thanks!

In this blog I ordinarily feature ancestors who have proven to be a challenge to research, so that the methods used to find them might help someone else with a similar issue. The ancestors written about in this post weren't particularly difficult to research, but the situation does present a certain mystery. This case is unique in that the mystery lies not in the who, but in the why.

Many years ago, when I first became interested in genealogy, I found my name in a descendant report for Martin Pettry, who was supposedly an ancestor my Great-Grandpa Quinn through his mother's side. Grandpa Quinn's mother, Nancy, was listed as the daughter of James Pettry and Lucinda Brown. Being a newby genealogist, I took this as fact and didn't question it. When I decided that I needed to start keeping all of my genealogy info in one place and started using, I was surprised to find that all of the hints I was getting for Nancy Jane Pettry referred to her as Nancy Jane Bradley.

Nancy Jane Petry Quinn,
circa 1920.
A look at the records provided by Ancestry's hints told me that Nancy's father was apparently Joshua Bradley, who was indeed married to her mother, Lucinda Brown, at the time of her birth. Nancy's death record and Social Security index record both listed Joshua as her father. Mentally chiding the researcher who had put together the Pettry report, I changed Nancy's last name in my tree to Bradley and continued to work on Joshua Bradley's branch - some parts of which went back for many more generations.

After successfully joining the DAR last month, I started looking around in my tree for ancestors that I could easily find records for in order to submit as supplemental ancestors. I decided to get records together for James Madison Crews, an ancestor of Joshua Bradley; since he already had many descendants listed in the DAR's database, I knew that they would have many of the records that I needed in order to prove descent. I began working from myself backward, making sure that I had birth, marriage, and death records for each ancestor in the line of descent.

Nancy "Bradley"'s birth record
When I looked up the original image of Nancy's birth record, my heart sank. Her name was indeed listed as Nancy Bradley, but in the space designated for the name of the father was written "Bastard (sworn to James Pettry)". Her mother, Lucinda Bradley, had been the informant.

A look through my mother's DNA matches turned up about half a dozen forth cousins who all descended from James Pettry's father, and none that descended from Joshua Bradley's father. The DNA evidence confirmed Nancy's birth record - she was the daughter of James Pettry after all. The original researcher who made the Pettry descendant report had been correct, and I had to do some major editing to my tree.

Lucinda Brown Bradley with
her husband, Joshua Bradley.
After the initial shock and subsequent excitement (after all, I had a whole new branch of ancestors to find!), I started to wonder about the circumstances that lead to the writing on that birth record. Lucinda had made sure that her daughter's birth date was recorded, and she made sure that James Pettry was recorded as her child's biological father. Why would a woman do such a thing in 1855? Surely she would want everyone to believe that her husband was her daughter's father?

Was Lucinda assaulted, and this was her way of making sure that James was held responsible? Did James' family have money, and this was a way to make sure her daughter was provided for? Was it as simple as Lucinda having an affair? All of these thoughts and emotions ran through my mind when I saw Nancy's birth record. I'm still not sure what to think or feel, but I desperately want to know why Lucinda made sure that James was recorded as Nancy's father. I will never know for sure, but I can at least try to make an educated guess.

Can anyone give me some insight into this situation? Why would a woman purposefully admit that she gave birth to an illegitimate child out of wedlock in 1855, when the model of femininity was the "Angel in the House"? Please let me know what you think.


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