I Want Answers, Dammit!

Week 4: #52 Ancestors – I’d like to meet…

By Eilene Lyon

First off, my 4th-great-grandmother would probably not be pleased with that title – she was a deeply religious woman, after all. But I do know she had a sense of humor, which I’ll share with you later.

Ann Widdifield Zane was born in Philadelphia on March 2, 1770.1 Her grandfather, Jonathan Zane, hobnobbed with none other than Benjamin Franklin. Together they founded the city’s first fire insurance company, of which Jonathan was one of the twelve original directors.2

Benjamin Franklin by Jean Baptiste Greuze (Wikimedia Commons).

Ann’s father, also named Jonathan Zane, was first cousin of the “Fighting Zanes” of Wheeling, who achieved fame before, during, and after the Revolutionary War.3 One of her relatives, Joel Zane, started the first abolitionist society in Pennsylvania in 1774.4

Ann was connected. So why did she marry a brush maker?5 Or was he a tailor?6

The Zanes were Quakers, by the way. This was a problem during the war. They were pacifists and successful merchants. Ann’s father undoubtedly had a lot of merchandise confiscated to support the war effort. He also paid a fine in lieu of military service.7 Many Quakers were actually imprisoned for refusing to fight or for siding with the Tories.8

Continental currency - Scharf v 1
Sample of Continental Currency from 1779 (Public domain)

When Ann was just nine, she and her two older siblings lost their mother, Mary Jenkins Zane. Jonathan Zane decided to remarry, and he chose as his bride his deceased wife’s sister, Hannah Jenkins.9

Just prior to his second marriage, Jonathan was disowned by the Society of Friends for excessive drinking and supporting the war (can you blame him?).10 His two daughters remained part of the congregation.11

Ann soon had two new half-siblings/half-cousins. It’s kind of weird when your aunt becomes your step-mother, I suppose. The marriage was short-lived, though. Jonathan died when Ann was fifteen. He was just 45 years old.12

I can just imagine Ann, now an orphan, as a rebellious teen falling in love with the cute brush maker boy down the street. She flouts her aunt/stepmother’s disapproval to continue a relationship with the object of her infatuation.

When she was twenty in 1790, Ann married David Jenkins, who was not related to her mother and step-mother. In fact, David Jenkins is one big blank on the map. Where did he come from? He wasn’t a Quaker, so guess what? Ann got disowned for marrying him.13 Ann and David married in the First Baptist Church, the same place Jonathan Zane and Hannah Jenkins had married.14

There is, oddly, a Quaker record for the death of Jesse, a son of David Jinkins [sic]. Jesse was born in July 1791 (ten months after Ann’s wedding) and died in September 1792. He was buried in a Quaker cemetery.15 Was he Ann’s baby?

The only confirmed child of Ann W. Zane Jenkins is Henry Zane Jenkins, born December 27, 1801.16 Surely she must have had other children, but none have come to light. Henry never mentions any siblings in any of his writings. What happened to Ann’s other offspring?

There are some early census records for David Jenkins, but it’s hard to be positive he’s the right one. Despite seeming like a common name, there weren’t a bunch of David Jenkinses residing in the Philadelphia area in the 1790 – 1820 period. I can only find one, in fact. But the number of people in the household is wildly erratic, and certainly includes at least four children. He does live near some Zanes, though.

Image believed to be Ann W. (Zane) Jenkins (Collection of the author)

What I know of Ann’s personality comes from letters she wrote to Henry when he was off in California looking for gold in the 1850s. She alludes to her deceased husband just once: “thee remembers I expect I often used to wish fathers tother room was built – I now can tell thee that Abby’s tother room is built.”17 I wondered what she meant and finally realized it was just a familial contraction for “the other room,” i.e. what we now call a spare room.

Ann eventually reappears in the Quaker records – in 1821 – more than thirty years after she’d been disowned.18 The last census record I’ve found for David Jenkins (assuming he’s the right one) is for 1820. I believe he died shortly after that, and Ann then rejoined the faith of her childhood.

Cert from Gwynedd to GS PhilaMM 1821
Certificate of Removal for Ann W. Jenkins to the Philadelphia Monthly Meeting in 1821 (Ancestry.com).
Friend Meeting House Arch and Fourth - Lippincott p. 62
Friends Meeting House at Arch and Fourth in Philadelphia, built 1804. Ann probably attended meetings here in the 1820s. (Public domain)

Perhaps it was a happy marriage, but maybe not. One peculiarity stands out to me. Henry Jenkins never named any of his sons David. In fact, his first-born son was named William Zane Jenkins. I believe he was named for either Henry’s uncle, William Zane, or Ann’s uncle of the same name. Tell me, Ann!

From 1830 on, Ann lived with Henry and his family, first in Springboro, Ohio, then in Jay County, Indiana. The last mention of her is in Abigail Jenkins’s letter to Henry in June 1853. She seemed to be in good health at the time, but she was 83 years old.

Henry got back home to Indiana in October 1853.19 Did Ann live to see her son again?

Family letters written in 1855 suggest that Ann is no longer among the living. But there is no headstone for her in the family plot in Hillside Cemetery, Pennville, Indiana.

Ann left the Quakers again in 1841 to join Henry’s Methodist congregation. However, in late 1852, she decided to rejoin the Friends.20 No record exists for her death with the local congregation. They were unusually deficient, for Quakers, with keeping birth, marriage, and death records.

Jenkins family plot in Hillside Cemetery (E. Lyon 2017)

So tell me, Ann, when did you die? Where are you buried? I want answers, dammit!

Oh yes, I promised to tell you about Ann’s sense of humor. Here’s an excerpt from one of her letters to Henry:

“Well Seth Armitage was here at our great raising and presented me with a sheet lead box containing ½ a pound of the best gunpowder tea, the best tea I have drank for a long time. I wished thee here to partake of it but it is a satisfaction that thee has got perhaps as good. Emma dreamed this morning that thee had returned with 15 hundred apiece for each of thy children but dreams I tell her mostly turn out contrary. I told her that I thought she was mean not to dream some for old grandmother too – I expect thee thinks I must be getting better fast or else in my dotage to write such nonsense…”21

Feature image: View of Philadelphia in 1800 (Public domain)

Ann Widdifield Zane on Ancestry.

  1. Ann Zane. Birth. Philadelphia Monthly Meeting. Swarthmore College; Swarthmore, Pennsylvania; Births and Burials, 1686-1807; Collection: Philadelphia Yearly Meeting Minutes; Call Number: MR-Ph 365 – via Ancestry.com. 
  2. “Deed of Settlement of the Philadelphia Contributionship, 25 March 1752,” Founders Online, National Archives, version of January 18, 2019, https://founders.archives.gov/documents/Franklin/01-04-02-0100. [Original source: The Papers of Benjamin Franklin, vol. 4, July 1, 1750, through June 30, 1753, ed. Leonard W. Labaree. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1961, pp. 281–295.] 
  3. “The Five Fighting Zanes” Gasconade County Republican, December 26, 1935. https://www.ancestry.com/mediaui-viewer/collection/1030/tree/82987429/person/48471292095/media/a090a478-cbf4-4c73-b3e6-012f11924174?_phsrc=dhQ12866&usePUBJs=true 
  4. Lippincott, Horace Mather. 1917. Early Philadelphia: Its People, Life and Progress. J. B. Lippincott and Co. Philadelphia and London. p. 322. 
  5. David Jenkins, Brush maker. Year: 1790; Census Place: Water Street East Side, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Series: M637; Roll: 9; Page: 236; Image: 532; Family History Library Film: 0568149 – via Ancestry.com. And Jenkins, David, Brushmaker. 1800. Ancestry.com. Pennsylvania, Septennial Census, 1779-1863 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2012. 
  6. David Jenkins, Taylor. Year: 1810; Census Place: Philadelphia Lower Delaware Ward, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Roll: 55; Page: 411; Image: 00158; Family History Library Film: 0193681 – via Ancestry.com. 
  7. Haverford College; Haverford, Pennsylvania; Index, 1772-1781; Collection: Philadelphia Yearly Meeting Minutes; Call Number: JK2.1. Ancestry.com. U.S., Quaker Meeting Records, 1681-1935 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2014. 
  8. Scharf, Thomas and Thompson Westcott. 1884. History of Philadelphia 1609 – 1884 Vol. 1. L. H. Everts & Co., Philadelphia. p. 411. 
  9. Jonathan Zane and Hannah Jenkins. Ancestry.com. Pennsylvania, Compiled Marriage Records, 1700-1821 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2011. 
  10. Jonathan Zane, Jr. 3 Apr 1781. Haverford College; Haverford, Pennsylvania; Index, 1772-1781; Collection: Philadelphia Yearly Meeting Minutes; Call Number: JK2.1 – via Ancestry.com. 
  11. Ibid. 
  12. Jonathan Zane. Burial. 21 Dec 1785. Haverford College; Haverford, Pennsylvania; Record of Births and Interments, 1734-1806; Collection: Philadelphia Yearly Meeting Minutes – via Ancestry.com. 
  13. Ann Jenkins. Disownment. 22 Mar 1791. Swarthmore College; Swarthmore, Pennsylvania; Minutes, 1789-1795; Collection: Philadelphia Yearly Meeting Minutes; Call Number: MR-Ph 411 via Ancestry.com. 
  14. Ann Zane and David Jenkins. Marriage. 26 Sep 1790. Ancestry.com. Pennsylvania, Compiled Marriage Records, 1700-1821 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2011. 
  15. Jesse son of David Jinkins. Burial. 12 Sep 1792, age 14 mo. Swarthmore College; Swarthmore, Pennsylvania; Record of Birth and Burials Vol. 1; Collection: Quaker Meeting Records; Call Number: MR Ph:410via Ancestry.com. 
  16. Henry’s obituaries and gravestone give his birth date with the year 1802. However, he was scrupulously consistent in giving his age in every census, which clearly indicate he was born in 1801. 
  17. Letter from Ann W. Jenkins to Henry Z. Jenkins. 3 May 1852. Transcription by Clara R. Davis. Original in the collection of the Henry E. Huntington Library, San Marino, CA. 
  18. Ann W. Jenkins. 28 Jun 1821. Removal to Green Street MM, Philadelphia, from Gwynedd MM. Swarthmore College; Swarthmore, Pennsylvania; Minutes, 1816-1855; Collection: Quaker Meeting Records; Call Number: RG2/Ph/G7 3.38via Ancestry.com. From this, it appears that Ann joined the Gwynedd MM sometime prior to this date, but the minutes do not exist to confirm when she joined. 
  19. Henry Z. Jenkins. 1853 Memorandum (diary). Transcription by Clara R. Davis. Original in the collection of the Henry E. Huntington Library, San Marino, CA. 
  20. Dorrel, Ruth and Thomas D. Hamm, eds. 1999. Abstracts of the Records of the Society of Friends in Indiana, Vol. 2. Indiana Historical Society, Indianapolis. p. 332. 
  21. Letter from Ann W. Jenkins. 

20 thoughts on “I Want Answers, Dammit!

Add yours

  1. Eilene,

    For one thing, I DON’T blame Jonathan Zane one bit. With a Society of Friends like that . . who needs enemies? Sorry, I couldn’t resist that one.

    Ann was quite something, wasn’t she? And yes, I love her sense of humor!

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Ann had a brother, also named Jonathan, who got crossways with the Society. Not only was he a drinker, but he was also a fighter. Then he married outside the faith and they discovered his wife “gave birth too soon after marriage.” He was only 39 when he died (his wife died earlier) and they must have felt sorry for him, because they buried him in a Quaker cemetery.


      1. Not sure if they’d say that in Devon now, I don’t know it well enough. Maybe all English speakers used t’other in those days and it’s hung on in Yorkshire but not elsewhere. A bit like gotten which went out to America from here, but nobody here uses now, though getten is used in the North East. Language is fascinating!

        Liked by 1 person

  2. So interesting. My Philadelphia Quaker ancestor also was disfellowshipped for marrying outside the faith. We have found her children in the Quaker records and believe they attended the Quaker school when they were young. Her husband was often away at sea, so she may have just reverted to the faith of her childhood. None of their children were Quakers as adults. So all this to say perhaps it is your ancestor’s child in the Quaker records.

    Liked by 1 person

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