Week 26: #52 Ancestors – Identity, Part 1
By Eilene Lyon
Ancestry has 463 family trees (or more) that include my 4th great-grandfather, William Clark Anderson Jr. Over 70 of those trees include a spouse named some variation of Eliza/beth Frey or Frew. A few have just the last name(s). William married and had 8–10 children in Belmont County, Ohio, from 1806–1824.1
I confess that my tree at one time contained Eliza Frey, back when I first joined Ancestry eleven years ago. No doubt at least some of those current 70+ trees copied that information from me. I implore all those tree managers to kill Eliza Frey—immediately!
There will be no violence, bloodshed, or tears. No burial or headstone. Why? Because Eliza Frey is a wholly fictional person. Not a single one of these erroneous trees has a record belonging to this mystery spouse. A few have added a birth record for an Elizabeth Frey of Berks County, Pennsylvania.2 This person apparently lived her entire life in that county, and certainly never married anyone named William Anderson.
So how did Eliza Frey come to life in the first place? In my case, I relied on information passed down to me by my grandmother, Clare (Davis) Smith. Below you can see the information she included on her handwritten family group sheet. The wife named “Frew (or Frey),” without a first name, is not the only error in that little snippet.
William’s birth, death, and marriage dates are all incorrect. He also did not serve in that company in the War of 1812. Interestingly, she did make a note that there was a William Anderson in Guernsey County (adjacent to Belmont) married to Sarah, who was a different man. That is true. It’s also true that this other William Anderson purchased land in Blackford County, Indiana, very close to where my William C. Anderson lived late in life, and is buried.3
What Grandma failed to note is where this information came from. Fortunately, though, she passed her source along to me as well: a letter from her uncle, James H. Ransom (“Uncle Jim”). In 1936, he wrote down what he knew of his Anderson lineage (also unsourced).4
This phrase about William’s wife being a Frew or Frey also appears in a 1948 book by Cora Anderson DuLaney called “The Andersons from the Great Fork of the Patuxent.” DuLaney may have corresponded with Jim Ransom, but oddly she calls him “Jesse H. Ransom of Los Angeles” and gives him a fictional sibling named Rose.5
You may have noticed that neither Uncle Jim nor DuLaney offer a first name for Ms. Frew/Frey. That comes from a different source entirely. Attorney Benjamin G. Shinn wrote several histories about Blackford and Grant Counties, Indiana. I give him credit for his efforts at accuracy, but even the esteemed (but not humble) lawyer made some notable errors. In 1900 he published this account about the Anderson family of Blackford County.6
And thus we created, Frankenstein-style, a woman to be the bride of William C. Anderson, married in 1805, or was it 1808? However, William did just fine finding wives without our help. We’ll visit them in my next post.
Feature image: Headstone for William C. Anderson Jr. in the Trenton South Cemetery in Blackford County, Indiana. (E. Lyon 2017). William also has a newer headstone that includes his second wife and one of their daughters.
- William C. Anderson. 1820 U S Census; Census Place: Warren, Belmont, Ohio; Page: 275; NARA Roll: M33_86; Image: 154 – via Ancestry.com. This record has 8 children, of whom 6 are known to researchers. Two additional children were born after 1820: John K. Anderson, and Cavy Ann Anderson. ↩
- Elizabeth Frey (b. 1783). Ancestry.com. Pennsylvania, Church Records – Adams, Berks, and Lancaster Counties, 1729-1881 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2004. ↩
- https://glorecords.blm.gov/details/patent/default.aspx?accession=IN3550__.480&docClass=STA&sid=a1dyx44d.4fd ; Blackford County Clerk. Deed Book D p. 548, Hartford City, Indiana. https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/176394506/william-clark-anderson?_gl=1*6k8i6h*_ga*NjI2NDc0MjQxLjE2MDkwODExMzc.*_ga_4QT8FMEX30*MTY1ODk1MTg5MS4yNTcuMS4xNjU4OTU1MTM4LjA. Note: I created this Find A Grave memorial in 2017. Prior to that, William’s death date was not recorded on Ancestry anywhere. ↩
- Ransom, James H. Letter to [“Dear Folks” (Mr. & Mrs. L.M. Smith), Spokane, Washington], November 19, 1936, Los Angeles, California. Collection of Eilene Lyon. ↩
- DuLaney, Cora Anderson, compiler. The Andersons of the Great Fork of the Patuxent. Typed manuscript, 1948, pp. 90-1. ↩
- Shinn, Benjamin G. Biographical Memoirs of Blackford County, Ind. Chicago: The Bowen Publishing Co., 1900, p. 273. The first biography in section three is Shinn’s own, prefaced with an image and running for eleven pages! ↩