Missing Person

Week 1: #52Ancestors – I’d Like to Meet

By Eilene Lyon

It seems to happen to women, mostly. They reach adulthood and suddenly vanish. Marriage and death are the typical culprits. One of these missing women on my tree is the sister of my 3rd great-grandmother, Abigail (Bedford) Jenkins.

Because Abby is one of the key characters in my gold rush book, I have researched her family quite thoroughly, but found few references in family documents about her older sister. Born about a year apart, they must have been either very close or fierce rivals. They were the two oldest surviving children of Thomas and Jane Bedford.

Just imagine doing a newspaper or Google search, in Pennsylvania, for someone named Philadelphia Bedford. Most of the records I have for her come from the Quakers, during the time that she and Abby and their mother, Jane, were moving among the various monthly meetings in the greater Philadelphia region, including across the river in New Jersey.

U.S., Quaker Meeting Records, 1681-1935 for Philadelphia Bedford> New Jersey> Burlington> Medford and Upper Evesham Monthly Meetings> Women´s Minutes, 1794-1824> image 248. Upper Evesham meeting received a certificate for Philadelphia Bedford from the Mount Holly Meeting. (Ancestry.com)

The last Quaker records for Philadelphia put her at the Medford, New Jersey, (aka Upper Evesham) monthly meeting in February 1820. She would have been about twenty years old, but members of the Society of Friends tended to marry late. She was most likely working as a teacher or domestic help. Her father, Thomas, had been a teacher for a time, and all the Bedford children were well-educated.

There is one more record for Philadelphia Bedford as a young, single adult. In February 1822, her first cousin, Isaac Bedford, placed a deposit in trust for her at the Philadelphia Saving Fund Society. It gives his address in the city, but states her home is Evesham, New Jersey.

Pennsylvania and New Jersey, U.S., Church and Town Records, 1669-2013 for Philadelphia Bedford> PA – Philadelphia> Philadelphia> Not Stated> The Philadelphia Saving Fund Society. The deposit made by Isaac Bedford in trust for Philadelphia Bedford on February 4, 1822. (Ancestry.com)

The amount and reason for the deposit is not given, but it is probably her earnings and she required a male family member to open the account for her. Why her cousin and not her father? Well, Isaac was her father’s business partner, and Isaac’s father had been a banker. He was seven years older than Philadelphia.

Until this week, the only other clue I had about Philadelphia was found in a letter by a niece of hers, Henrietta Perrin, written in 1925, not long before Henrietta died. She was telling Jim Ransom about his Bedford ancestors and listed the children of Thomas Bedford, including Philadelphia. Then she remarked, “we had one Aunt that never came from Philadepha and that was her name she never came out hear [to Ohio].”

Given that Henrietta knew of this aunt, though she had never met her, it does appear that Philadelphia did live on in the greater metro area beyond 1822. She may have lived with cousin Isaac, who had a woman of the right age in his household in the 1820, 1830, and 1840 censuses. But I believe she married—outside the Quaker faith. But to whom, where, and when?

I have found no marriage or death records for anyone named Philadelphia Bedford (yet). I decided to try locating her using her first name and birth year. What I came up with was a headstone in Find A Grave for Philadelphia, wife of John Burrough, buried in the Haddonfield Baptist Cemetery in New Jersey. This is a town between Evesham and the river crossing to Philadelphia proper.

Headstone for Philadelphia, wife of John Borrough in the Haddonfield Baptist Cemetery. (by k dingley on Find A Grave)

I’ve learned quite a bit about Philadelphia Burrough, but not her maiden name, marriage date, or anything at all about her husband, John. I think he may have been a mariner and perhaps died at sea, but this is speculation. His wife became widowed by 1860. From then on, she lived in Philadelphia city.

Doing a census search for the Burrough name, I learned something interesting. Philadelphia Burrough went by the first name “Adelphia.” That name brought up several city directory records, in addition to two censuses. (I still lack the 1850 and 1870 census records for the Burrough family.)

I spent considerable effort trying to disprove that Philadelphia Burrough, who died in 1886, was Philadelphia Bedford. She wrote a will, leaving most everything to her grandson, John Francis Burrough (child of an unknown son, worked as a mariner). She left her mark (X), instead of signing her name.

Aha! Philadelphia Bedford was certainly not illiterate. But Widow Burrough was not illiterate, either, according to census records, and the dictated will is clearly done by an educated person. More likely, Adelphia was simply too infirm or crippled by arthritis to write anymore.

These headstones in the Haddonfield Baptist Cemetery are related to Philadelphia Burrough. Elizabeth Burrough was her spinster daughter who worked as a teacher. Elizabeth died of a probable brain tumor in 1881 at the Friends Asylum in Philadelphia. John Francis Burrough was Philadelphia’s grandson and heir. His parents are unknown at this time. (by k dingley on Find A Grave)

The only other contradictory piece of information comes from the 1880 census which states that she and both her parents were born in New Jersey. Philadelphia Bedford and her mother may have been born in New Jersey, but her father was born in England, and this was a well-known fact. Maybe the daughter living with her at the time did not know that, but I’m doubtful.

For now, this case is unresolved, but there are still documents to be found, of that I am sure. Until something conclusive comes to light, Philadelphia Bedford, whom I hope to meet someday, at least in the genealogical realm, is still a missing person.

Baptist Chapel at the Haddonfield Baptist Cemetery on King’s Highway. (Wikimedia Commons)

Feature image: Upper Evesham Friends Meeting House in Medford, New Jersey. This was the last Friends meeting that Philadelphia Bedford attended, arriving in early 1820. (Wikimedia Commons)

47 thoughts on “Missing Person

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  1. Even the AI ChatGPT is stumped.
    “I’m sorry, but I couldn’t find any significant information about a woman named Adelphia Burrow who died in 1886. It’s possible that she was a private individual with limited public records or mention in history, which makes it difficult to gather information about her.” Haha.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I played with one of those AI bots to see if it would write a decent paragraph or two about a somewhat well-known person. Gave it three tries and all were terrible! Guess there’s still room for human genealogists and biographers!

      Liked by 2 people

    1. Looks like they have some nice old buildings there. I noticed that the Burrough/Burroughs name was prevalent there, in the Friends and other denominations. I’ve put out several inquiries there, but haven’t heard back yet. I haven’t looked for family genealogies, yet.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Oh how fun! I used to live in Pennsylvania (as a child), but have never spent any time in New Jersey. I do want to go back to Philadelphia to do more research. Was planning to in 2020…. Someday!

        Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks! And it is. I wonder if it is the original Haddonfield Baptist Church, since the cemetery is right there. I’ll have to learn more about it. I called one of the churches, but haven’t heard back, yet. Also left a message for the cemetery.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. So interesting to ponder the mystery. I haven’t done much research, but a cousin who has found that at some point a grandfather changed his surname…that leaves me pondering

    Liked by 1 person

  3. What a strange name to saddle a little girl with! Maybe they called her Philly? Delly? Even Adelphia is a mouthful. If you didn’t find any other women in the greater Philadelphia area with that name, I’d put my money on the Burroughs woman. Good luck!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Welcome back Eilene – hope you are coming along fine on your book. You are dogged in your pursuits to research your ancestors. Once again, as we mentioned before, women being treated as second-class citizens: “she required a male family member to open the account for her.” Sigh.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Linda. Book is coming along, in fits and bits. My assumption about the savings account could be erroneous. It’s something I should research more carefully. But I do know in those days it was probable.

      Liked by 1 person

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