Saturday, June 30, 2012

Over 130 years later, the 42-year-old fib is revealed!

The following is, in part, one of my posts on the Rootsweb mail list for Lincolnshire 
from Feb. 6, 2011 – theme for that month was about fibbing or white lies. 
Some changes were made and images have been added to "fit" with my blog.

MY STORY... finding the truth reveals a little "fibbing" 

It all started when I received a Kansas death notice for my great grandfather John [PORTUS] PORTEOUS and I compared it to his Illinois death notice I already had. There was a conflict of information I was haunted with for quite a while before I unraveled the mystery.

John died in Garfield, Kansas in 1925 of food poisoning, but he lived in Lake County, Illinois. There were two things I picked up on immediately in those newspaper clips that sure got my attention: Kansas death notice: "died at home of his brother" and Illinois death notice: "While visiting at the home of his nephew..." 

Well? Which is it? Brother or Nephew? 


[In Lincolnshire, England] John's only [known] sibling Jane [born 1844 - Haltham] gave birth to an illegitimate son John William Marshall PORTAS in 1861 - Tumby, baptized 1862 Kirkby on Bain. She was 17 years old.

The 1871 UK census, shows John's sister Jane as 26 yrs. old and nephew William Marshall  was 8, living with John's and her parents [William] Dennis and Elizabeth PORTER [PORTAS] in Tumby. John's nephew is listed as "grandson." [Eventhough the name is spelled with an "er" instead of an "as" this is my family.]

1871 UK Census - Tumby, Lincolnshire, England

In 1875 John's parents, sister, and nephew immigrated to Illinois five years after John and his family settled in Lake County. The ship, SS Bothnia, manifest shows Jane as 30 and her son is 14. [Name was indexed as PORTEENS. Took me a longer than I wanted to find them. Still my family.]

SS Bothnia manifest 1875 arrived Port of New York

Sometime around 1878 [earliest known deed date], the PORTAS family has left Illinois* and believed to have settled in Garfield, Kansas, making a new life for themselves. Soon after, they owned land and livestock; they joined a community church, and were becoming prosperous, up-standing citizens. Young William is being educated and will one day become a bank president in town. 

Two years after they came to Garfield, the 1880 US census is enumerated: Wm D "head";  Elizabeth "wife"; Jane, "daughter" age 25 [Hmmm...5 years younger than she was on the manifest 5 years prior and she's now 12 yrs younger than she should be! Besides that, she is now 5 years older than her son! Is this a mathematical mistake? I think not.]; William is 18 and listed as "son" – no longer "grandson!" Interesting, this makes him the brother to Jane and John! Why would WD & E say William was their son? I can only speculate. [I don't know exactly when the spelling of the family name changed to PORTEOUS. On the 1880 census it was spelled PORTENS or PORTEUS.]

1880 Federal Census - Garfield, Pawnee Co., Kansas
I believe that Jane's reputation was at stake and that was the main reason they "fibbed" about her age and being young William's sister. Who would know any different in Kansas? Who would tell on them? The only records were back in England. In those days, I don't think the people of Garfield, if they knew, would have accepted Jane for having an "illegitimate" child. After all, Garfield was a very small farm town and people did talk, you was bad enough that jane, as old as she was, wasn't married. [Jane never did marry.] It wasn't unusual for grandparents to "adopt" or "say" their grandchild was their son or daughter either. There was no formal adoption process either.

Since there isn't an 1890 Federal Census, we don't know how old she was shown, but I would think it would have been 35 which is consistent with the every-ten-years advancement of age.

The 1900 census shows us the PORTAS name is now spelled PORTIUS; Elizabeth is no longer with the family [she died in 1886]; Jane is now "Jennie" age 42 [looks changed from 32?]; William M. is now William J. age 37. Bert is adopted son and John Vampew is boarder. JV is actually my great great uncle, my great grandmother Mary Ann's brother.

1900 Federal Census - Garfield, Pawnee Co., Kansas.

The 1910 census shows that father William is not listed [he died in 1902]. Young William is now the "head" of household at 49. Jennie is listed as "Sister" at age 54 and great-great uncle John is still there in the household. Bert is no longer living in Garfield [found on the Tulsa census]. Oh and the surname is now spelled PORTEOUS.

1910 Federal Census - Garfield, Pawnee Co., Kansas.

On the US census for 1920, Will is 58, Jennie "sister" 64. This was enumerated not long before she died. Even though we know ages can fluctuate, on all censuses through 1920s, her age stayed constant at the proper 10-year intervals based on the 1880 age reported.

1920 Federal Census - Garfield, Pawnee Co., Kansas. Enumerated 22 Jan 1920. 
It wasn't until Jane [aka: Jennie] passed away 9 Mar 1920, a couple months after the census enumerated, that she came of age!

Jane's death notice: "Miss Jennie Porteous died at the home of her brother, Wm. Porteous, at Garfield, Tuesday at midnight, aged 75 years..." – I would say that is close enough since it only took 42 years! 


The mystery of John's two death notices: both newspaper items were right 

The whole time they lived in Garfield, John's sister Jane and her son William M. were thought of as his brother and sister, but to anyone in Lake County, Illinois [800-plus miles away] they were John's sister and nephew. 

Little did they know then, that 135-plus years later a descendent would find out their little secret!

*I'm trying to establish if 1878 is when they actually left Illinois. The 1885 Kansas population census asks "Where from to Ks-" William D. answered "Illinois." They arrived in New York 1875, traveled to Illinois, and must have stayed with John and Mary Ann a couple years until they migrated to Kansas. I have no clue as to where to look being the time period is between census. 

1885 Kansas Population Census - Garfield, Pawnee Co., Kansas

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