The Mystery of Emma K. Hobson part 2—CoronaLife Day 320

In my last post, I introduced the vanishing act of Emma Kite Hobson, her two children, and her four husbands. Last week, I focused on the two children. This week, I’ll look a bit more at Emma herself.

First, I would like to shout out to the Facebook group Random Acts of Genealogical Kindness—USA, without whom I would not have nearly as much information as I have. Their members discovered an article from 1900 that described Emma’s divorce from husband #4, and that is where I derived a great deal of my information from, as well as used as a springboard for further searching.

The article the group found detailed much of Emma’s adult life. It named her four husbands: Jacob Charles Brickman, George Singleton Pettibone/Pettibaum, William C. Sloan, and current husband B.F. Nail. Note that although her daughter claims a maiden name of Hemick on several documents, there is no Hemick mentioned in this article. With this article in hand, I went looking for Emma and her husbands. They proved an elusive bunch.

I first find Emma in 1850, at age thirteen, living with her parents Benjamin and Margaret in Baltimore, Maryland. According to what we know about her son William (born April 1854), Emma would give birth to him just four years later. So she must have married first husband Jacob Charles Brickman no later than mid-1853.

I can find no record of their marriage. How do I know they married? Only from the 1900 article, which said Emma had divorced him. I cannot find Jacob in 1850, prior to the marriage, nor in 1860, after the marriage. And as mentioned, I also cannot find their son. The 1900 article states that Jacob is still alive and living at an address in Philadelphia. The 1900 Census begs to differ, as he is not showing up there.

However, there is a Jacob C. Brickman in Chicago in 1900. He was born in Pennsylvania. I can trace him back to the 1870 census, where he is living in Quincy, Adams County, Illinois. He is married to Mary and they have a 9-year-old son George. Jacob and Mary married 11 June 1868 in Adams County, Illinois. Jacob and Mary are still in Quincy in 1880 with their family. This Jacob died 8 Aug 1905 in Chicago, and is buried in Oakwoods Cemetery.

Why am I interested in Jacob in Illinois? Mainly because William F. Brickman, son of Emma and Jacob, shows up in Adams County, Illinois in 1884. If his father was living there, that could explain why he made the move to Illinios.

In 1860, Emma is living with her widowed mother in Burlington, Burlington County, New Jersey. She is listed as single, and her six-year-old son is not with her. By the end of 1860, the family is back in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. On 6 December 1860, Emma marries husband #2, George Singleton Pettibone at Emma’s mother’s home in Philadelphia.

George is another ghost. He does not appear on the 1860 census in Philadelphia, even though the marriage record states he is “of Philadelphia”. He also does not appear on the 1870 census in Philadelphia. There is a merchant George Pettibone listed on the New York City censuses for those dates, but there is no way for me to know if this is the same person. The 1900 article states that he is still alive in 1900, and that he, too, had divorced Emma.

The article also claims that Emma’s daughter Nannetta Lillian is George’s daughter, but on Nannetta’s marriage license she says that her father is Emma’s third husband, William C. Sloan.

Nannetta was born in 1863, so if William really was her father then Emma and George’s marriage was a very short one. It is also possible that George fathered her but William raised her.

In any event, Nannetta should be on the 1870 census. I cannot find her, her mother, nor William Sloan. I searched for William in 1860, but there were numerous William Sloans and I have no way of knowing if any of them are the right one. I also could not locate a William Sloan with a wife or child in 1870. The 1900 article stated that William was deceased, but it was unclear whether his death ended the marriage or if he had divorced and then died prior to 1900.

That brings us to 1880. We have not seen a trace of Emma since 1860, and we find no documents of her now. However, in her divorce proceedings of August 1900, she said she married her fourth husband, B.F. Nail, “twenty years ago last June”. That wording is unclear to me, if she married in June of 1880 or 1879.

She does not say where they married, but I believe it was in western Pennsylvania. She says she stayed with Benjamin for three years, then spent seven years in the Harrisburg Asylum and the Blair County almshouse, then had lived the last two years with her daughter, also in Blair County. If we do the math, that would mean she lived with Benjamin until 1882, the asylum/almshouse until 1889, and her daughter’s house from then until the present time in 1900. I was able to find Benjamin Nail on the 1900 census, but nothing in 1880.

The mention of the stay at the asylum, the chaos of four failed marriages, and her spotty relationship with her children makes me think that perhaps there was a mental illness at play here making it difficult to form and maintain relationships.

Whatever the case, Emma K. Nail died in the Allegheny County Home on 2 August 1909. This is the same place her son William Brickman had died two years prior. Unlike William, someone must have claimed Emma’s body, because she was buried in Melrose Cemetery, rather than the Home’s own cemetery. Perhaps it was her daughter Nannetta, who lived nearby.

That is the long, convoluted story of Emma Kite Hobson. There are still large gaps in her history, and if any other genealogist out there wants to try cracking the case, I would love to know what you find out.

The Mystery of Emma K. Hobson part 1—CoronaLife Day 313

If you’ve been here any length of time, you know I am a genealogy geek. It has been a wonderful way to escape the pressure and stress of the pandemic. I’ve been researching for some 30 years. One of the easiest ways to track an ancestor after 1850 is by using the censuses. Every ten years, the family would be enumerated.

Well, that’s the idea. It’s not uncommon for a family to be “lost” for a census. Maybe they were moving, maybe they weren’t home when the enumerators knocked, maybe the enumerators skipped their house or farm for some reason. But recently I had a family that was lost over many censuses—one woman, two children, and four husbands. All of them ghosts.

The woman is Emma Kite Hobson. She was the daughter of Benjamin Hobson and Margaret Seward. Emma was born 25 Feb 1837 in Pennsylvania, likely in Philadelphia since that is where Benjamin and Margaret lived. Emma then proceeded to marry four times and have two children with different husbands—and I can’t find any of them.

I’m going to start with Emma’s children. Her first child was William F. Brickman, born April 1854 in Pennsylvania, according to census records and his death certificate. Now, the census takes place every ten years on the 10s, so he should appear on the 1860 census—except that he doesn’t. His mother Emma is living with HER mother, and listed as single. William’s father, Jacob Charles Brickman, also has vanished. William then shows up in 1870 at age 16, living with his grandmother (Emma’s mom) Margaret Seward Hobson in Philadelphia. William then again vanishes, pops up in Adams County, Illinois in 1884 where he marries a widow (Mrs. Mary Irvin), who then dies in 1898 in Brown County, Illinois. He is still in Brown County, Illinois in 1900, but then dies in a poor house in Collier, Blair County, Pennsylvania on 4 September 1907. No one claims him and he is buried in the Allegheny County Home’s cemetery.

Emma’s daughter Nannetta Lillian was born in Burlington County, New Jersey or Pennsylvania, depending on where you look. On her marriage license, which she likely filled out herself, she states Burlington County. Presumably she knew where she was born on 17 March 1863.

The question then becomes who was she born TO. An article in 1900 says she was the daughter of Emma’s second husband, George Singleton Pettibone. On her marriage license she said her father was William C. Sloan, Emma’s third husband.

On her marriage license, Nannetta says her last name is Felix. She also says she was married before and her first husband died in 1883, so Felix was likely his last name. I cannot find any record of her first marriage. Here’s where things get stranger still.

On her daughter’s baptismal records, Nannetta lists her maiden name as Hemick. Her daughter who filled out Nannetta’s death certificate had clearly heard this name, because she put that her grandfather was William Hemick. This is also the maiden name used in Nannetta’s obituary, which the children would have written. Where did Hemick come from? No clue.

So, Nannetta was born in 1863, to either husband number 2 or 3. However, I cannot locate her on the 1870 census. I cannot locate her mother or either suspected father, either. Same with the 1880 census. I even checked the 1880 census under the surname Felix, as she might have been married by then. No joy. She married Andrew Curtain Hull in 1886 in Blair County, and that is the first record I have for her. The rest of her life after is easy to trace.

Where were Emma’s children in their youth? Where was Emma for 20 years between 1860 and 1880? I’ll look for clues to her whereabouts next week. Any genealogists out there that want to tackle this with me, I would love to hear what you find!

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