Genealogy Challenge: Ancestor Scavenger Hunt

If you have been following me for any amount of time you will note my posts tend to be “all over the map.” Here’s one that I dreamed up and haven’t even done myself so this post will be my own process. This is not a contest and one should not overthink this.

Items You will need:

  • A timer
  • Something to take notes with
  • An ancestor you have not previously researched other than names, dates and places—please consider a female ancestor if you are an experienced genealogist (they tend to be more challenging). Do not spend more than ten minutes figuring out an ancestor, just pick one that calls out to you.
  • Your bag of genealogy tricks
  • A block of uninterrupted time preferably 1-4 hours (I originally thought 30 minutes but I knew most of us couldn’t stick to that)

FIRST: So first thing I did was to go to my tree on Ancestry that happened to be open to the ancestors of my 2nd great grandmother Catherine Adeline STEWART. And the first name that caught my eye was her grandmother Olive SCOVILLE. She is interesting since for many years it was believed that she was not her grandmother but rather her step-grandmother. So this is a line I have not worked on other than the rough outline. I want to call your attention to your own process. Jotting down the process is sometimes as important as what you find.

SECOND: Without going any further jot down a list of first places you intend to search. Here’s mine Ancestry, Family Search, Wiki Tree, American Ancestors, Chronicling America. So even with the writing of this I am twenty minutes since I started and I haven’t begun searching yet.

THIRD: Collect everything you have on this person. Here’s what I have in my tree which is a lot more than I expected. As I often do I collect things and forget about them.

Let’s analyze just what I can see right in front of me. First I see some questions forming. Obviously one BIG one is why she marries Andrew STEWART in 1781, has a son (my 3rd great grandfather Andrew J STEWART ) in 1786 and then remarries ??? TAYLOR when ??? and has three more children with Mr TAYLOR. Meanwhile her first husband my 4th great grandfather Andrew STEWART is still alive. It appears I am missing some census records so I will focus on them and see what I can dig up on Ancestry, Family Search, My Heritage, American Ancestors etc. So excuse me a bit while I travel down the rabbit holes…

PROBLEM ONE: A note on Ancestry : “Olive Scoville or Scovell was the daughter of Benjamin and Abigail Chapman. Olive married Daniel Bertine Stewart in East Haddam, Middlesex, Connecticut in May of 1781. They were the parents of one daughter Phebe born in 1783 and Andrew Jackson, born on November 18, 1786. After Daniel Bertine deserted his family in 1788 or 1790. Olive married a Mr. Taylor, in Litchfield, Connecticut in the year of 1795. They were the parents of one son Philo J. Taylor.”

Well first off Olive’s parents according to the baptism are Stephen SCOVILLE and Elizabeth EGGLESTON and her death record where she is listed as “Miss” Olive Taylor she is 87 years old making her birth in 1752 which could fit the Olive of Stephen and Elizabeth but not as the daughter of Benjamin SCOVILLE and Abigail (CHAPMAN) SCOVILLE who are listed on seven Ancestry Trees with no sources but the same date of birth! So I will stick with Olive’s parents as Stephen SCOVILLE and Elizabeth EGGLESTON.

PROBLEM TWO: The evidence does show that Daniel Bertine STEWART abandoned Olive in Connecticut. In fact there’s a Ohio Supreme Court case brought by the heirs of Daniel’s “alleged” daughter Phebe. In the excerpt below the testator is Daniel Stewart. The first wife would be our Olive SCOVILLE.

Supreme Court Commssion of of Ohio E.L. Dewitt 1884 pg 492

First off we do have the marriage of Olive and Daniel as recorded in East Haddam, Middlesex, Connecticut in May of 1781 from Bailey, Frederic W. Early Connecticut Marriages as Found on Ancient Church Records Prior to 1800. Baltimore, MD: Genealogical Publishing Co., 1997. So we know they were married! Olive was just shy of her sixteenth birthday when she married Daniel and he was but 18. I can find no registration of the birth of Andrew or Phebe. The court did not find that Phebe was the legitimate daughter of Daniel but she might well have been. And we do find Olive on the 1790 census with 1 male under 16 (Andrew b. 1786) and 2 free white females (Olive b 1765 and likely Phebe bc 178?).

Last entry 1790 Census for Harwinton, Litchfield, CT Olive Stewart

As above it looks as if Daniel is missing and likely has taken up with Ruth Fulford. By the time they arrive in Ohio and she assumed the role of wife, meanwhile our dear Olive having been abandoned at or about the tender age of 22-23. In the court testimony a Mercy G Alcott states ” I heard mother say he [Daniel STEWART) was married in Connecticut; I do not recollect who he married; he left his wife [Olive] in Connecticut with two children and in low circumstances and his wife in the family way.” According to court testimony she appears to take up with a Mr. Taylor for whom no marriage record can I find. Not even a first name. And it gets even curiouser. Olive is alleged to have had 3 children with Mr Taylor ( Lucy 1790, Sallie 1791 and Philo 1796). And yet she is listed as Olive Stewart on both the 1790 and 1800 census and does not appear to have these children. Olive appears on the 1800 Census again as Olive Stewart in Cornwall, Litchfield where her Scoville family resides but with one son under 10 (is this Andrew who would be 14 or someone else?) and herself. Furthermore by 1810 the Philo Taylor mentioned in testimony as being the son of Olive is marrying in the same Athens Co, Ohio as Daniel STEWART resides. In 1820 Philo Taylor is one of 85 families living in Rome, Athens County Ohio along with Daniel STEWART. Seems a bit of a coincidence? The testimony just starts falling apart and I suspect this may have been a scam to get part of Daniel’s estate and had nothing to do with Olive. or her alleged daughter Phebe.


Is the “Miss” Olive Taylor who died on 29 February 1852 at Litchfield, Connecticut, USA my Olive (SCOVILLE) STEWART? I don’t know yet. The dates are could be right, but I wonder. In the testimony above it states that Olive’s son Andrew “after an apprenticeship in Connecticut, followed the testator [his father Daniel] to Athens, Ohio, and was received and acknowledged by the testator as his ‘son by his first wife.'” We find Andrew in an Athens County Tax list in 1810 when he would have been about 24 years old. I can not find Olive in 1810 or 1820 unless she is remarried. There are two Taylors in Litchfield in the 1800 census a Levi and a Jonathan. Perhaps she marries one of them should they become a widow? By 1810 she would be 44 so I would not expect children after that. So what if the scenario painted in the court case is false. What if there were no Taylor children and the Philo Taylor was just a grifter and opportunist staking a claim based on Phebe who had likely died young (not on the 1800 census). It seems odd to me that a child of Olive allegedly born within a couple of years of Andrew albeit by a different father would end up in the same place but never be acknowledged by Andrew as a half brother and furthermore not appear with their mother on the 1800 census when according to testimony they would be only four years old. It just doesn’t add up.

Here is another possible scenario. Olive marries at age 15 has (likely) two children a girl (maybe Phebe) and a boy Andrew. Her husband Daniel STEWART a very young Revolutionary War veteran has another family by 1790 when he begins fathering children with Ruth Ann Fulford to whom he may never have married (no marriage record found). By 1801 he has purchased 3000 acres in the Ohio Country and moves this family West. He goes on to have a total of 14 children with Ruth. He becomes one of the richest men in Athens County.  He helped to found more than fifty churches and the town that grew up on his land bears his name.  He died at the age of ninety-six in the home he had built there.

Meanwhile Olive (SCOVILLE) STEWART appears to have lived at least until 1800 and beyond that it is hard to tell. By 1810 she has either died or remarried. There is no evidence for the alleged marriage of Olive with a Mr TAYLOR around 1790 and it does not make sense that she is listed on the 1790 and 1800 census by her married name STEWART and not TAYLOR and has none of the children alleged to be with Mr TAYLOR.

Olive’s life seems rather sad from the briefest of outlines I was able to uncover. It is clear from the testimony of her son Andrew that she was his mother. If she died between 1800-1810 it makes even more sense that he would go west to join his father. This is all I can discern in the 4 hours allotted. Wikitree, Family Search and American Ancestors were all included. I did not have time to research on Chronicling America. I did look for a probate record for Olive’s father but that did not yield anything.

Lots of threads to follow but I am not very hopeful of finding a lot more. This was a lot more problematic than I expected—but so it goes. Please feel free to post your own experience should you try this Genealogy Challenge in the comments. Have fun!

Copyright Kelly Wheaton 2021 All RIghts Reserved.

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