Mystery Monday–Who was Mary Thornton?

So I know that my Lamb ancestry traces through New York City, specifically Harlem, back to Ireland.  The family legend is that my ancestors emigrated during the great potato famine.  The 1860 U.S. census for New York supports all of this, but adds a mystery that I have yet to solve.


I know very little about this household other than what is shown in this census record.  Based on this, I'll be looking for a birth record for Francis in 1796 in Ireland, and possibly a marriage record for Francis and Anne some time around 1830 (they may have been married in Ireland or maybe in New York) based on the ages of the children in the household.  I’ll also be looking for birth records for the four children.  Anne’s maiden name was Quinn, which we see further down in the household list here.  The New York birth records should also be helpful in finding out the exact relationship with the three Quinn family members listed in the household too.  It’s the last line of this record that introduces the mystery.  Mary Thornton, age 56 and born in Ireland, is also listed in the Lamb household.

This record isn’t the only place that a Thornton appears in the same household as a Lamb.  A while ago I posted about the daughter-in-law of this Francis Lamb, Kate Lamb.  One of the records that I showed there was the 1870 U.S. census for Francis and Kate’s household, which included a Maggie Thornton (b. 1854).  Another 1870 census record shows the younger Lamb household with Margaret Thornton (b. 1854); so Margaret was also known as Maggie.  Mary Thornton (b. 1804) in the record shown above couldn’t be the same person as Maggie Thornton in the 1870 records, but since both of them appear in the same households as my Lamb ancestors, it seems likely to me that the two Thorntons are related in some way; perhaps Mary was Maggie’s mother?  Maggie was listed as a servant in 1870, but Mary doesn’t have an occupation listed in 1860.

These records answer a few questions but they raise many more.  Who was Mary Thornton?  Who was Margaret/Maggie Thornton?  What was the relationship between Mary and Margaret/Maggie?  According to the 1860 record, Mary was born in Ireland the same year as Anne, but I have not seen any mention of Mary in other records yet.  Was she a twin sister of Anne who married a man named Thornton and was then subsequently widowed?  Was she a cousin who emigrated with Francis and Anne?  When did Francis, Anne and Mary emigrate?  Why did Francis give his occupation as gentleman?

There are so many questions to answer.  As one prominent mystery solver was known to say, “the game is afoot!”


No comments: