My Brick Wall – Jennie Hatfield Wainer

I guess every family researcher has one. A brick wall is the term we use for an ancestor who seems to have come from nowhere. No matter how hard we try we can’t move our research forward (well, technically backward) to find out more information.

My brick wall is my great, great grandmother, Jennie HATFIELD Wainer (possibly Virginia HATFIELD or Ellen HATFIELD.) She was born in Niles, Michigan on 11 Apr 1851 and died in Randolph Co., WV on 08 Mar 1932. On 22 Sep 1867 she married John Milton WAINER. The Wainer family bible shows that the marriage took place in Prairie City, McDonough Co., IL. The marriage certificate was printed by a printer in Prairie City, IL. However, the marriage certificate itself says that the marriage was by Judge Bloomfield in Cumberland Co., IL.

Jennie’s birth date comes from Jennie’s family bible that I have. Her death information is from her death certificate on file in West Virginia. Both documents show her name as only ‘Jennie Hatifield’. There was no formal given name or middle name.

Jennie has always fascinated me. I have more original records on her than anyone else in my research; her family bible and the original of her marriage license. Family tradition has always said that she is related to the HATFIELD clan involved in the famous feud with the McCoys. I’d like to prove of disprove that. But, more than that, I just want to know who her parents were and whether she had any brothers and sisters.

The family bible, the marriage certificate and death certificate held great promise. I had all sorts of information about Jennie’s children and grandchildren. But, the records also created a lot of mystery. Here’s why:

The family bible says that Jennie’s father was “E. W. Hatfield b. in England.” That’s the only mention of parents and there is no birth date listed for him. Jennie’s birth date is listed, but not the name of her mother. Her death certificate lists her parents (according to her son, Homer) as “William Elsa” and “Permelia Burnett.” Hmmm. Where’s the Hatfield name? Is it possible that the son, Homer, left off the last name and her father is William Elsa Hatfield? Could Elsa be a misspelling and the is actually William Elias or William Elias Hatfield? Permelia seemed like a fairly uncommon name. So, I thought if I could locate her I could find the father.

Assuming that she would be found in later life as Permelia Hatfield, I searched the census and BINGO there was. Here was a Permelia Hatfield living in Clay Township, Miami Co., IN! Her husband’s name was Leonard Hatfield. Fast forward to 1870 and the same family is in Miami Co., IN. This time the husband’s name was Levin W. Hatfield. One big problem. There should have been a Jennie in the 1860 record about 8 or 9 years old. There is a female child, age 8. But, her name is Ellen.

So, I’ve tried for birth and death certificates of everyone closely related. No go. Jennie is always referred to as Jennie and I can’t get birth records for the Ellen found in Indiana because I don’t know the county in Michigan where she was born.

You also might think the obvious thing is to find Jennie’s birth certificate. Well, 1851 was too early for her birth to have been registered with the county. So, here I am, at the brick wall. If anyone out there can see this more clearly than I can, please make a comment with what I might be able to try next!

UPDATE: Major break though this week on my brick wall. It just goes to show you that you should never give up. On advice of another researcher I began gathering death records of all of Jennie’s children and siblings. I gathered all the death certificates I could find and noticed on the online West Virginia vital statistics site that there were two entries for each persons’s certificate. One was the hand-written log of death entries. As it turns out, even though the parents weren’t listed on the actual certificate, they WERE in this written list. Lo and behold the mother was listed as HELEN V. Hatfield! So, something finally relates to the child named Helen. Its not a definite proof, but the evidence is getting a lot stronger!

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