Deconstructing Deborah: an examination of the Quaker Baynes of Bucks County, Pennsylvania

img_3454Death at sea. It sure makes for a compelling family origin story.

And the story of the ill-fated voyage of the Matthew Banes family from Lancashire, England to Pennsylvania in 1687 is true one that has been published in annals of history.

Matthew Banes, his wife Margaret and two of their four children, Thomas and Timothy, died en route to William Penn’s Quaker colony when disease broke out aboard their ship. Two children – a son, William, and a daughter, Eleanor – were the sole survivors and later taken in by families from the close-knit Quaker community in colonial Pennsylvania.

Somehow this tragic event has become part of the family lore of another Banes:  Deborah Baynes, wife of Thomas Ashton of Makefield, Bucks County, Pennsylvania.

Fact becomes fable

Countless researchers believe Deborah to be the daughter of Matthew Banes (Banes has been spelled a variety of ways – Baines, Bains, Baynes, Bayns, Beans, Beanes) and wife, Margaret Hatton, Quakers from Goosnargh in Lancashire, England.

And they did indeed have a daughter named Deborah, born 1 March 1683.

But a baptismal record alone is not evidence enough to prove that their daughter is the same Deborah Baynes who came to Bucks County, Pennsylvania and married Thomas Ashton.

Something’s not right here

One fact that always gave me pause when examining this family’s history is that Deborah Banes, daughter of Matthew and Margaret, apparently did not sail with the rest of the family in 1687.

Why was that?

Did she travel to Pennsylvania separately from her immediate family (as many researchers believe she did)? Was she perhaps omitted in the records of the time? Or did she die in infancy in Lancashire?

More importantly, why have so many genealogists continued to populate family trees with an unsubstantiated relationship?

It is an incredible stretch of the imagination to think that a couple would leave their youngest child behind while they journeyed to a new land. Immigrant families, of course, did sometimes separate when crossing the ocean, but I’ve never seen record of a toddler traveling without at least one of the parents (usually Mom).

Who was Deborah?

Figuring out the truth about Deborah (Baynes) Ashton was met with many of the same challenges that come with researching female ancestors who lived during the 17th and 18th centuries, particularly in early colonial America.

What is known about her life is as follows:

She was born circa 1675 in England and came to Pennsylvania sometime before she married Thomas on 31 July 1701 at the Falls Monthly Meeting.[1] The couple had two daughters,  Mary, born 31 March 1702 and Ann, born 26 October 1703.[2]

Some researchers believe they also had a son, Isaac (see note below). However, unlike his siblings, Isaac’s birth was not recorded in the Falls MM registers.

Neither was Deborah’s early death, which happened circa 1705. Thomas Ashton remarried in 1710 and had at least eight more children with his second wife, Hannah Hough (or nine, if Isaac was born to Hannah instead of Deborah).

The proof is out there

The omission of Deborah from the emigration story had me convinced that her parents were not Matthew and Margaret (Hatton) Banes.

And I was able to find some interesting clues to her true origins in both the records of Middletown Monthly Meeting and in the will of a certain Gabriel Baynes.

The Meeting minutes show not only Deborah’s place of origin, but also when she arrived in Bucks County, Pennsylvania and the family members with whom she made the journey:

Middletown MM – 5th day, 1st mo, 1698 – Certificate for Gabriell Baynes and Anne Baynes his mother and sister Deborah Baynes from Monthly Meeting at Settle in Yorkshire, England.[3]

But the real proof that it is this Deborah who is – without any shred of doubt – the same woman who married Thomas Ashton, can be found in the 1727 will of Gabriel Baynes.

In his will, Gabriel Baynes names as his cousins Thomas and Deborah (Baynes) Ashton’s daughters, Ann (Ashton) Hillbourne and Mary (Ashton) Lee.  In the legal terminology of the colonial era, “cousin” often referred to nieces and nephews.

Gabriel Baynes’ will is a such a critical piece of evidence that I cannot believe no one has ever cited it before. And there are even more clues contained within, as Baynes also named two other siblings, Thomas Baynes and Agnes (Baynes) Wood:

GABRIEL BAINS of Falls Township, County of Bucks, Province of Pennsylvania, Yeoman.

To be buried in graveyard at plantation of neighbor Thos. Watson. £1 to said Thos. Watson, toward repairing fence around said graveyard.

Residue of personal estate equally divided between well beloved wife Ellin Bains and Son Bryan Bains. Son to have Plantation at 21, or marriage, whichever comes first.

If son dies without issue, estate divided into equal thirds (after wife’s decease) to Brother Thomas Bains, Sister Agnes Wood, and Cousin Ann Hilburn and Cousin Mary Lee’s 2 children, John and Deborah Lee.

Wife, Mark Watson, and Robert Sotcher, executors.
Wit: Nehemiah Blackshaw, John Sotcher, Jos. Kirkbride, Junr.

Written 19th day, 9th month, 1727. Proved February 12, 1727.[4]

  • (Note: Isaac Ashton (presumed son of Deborah Baynes) is not named as an heir of Gabriel Baynes.)

And so with just two records a family fable is rendered fiction, not fact.  Deborah (Baynes) Ashton clearly came to Pennsylvania from the Settle MM in Yorkshire, a decade after the fateful sea voyage that took the lives of Matthew Banes, his wife and two children. She came with a mother named Anne – who was still very much alive in 1698 – together with her brother, Gabriel.

Indirect proof of parentage

But further research was definitely needed to determine more of Deborah’s true origin story.

I began to look more closely at Deborah and Gabriel’s brother, Thomas, who also came to Pennsylvania.

Thomas Baynes, a yeoman in Middletown, Bucks County, died in 1743. He named his daughter, Ann and her husband, Daniel Doan, as executors and sole legatees in his will.[5]

The Middletown Monthly Meeting records show that Ann Baynes was born 8 Jun 1698 to Thomas Baynes and wife, Jennet[6] and married to Daniel Doane, Jr. on 1 January 1716.[7]

Deborah and Gabriel’s brother, Thomas, happens to be the same Thomas Baynes, son of Bryan of Wennington, who married Jennet Ward on 20 May 1694 at Settle MM. Gabriel, Deborah and Agnes’ names are all found on the certificate as witnesses.[8] (and Gabriel Baynes had a son named Bryan, apparently named for his paternal grandfather)

The certificate of removal for Thomas Baynes and his wife, dated 4 November 1696, gives further evidence that he was from Wennington, Lancashire “yet belonging to the Monthly Meeting of Settle”.[9]

Wennington is a village in Lancashire near the Yorkshire border. It lies within the Melling St. Wilfrid parish (which is a different place than Melling near Liverpool).

The parish register for Melling St. Wilfrid, contains the baptism entries for Gabriell, Thomas, Agnes Baynes and another sibling, James, plus the burial entries for James and an older sister, Tamar – all children of Bryan and Ann Baynes.[10]

Unfortunately, there appears to be a loss of records between 1671 and 1675.  This may explain why I have been unable to any record of Deborah’s birth.

But for absolute certain her parents’ names were Bryan and Ann Baynes from Wennington, Lancashire. No myth there.


1. Hinshaw, William Wade and Marshall, Thomas Worth, “Encyclopedia of American Quaker Genealogy. Volume II”,(Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co., Inc., 1969, 1991, 1994), p. 975

2. Humphrey, John T., “Pennsylvania Births, Bucks County, 1682-1800”, (Washington DC: Humphrey Publications, 1993), p. 7

3. “U.S., Quaker Meeting Records, 1681-1935”, digital image, (Online: Operations, Inc., 2014), [Original source: Middletown MM, Minutes, Marriages, Cert. of Removal, Condemnations, Births and Burials, 1682-1807, p. 6]

4. “Gabriel Bains’ Will”, digital image, FamilySearch (Online: Intellectual Reserve, Inc. 2018), [Original source: Bucks County (Pennsylvania), Register of Wills, “Wills 1713-1759, Vol. 1”, pp. 114-116]

5. “Wills: Abstracts: Book 2 : Bucks Co, PA 1739-1759”, USGenWeb Project (Online:, 1996-2016)

6. “U.S., Quaker Meeting Records, 1681-1935”, digital image, (Online: Operations, Inc., 2014), [Original source: Middletown MM Minutes, 1664-1807, p. 118]

7. “U.S., Quaker Meeting Records, 1681-1935”, digital image, (Online: Operations, Inc., 2014), [Original source: Middletown MM Marriages, 1700-1779, p. 41]

8. “England & Wales, Quaker Birth, Marriage, and Death Registers, 1578-1837”, digital image, (Online: Operations, Inc., 2013), [Original source: Yorkshire, Piece 1116: Monthly Meeting of Settle (1652-1775), p. 155]

9. “U.S., Quaker Meeting Records, 1681-1935”, digital image, (Online: Operations, Inc., 2014), [Original source: Middletown MM Minutes, 1664-1807, p. 154-155]

10. UK Genealogy Archives, [Original source: Briefly, Henry, transcriber, “The Registers of the Parish Church of Melling”, (Wigan:Strowger and Son at the Clarence Press, 1911), pp. 19, 21, 23, 26, 98, 118]




From mystery to Maben: breaking down a genealogical brick wall

img_1172It’s been said that setting goals turns the invisible into the visible.

With a brick wall ancestor, it often seems like one is chasing a ghost, hoping one day for identity to materialize. The pursuit can last years – decades, even.

This is the story of how setting a concrete goal enabled me  – nearly one year after I had set my goal – to finally busted one of the biggest brick walls in my family tree!

Some history…

For over two decades, I have strived to find clues that could help identify Sarah E., first wife of Samuel Sherfey Brown, who died at the young age of 25 in 1877. I knew her given name and middle initial, birth and death dates from her tombstone and death notice.[1][2] But nothing was known about her maiden name.

Two of her three children had not even a mother’s name listed on their death certificates (common, yet still blows my mind) and the third had the maiden name of a stepmother. Sarah’s husband, Samuel S. Brown , was widely known in the area they resided, but his obituary also yielded no information.

Because Samuel and Sarah likely married in 1870, I looked for the couple in the 1870 census. I found Samuel enumerated in his parents’ household. But where was Sarah?

The only “paper trail” clues I had for the longest time were as follows:

  • A marriage listed in a compilation of Mifflin Co., PA marriages, dated 24 March 1870, between a Samuel Brown of Huntingdon Co., PA and a Sarah Martin of Lewistown, Mifflin Co., PA. This fit the approximate date of marriage I had for them based on their first child’s birth year (given as 1869 and 1871, depending on the source).[3]
  • A random email sent to me a decade ago, shortly after I had made a Genforum post concerning Martin being a possible maiden name. In the email, the person (from Australia) said the correct maiden name was Mabin. But the writer offered no evidence nor further information – and never again replied to any emails I sent.  Since that message, I had long wondered if perhaps Martin was a misprint of Mabin in either the newspaper where the compiler got his info or a transcription error by the compiler himself.

I tried to find a family surnamed Mabin with a daughter named Sarah that would be the correct age to fit in the 1860 and 1870 federal census, but came up empty handed. I also tried under the surname Martin with no luck.

So, I tucked the name Mabin away in the back of my mind as a remote, but possible contender.

Not knowing Sarah’s maiden name, let alone her parents’ names nor where she resided, made for a laborious and difficult hunt. It was so frustrating because mid-19th century records for Mifflin and Huntingdon counties are scarce. Crazy scarce.

I wrote to the Mifflin County Historical Society, but staffers could only find the death notice.

I’d give up for some time, only to try again… and again… and again.

I made several fruitless searches of the census records for other Sarahs of the same approximate age in the Juniata Valley region. Either these women married others or wound up never marrying. Once in awhile, I would also do internet searches under the surname Mabin (plus Martin and others), looking for clues and sifting through possibilities using the process of elimination.

DNA clues

And then I added DNA testing to my genealogical toolbox.

I tested myself, my paternal aunt and three of my paternal grandmother’s maternal first cousins.

Immediately, I began finding a lot of matches for my grandmother’s maternal line, particularly on the Brown side – and began charting them on a spreadsheet. The other grandparent the cousins all have in common was a recent German immigrant to Philly and there have only been three matches total for that line (probably since DNA testing is not popular in Germany).

I began to notice that all the remaining matches that the cousins had in common seemed to have deeper colonial American ancestry – a great deal in the South, NJ/NY/New England and places in PA where I did not believe the Brown line originated – and many with British, Dutch and Mennonite origins. It wasn’t yet enough to see a definitive pattern or clue, but I sure was keeping my eyes open for something.

Next, my aunt and one of my grandmother’s cousins did a mtDNA test and that, too, indicated deeper colonial American ancestry originating in NJ/NY, either of British or Dutch origin.

Fishing in another pond

Fast forward to this month…

On a late night whim, I decided to make use of the free DNA data transfer offer at MyHeritage. And it has made all the difference. There really is something to be said about fishing in as many ponds as one can.

My grandmother’s three maternal first cousins (all whom are great-grandchildren of Sarah) all showed strong 2nd-4th cousin match in MyHeritage to the same man (Jim). When I looked at Jim’s family tree, I immediately noticed the Maben surname paired with Lewistown, Mifflin County, PA. 

No other branches of Jim’s family tree matched our family, save for this possible one: Maben. And when I looked into Jim’s Maben family further, I found that his ancestor had a sister named Sarah E., born in 1852.

I got goosebumps!

To calm myself down, I created a private mirror tree going back a few generations further on all of Jim’s lines just to be sure that there were no other branches that could possibly connect with our family.

Piecing together evidence

Then I found another person who posted a Mabin/Maben family tree on Ancestry with census records attached and that’s when I made a stunning breakthrough.

Screen Shot 2018-04-01 at 10.44.16

Finding evidence of my brick wall ancestor eluded me for decades because of a simple transcription error. [image via]

I discovered a HUGE transcription error for the 1860 census both on FamilySearch and Ancestry (and by NARA too, from way back when I first poured over records the old fashioned way – hunched over a microfilm reader):  Maben had been transcribed as Maglion.

The record was indeed very faint, but it definitely was written as Mayben (Maglion doesn’t even show as a Soundex match). And the family of David and Sarah Mayben indeed had a daughter Sarah E., born the exact year my ancestor was born, living in the area where she and her husband lived after they wed.[4]

Sarah was under my nose the whole time!

Interestingly, the census recorded her father and older brothers’ occupations as “wood chopper”. Sarah’s husband, Samuel, his father and brothers were also all employed in the lumber industry.

Proof via DNA triangulation 

Of course, I wanted to close the case on this long time mystery. But in order to make this new found evidence even stronger, I had to both gather more documentation to trace this family’s history back even further… and triangulate DNA matches.

Right away, I found two other strong matches on Gedmatch to my Grandmom’s cousins who are also strong matches with Jim. One is connected one generation further back on Sarah’s maternal line (Baumgardner) which married into her paternal Maben line. The other descends via the Maben line.

That Maben descendant, however, also is related to Jim on another branch of his family tree (same generation back as the Maben line). I see no connection to that line in my own family tree, but I suppose there’s always chance of a connection on that line further back in the genealogical time frame. (though I don’t think that the shared cMs would be as high as they are – even if some Pennsylvania-Dutch endogamy was part of the equation).

But I’ve since found other matches via Sarah’s maternal line (Baumgardner).  And because I’ve also traced back a few more generations, I’ve been able to triangulate the following:

  • on Chromosome 4, a triangulated match between my Grandmom’s cousin (Shirley), Jim and another Baumgardner descendant (decended via Sarah’s uncle Abram Baumgardner).
  • on Chromosome 5, a triangulated match between Grandmom’s cousin (Shirley) and two Baumgardner descendants (each descended from Sarah’s uncle Hiram Baumgardner) and another Baumgardner descendant one generation further back (Sarah’s great-uncle, Emanuel Baumgarnder).
  • on Chromosome 22, a triangulated match between Grandmom’s cousins (Lowell and Patti), Jim and another Maben descendant.

And while a mtDNA match would totally clinch it, I do believe I have enough triangulations to finally consider the identity of my most challenging brick wall ancestor to be DNA confirmed as Sarah E. Maben.

After more than 25 years, this cold case is finally closed!


1.”Grave marker for Sarah E. Brown“, jpeg image, Find A Grave (Online: Operations, Inc., 2012)

2.”Death notice for Sarah E. Brown“, jpeg image, Lewistown Gazette, Lewistown, Pennsylvania, USA, 5 September 1877.

3. McClenahen, Dan, “Marriages of Mifflin County, 1822-1885”, (Reedsville, PA: Dan McClenahen,1981), p. 56.

4.” “1860 United States Federal Census (Population Schedule)”, Armagh Township, Mifflin County, Pennsylvania, USA, Dwelling, 219, Family 219, David Mayben household“,jpeg image, FamilySearch (Online: Intellectual Reserve, Inc., 2010)


The Three Sarahs, part 1

square photograph of three tall evergreen treesLike every genealogist, I have my share of so-called brick wall ancestors. Ones for whom a paper trail is scant or missing.

On my paternal grandmother’s side there are three such ancestors, each with the given name Sarah.

The origins for two of “The Three Sarahs” have long been a mystery with very few clues and even fewer records to assist in figuring out their background. The third Sarah was an illegitimate birth, with no record of  who her father may have been.

This post concerns the Sarah for whom I have the least amount of information.

Sarah E. (maiden name unknown) was first wife of Samuel S. Brown, a lumberman and, later, proprietor of the Duncan House in Milroy, Mifflin Co., PA. She died at a young age, after bearing three children.

According to her grave marker in Milroy’s Woodlawn Cemetery, Sarah was born 12 Aug. 1852 and died 26 Aug. 1877.[1]

This closely matches an all too brief death notice found in the Lewistown Gazette newspaper which gives the death date as 27 Aug. 1877 and Sarah’s age as 25 years and 16 days.[2]

Her maiden name was missing from the death certificates of her two daughters and erroneously listed as Studer on that of her son.[3]

Screen Shot 2016-01-07 at 11.35.18

My GGG-Grandmother, Sarah E. Brown’s maiden name is unknown.

I say erroneously because Studer was the maiden name of Samuel S. Brown’s second wife, Rebecca.

The error is understandable considering that the children were quite young when Sarah died. Rebecca was probably the maternal figure they best remembered, especially since she was also the mother of their two half-siblings and Studer was likely a name heard while growing up as being connected to the family.

Still, it is a clue regarding a potential maiden name… so I had to check out whether there was connection. After all, it wouldn’t be unusual to find a widower remarried to his deceased wife’s sister.

However, my research thus far has disproven connection to the Jacob and Theresa (Miller) Studer family, parents of Rebecca. Census records of 1860 and 1870 show no daughter named Sarah, though there is an intriguing gap of several years between Rebecca and the next oldest child – a gap that would be a perfect fit for Sarah’s age.

So… what else is known about the mysterious Sarah E. besides her birth and death dates?

It is highly probable that Sarah was of Pennsylvanian Dutch ancestry like her husband. That’s not a given though. Based on some of his siblings’ marriages, it would appear theirs was the first generation to wed spouses from different ethnic backgrounds.

She was also likely from Huntingdon Co., PA, but possibly from a neighboring county, like Mifflin, where she and Samuel moved after marriage.

Unfortunately, records from the 19th century are hard to come by in this region.

The LDS Family History Library catalog has very few church records for Huntingdon Co., and none for Lutheran or Brethren denominations, which would be the first place to check for a marriage register.

The wedding would have occurred circa 1870.

First-born child, son Jefferson William Brown was born in Aug. 1869, according to his death certificate – which would indicate a marriage likely in late 1868. But Sarah would have only been 16 in 1868, which seems a bit young. And I’m inclined to believe Jefferson was born a year or so later, as he is listed as being born in 1871 in most census records.

The only substantial clue found thus far is a marriage notation for a Sarah Martin and Samuel Brown in a compilation of Mifflin County marriages. Originally published in the Lewistown Gazette, the marriage occurred 24 March 1870. Sarah Martin was noted as being from Lewistown and Samuel Brown from Huntingdon County.[4]

It sure seems like a good fit, but whether this couple is indeed my Sarah and Samuel remains to be proven.

I cannot find this couple anywhere in the 1870 or subsequent census records. My Samuel Brown was enumerated in his parents’ household (Huntingdon County) in July 1870, a few months after when this wedding would have taken place. It’s possible Sarah was also residing there but omitted in error…

There is also no Sarah Martin in Lewistown in 1870, nor in 1860.

My paternal aunt is the only direct-line maternal descendent of Sarah among my close relatives. I’ve been contemplating whether a mtDNA study would be of any help in tracking Sarah’s origins…

Or would an autosomal DNA test be more helpful?


1.”Grave marker for Sarah E. Brown“, jpeg image, Find A Grave (Online: Operations, Inc., 2012)

2.”Death notice for Sarah E. Brown“, jpeg image, Lewistown Gazette, Lewistown, Pennsylvania, USA, 5 September 1877.

3.”Pennsylvania, Death Certificates, 1906-19440“, jpeg image, (Online: Operations, Inc. 2014)

4. McClenahen, Dan, “Marriages of Mifflin County, 1822-1885”, (Reedsville, PA: Dan McClenahen,1981), p. 56.

Copyright (c) 2016 by Jana Shea. All materials protected under the laws of copyright. Do not copy or reproduce without author’s permission.