People, Place, and Time

Telling my family's stories

Who was Mary Vivian Croudson, and how do I even know if that was her name?  (52 Ancestors #2)

This is the puzzle of one of my 5th-great-grandmothers, a curious woman for whom I have an exact birth and death date, and yet whose name I remain unsure of.  Who was she?  Who was her family? Where was she born – Scotland? or Germany? or maybe actually Virginia?

A genealogy of the Skinner family provides the dates which bookend her life, and tell us so very little about it — or her:  “JOSEPH SKINNER, b. in France June 14, 1766; emigrated to America and furst settled near the Natural Bridge in Rockbridge county, Virginia; afterward removed to Morristown, Belmont county, Ohio, where he d. April 18, 1837; his wife was b. in Scotland Dec 21, 1770; d. Jan 5 1811;” (Ohio Valley Genealogies, Relating chiefly to families in Harrison, Belmont and Jefferson Counties, Ohio, and Washington, Westmoreland, and Fayette Counties, Pennsylvania; by Charles Augustus Hanna, Genealogical Publishing Company, 1972, p. 115).  There’s that birth and death date without a name!

Other bits of information (most of which I have not been able to verify):

  • A biography of Carleton Adolphus Skinner in 1881 says that his father Samuel was the son of Joseph Skinner and his wife, repeating the information from the Ohio Valley Genealogies.
  • Several genealogies online give Joseph’s wife as Mary Vivian Croudson/Croutzon/Crewdson.  I have not been able to sort out where this surname comes from in these genealogies, but Joseph and Mary have a son named John Croudson Skinner, and it’s claimed that their son Samuel’s middle name is Croudson as well (I can verify the C. initial!), so it’s certainly possible.
  • An outline of the descendants of Joseph Skinner written by an Ira Skinner says that this Joseph Skinner’s wife was “Mary Vivian”, and that she was born in Germany.  To my knowledge he does not bring up the surname Croudson.
  • One researcher gives a marriage date for Joseph Skinner and Mary Vivian Croutzon of August 24, 1790.  This certainly fits with the birthdates given for the children, and with Joseph’s and Mary’s ages, but again, I just don’t know where the date originates.  I’m sure you’re starting to see a pattern!

In short, I have a grandmother out there, and I think I know her first name, and there are some hints about her last name.  Before I can hope to figure out more about her as a person, I figure I probably have to have some handle on who she is and who her family is.

I decided to go with the Croudson surname as a jumping off place, a kind of hypothesis.  Even though I don’t have any proof that that’s her name, I don’t want to discard it out of hand, either.  So I went searching, and here’s what I found:

Shenandoah County

When we start to look at her children, we find that many of them claim to hail from Shenandoah County, so I started there.  And things got interesting in a real hurry!  Because there’s a John Croudson on the 1783 tax list, as well as the 1800 personal tax list.  The earliest mention I found of John was in a land transfer in 1776; he’s also a bondsman on some marriages performed in Shenandoah county, had at least one child he took on as a “bound boy”, and possibly is the same John Croudson that married the widow Elizabeth Skinner (!?!?!) on 29 June 1796.

There’s also a Samuel Croudson, possibly John’s brother, who was involved in early (1770s-1780s) land transactions in Shenandoah, particularly having to do with a Philip Williams (remember that name, I’m coming back to it in a moment).  He appears to have been a relatively prosperous merchant whose son, also named Samuel was recommended to Thomas Jefferson to serve as a naval officer in New Orleans.

Also, guess who Philip Williams married?  One Sarah Croudson, who according to a later biography was the only daughter of John Croudson and Elizabeth Harrington of County Lancaster, England.  This would seem to rule out John as my Mary’s father, unless of course the bio is wrong.  On the other hand, it gives us a place of origin for at least one of the Croudsons.

Further bolstering the connection between Mary and these Croudsons is the fact that Joseph Skinner and Mary named another of their sons Philip William Skinner, which we probably don’t want to overlook.  Clearly Joseph and/or Mary felt there was a connection with Philip they wanted to remember and honour.  My current best guess is that Mary may have been the daughter of Samuel Croudson (who, remember, also had dealings with Philip Williams), niece to John Croudson, and cousin to Sarah Croudson.  This may be entirely too tidy, and it certainly isn’t anywhere near proven, but it’s a hypothesis that gives me something to work on.

And maybe someday I’ll bump into a descendant of a Croudson that wandered through the Shenandoah Valley back in the late 18th century and we can compare notes . . .

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This entry was posted on January 15, 2015 by in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , .
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