52 Ancestors: #10 Mary Jane Halstead – a brick wall breakthrough?

Mary Jane (Halstead) Bailey is my 4x great grandmother, and up until today, I hadn’t yet been able to find much information about her, including who her parents were, but I think I may have made a breakthrough finally. I’ll start with what I know, which mainly comes from records and newspaper items about her daughter, my 3x great grandmother, Olive Isadore (Fuller) Bailey. Important information about Mary Jane herself is in bold red text, and names of her family members that might hold clues to who her family is are in bold blue text.. Then I’ll continue on to lay out the information I’ve found that may reveal who her parents are. This post is going to be on the longer side, but if any of you readers make it through the whole thing, I’d appreciate hearing if you think I’m on the right track. Or if you happen to have any information about any of the people discussed here, I’d love to hear what you know.

Information from daughter Olive’s records

On Olive’s death certificate, her parents are listed as Alva Fuller and Mary J Halstead, both born in MIchigan. Olive herself is said to have been born on 29 September 1849 in New York state.

Olive (Fuller) Bailey's death certificate (exerpts)

Olive (Fuller) Bailey’s death certificate (exerpts)

In Olive’s census records for 1880, 1900, and 1910, her parents are both said to have been born in New York, while in 1920, they are said to be born in Ohio.

Olive’s obituary (1) is shown below, but the important pieces of information are as follows:(and can I just say again, how great obituaries are for the wealth of information they provide?)

  • Olive’s birthdate is the same as on her death certificate, and the place of birth is given in Auburn, N.Y.
  • Her mother, Mary Jane, died when Olive was about 2 years old – which would be about 1851.
  • Olive had an uncle David Halstead that she lived with after her mother’s death (this would be Mary Jane’s brother)
  • Olive had one sister, Mrs. Hattie Sunderline of Lyons, NY, and a niece, Mrs. Wm Brown, also of Lyons, N.Y. (these would be Mary Jane’s daughter and grandaughter, respectively)
Olive Isadore Bailey obituary

Olive Isadore Bailey obituary from the Newark Advocate

New connections from Olive’s records

Sister Hattie, niece Mrs. Wm Brown: It was fairly easy to locate Olive’s sister Hattie (Harriet A Fuller) after her marriage to Arthur Sunderline, and they had a daughter Mary who is the niece Mrs. Wm Brown mentioned in Olive’s obituary. Hattie’s family was still living in Auburn in 1870. I haven’t yet located them in the 1880 census, but by the 1892 New York state census, they were living in Lyons, NY, and were there in all the censuses until 1930. After that, I lost track of Hattie, so I assume she died. I never found an exact date of birth, but all of the records say it was ~1857. I hadn’t yet been able to figure out what happened to Hattie between her mother’s death in ~1851 and her marriage in ~1866, nor have I been able to find any marriage/death records that give any information about her parents.

Parents Alva and Mary Jane Fuller: Now that Olive’s obituary gave me her parents’ names, her sister’s name, and a city they were probably living in in 1850, I was able to find them in the 1850 census, right where I thought they should be, Auburn, New York. Olive is not listed, however, despite the fact that she was supposedly born in 1849 – maybe she wasn’t actually born until September of 1850? Also living with the family in 1850 is a Harriet Halsted, b. abt 1820, NY – maybe a sister of Mary Jane’s? This census is the only official record I have for Mary Jane, and it says she was born in about 1818 in New York.

The Fuller family in the 1850 census

The Fuller family in the 1850 census

What happened to Mary Jane’s husband Alva?

After Mary Jane died, I think her husband Alva is the one in these records (all available on ancestry.com and possibly elsewhere):

  • 1855 New York State census: living in Auburn as a boarder with widow Jane Wellington and her two children; listed as a widower,  b. ~1808 in Duchess County, NY, lived in Auburn for 16 yrs, and his occupation was labourer.
  • 1860 US census: living in Auburn with George and Eliza Gilfors, working as a clerk, born ~1800 in NY.
  • 1862, 1863, 1867 Auburn city directories: living at 50 Lewis and working as a watchman in ’62 and labourer in ’63

So after his wife’s death, it appears that he stayed in Auburn and never remarried, at least until 1867. After that, Alva disappears from census records and city directories, so I assume he died sometime between 1867 and 1870, but I haven’t found any records to prove this yet.

Brick wall

At this point in my research, I hit a brick wall and was stuck there for a few years. I occasionally came back to this branch, but wasn’t able to make any headway. I searched and searched for Mary Jane’s daughter Olive Fuller and her brother David Halstead, who should have been living together (along with his family, I assume) between Mary Jane’s death and Olive’s marriage in 1866, but I was never able to find them. There are a few David Halsteads floating around New York during this time that would be about the right age, but I wasn’t able to find anything to tie any of them to Mary Jane and/or Olive. I also wasn’t able to locate Mary Jane’s oldest daughter, Hattie Fuller before she got married – she must have gone to live with other relatives since she wasn’t living with her father, but I couldn’t find her.

For some reason, it never occurred to me to do any more searching for the Harriet Halstead that was living with the Fuller’s in 1850. This should have been an obvious step – she’s almost certainly a relative, probably a sister, of Mary Jane’s since they both are Halsteads and about the same age.

Breakthrough! I think.

So, I did a search on ancestry.com for Harriet Halstead born in 1820 in New York, and one of the first few results was an 1855 New York State census record – this would be just a few years after Mary Jane’s death. And, it looks like it’s the right one!

This Harriet is living in Brutus, New York, which is in the same county (Cayuga) as where I’ve found the rest of the family so far at that time. She’s also the right age – 32, which would put her birthdate around 1822. There’s also an H. A. Fuller, age 8 (b. ~1847), who’s the right age to be Mary Jane’s daughter Harriet/Hattie A (Fuller) Sunderline! Harriet is listed as the daughter of the head of household and H.A. Fuller is listed as the granddaughter. Also, the mother of this family is named Olive – could Mary Jane’s daughter Olive have been named after her?

1855 NY state census - Halsted family

1855 NY state census – Halsted family

So, could this be Mary Jane’s elusive family? I certainly think it is, but I also plan to do more research on this Halstead family to see if I can find any records that prove it, or at least give stronger support. If this Harriet Halstead and H.A. Fuller are the same two Harriets that appear with Mary Jane in the 1850 census, then I’ve finally found her family – her parents Daniel and Olive Halstead, and four sisters – Harriet, Catherine, Eliza, and Emila. This will also answer the question of what happened to Mary Jane’s oldest daughter Hattie after her death.

Besides doing more research on the Halsteads in this 1855 NY census record, I’m also still trying to find Olive Fuller and David Halstead after Mary Jane’s death, a death date for Alva Fuller, and death records/burial information for Mary Jane and Alva. But it sure feels good to have found some good leads to get through one of my brick walls!


(1) in the Newark Advocate, 15 February 1929, bottom/center of p. 12