Catharine McGlaughlin Forrest
by Patricia Craig Johnson
What a wonder it is, to have "found" the family of my ancestress, Catharine McGlaughlin Forrest. Not that she was ever "lost", but only someone that knows genealogy realizes how difficult it is to find the female's story. For years I have followed hunches, read censuses, learned about people that lived in the same places where this lady lived, all in hopes of finding just one little clue that would reveal the names of her parents. The sad thing about females of the middle 19th century, is that, most generally, their identity was always through a male, and very seldom in their own name. They went from being someone's daughter, to being someone's wife, to being someone's mother. Not often did they own property, pay taxes, vote, or have a probate record. After 1850 they DID appear on the federal censuses with their own identity. Prior to the 1850 census, they were simply a tick mark in a column on the census takers form that indicated their age range. In short, finding records of a female is a difficult task and can test the perseverance of the most patient genealogist.
Catharine McGlaughlin Forrest lived to be almost 87 years old. She was the mother of nine children, and outlived four of them.
The door that opened Catharine's family history, came knocking on 08 February 2001. A simple e-mail message asking about my connection to the McLaughlin family of Scott County Illinois. It was from Linda Schlenker of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. I answered, and asked the usual question. "Do you know of any clues to help me?" When I received her reply, I knew I had done the right thing in answering her -- she knew who my Catharine's parents were!! I read it with a great deal of disbelief, it seemed too good to be true, so I had to proceed with caution. Linda told me where she got her information. It was from a book written by Steve McLaughlin of Dallas, Texas. Of course, Linda's address and phone number for Steve was quite old, so it took me a few long distance calls to find him, but find him I did. I bought a copy of his book and began to study it intently. There were several places that stated that Catharine was the daughter of Berriman and Catharine French McGlaughlin. Unfortunately, there was no substantial documentation, but I figured that ALL the family members that believed the connection couldn't be totally wrong!
I began a campaign to find something in writing to prove Catharine's connection to Berriman and Catharine French McGlaughlin. I ordered newspapers on microfilm from the Illinois State Historical Society, in hopes of an article about Catharine's marriage to William Forrest in 1837 and a statement of who her father was. She was of lawful age when she married, so her father was not mentioned on her marriage license. I ordered wills of Scott, Morgan, Pike and Greene Counties Illinois, in hopes of finding a probate for Berriman McGlaughlin. These counties changed boundaries quite often at that time, so he could be in any one of them. I read county histories in hopes there would be mention of Berriman and his children.
I needed actual documentation, because Berriman's father, Daniel McGlaughlin, was an American Revolutionary Soldier, and I wanted to submit him as one of my patriot ancestors to the Daughters of the American Revolution. They are especially tough about documentation! I finally sent my supplemental application in for Daniel with what I had on hand, but I kept looking and searching for real proof. A genealogist can't just take someone's word, they have to prove it beyond a doubt.
What I eventually learned was that Berriman owned some land in Greene County Illinois. Berriman died intestate, so someone had to sell the land he owned and pay the debts he owed and Hiram Holliday was that person. Hiram was married to Berriman's daughter,Vienna. I knew there had to be a record of that land transaction. Land has to be taken care of legally, in some way or another. I ordered, on microfilm, the deed that covered that transaction and lo and behold, all of the children of Berriman McGlaughlin were listed as part of the estate. I finally had my indisputable proof that Catharine McGlaughlin Forrest was the daughter of Berriman McGlaughlin. From the Scioto River in Ohio where she was born in 1817, (just fourteen years after Ohio became a State) to Wapello County, Iowa where she moved to in 1845 (one year before Iowa became a State), Catharine McGlaughlin had faced many trials and tragedies and had overcome them all. She died in Agency, Wapello County, Iowa in 1904. I was delighted that I had solved an ancestress mystery. It was a special feeling, but of course, opened up another female story to work on, Catharine's mother, Catharine French. There is no end to this thing called genealogy.
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