Joanna T. Baker Sanford
by Patricia A. Johnson
Finding Joanna's lineage was a serendipitous exercise in genealogy. The only thing I have ever known of her is what her husband, William O. Sanford wrote in a story. She had died many years before he wrote the story, so memories of her had faded with time. I can understand that, but I am so grateful that he wrote what little he did about her. He wrote that she was born in Bainbridge, Chenango County, New York and that she had brothers, L.F., D.H., and Albert of South Bend, Indiana. For years I had read it to mean that only Albert was of South Bend, Indiana. Upon reading the item with another perspective, I saw that all three brothers were of South Bend, Indiana. Just another case of how you can see something, but NOT see it. At any rate, this is all William Sanford wrote of Joanna's family. He wrote about how hard it was to be left with a four day old baby son, and to get help in caring for him. That baby was Charles Baker Sanford born 04 April 1851. He was the only child of Joanna, and the only child of William O. Sanford to live long enough to have children. His birth was a miracle and for a definite purpose, and he fulfilled it.
In 1997, when I visited the cemetery where Joanna Baker Sanford is buried, I felt that I was probably the only person to visit the site in many, many years. Joanna was left behind as her husband and son moved west. Her mother and siblings moved on, too. I have since learned that her older sister, Alice Marie Baker Bates, is also buried in Glendale Cemetery in Akron, Summit County, Ohio, so now I don't feel that she is in such a lonely place. Joanna has always held a special place in my heart. She was one of the first ladies I ever tried to "solve", and periodically I would pull out her folder and review it, hoping to find something new to pursue. Then the trail would cool off and I would move on to someone new. But Joanna always remained in the back of my mind -- until 2001.
The story of Joanna is one of my favorites. The 1880 US Census was released on CD by the LDS Church in May of 2001. I bought it for my "birthday present" to myself. It is a great genealogical tool and I have solved quite a few mysteries with it. One day I was thinking of Joanna, and I decided to see if there could be an Albert Baker in South Bend, Indiana in 1880. Sure enough there was, and he was born in NY, the same as Joanna. The South Bend, Indiana Web Site on the Interent had an offer to look up deaths in South Bend. I sent a request via e-mail to see when this Albert Baker died. The lady replied that he died in 1899, and I could send for his death certificate from St. Joseph County, Indiana. I faxed a request for the death certificate and waited nervously for the reply. Could I be so lucky as to have found Joanna's parents from her brother's death certificate? When the letter arrived I almost hated to open it. When I did open it, I wanted to cry. No parents were listed for Albert Baker!! The only piece of evidence was that he was born about 1829 in Holley, Orleans County, New York. Well -- this was a new place --- and that can be exciting, too. I started reading about Orleans County and ordered the 1830 census for that county. In 1830 there must be a Baker with at least one little boy under age 1 and a daughter age 5 or 6 (my Joanna).
While waiting to receive the census film, I did some more investigating in South Bend. Their site has some wonderful resources online. Among them are the census indexes and sure enough there was an L.F. Baker and a Lester F. Baker listed in different censuses. There was also a D.H. Baker and a Darwin H. Baker listed in different censuses. And, of course, I already knew about Albert Baker. These three men were also listed in the publication of "Men Buried In City Cemetery Of South Bend". I had found all of the brothers of Joanna that William O. Sanford had mentioned in his story. Surely one of these three brothers would have their parents listed somewhere. This was getting more exciting by the minute.
Enter Irvin Morse - my friend in South Bend. I received an e-mail from him saying he was answering my request for help from the South Bend Area Genealogical Society. I don't remember sending that request, but I have to assume that I had done that, and just forgot about it. I keep pretty good track of who I contact, but this one was a surprise to me. At any rate, Irvin said he had looked up all of the Bakers and would send me copies of their obituaries and cemetery records, etc. That is if I wanted them -- if I WANTED them? I wasted no time in answering his message with a resounding "yes, send me everything you have!" He said Lester F. Baker, in 1860, had a Susan Baker living with him, would I be interested in a copy of that census? I said yes, especially if she was about age 63 -- and she was! I had just learned that the mother of this family was Susan Love Baker -- and she was born in 1797 -- would be age 63 in 1860!! Irvin said there was an obituary for Susan Baker, also. Needless to say, I was on pins and needles until Irvin's packet arrived. What a find it was. Obituaries of the three brothers and mother of Joanna revealed all sorts of details of their lives. Susan's obituary stated that she married Eleazer Baker in 1818 in Oneida County, New York and that he had died about forty years before her. She died in 1877, so Eleazer died about 1837. This was born out by the fact that Susan was the Head Of Household on the 1840 Orleans County, New York Census. The obituary also stated that she was the mother of eight children and was survived by three sons, Lester, Albert, and Darwin! I finally had Joanna's parents names for sure.
The obituary of Albert Baker said that he was one of two sets of twins in his family. By studying the census records I found that Susan had two daughters age 28 in 1850. Sophia and Alice Marie. There was one set of twins! Through other deduction I found that the twin to Albert was Oscar Baker. There was the other set of twins!
I finally had the eight Baker children identified. I am still looking for more detail on Alice and Oscar, but that will come with time, I am sure.
Fortunately for me, Susan and five of her children, in 1850, were in Akron, Summit County Ohio. From this census I could figure out the ages and who was married to who. All four daughters were there and they were: Sophia, Alice, Joanna, and Adelia. The one son that was there was Darwin. The twins, Albert and Oscar were in Milwaukee, Milwaukee County, Wisconsin and I have not located Lester yet. The other amazing thing is that when I found Sophia in 1850, with her husband B.T. Blodgett, I also found William O. Sanford and Joanna. They were living with the Blodgetts. For years I had wondered why I couldn't find William O. Sanford on the 1850 census and it was because he was living with his brother-in-law. The census for this family was taken on 12 August 1850. Joanna would have just learned that she was pregnant with her first child, who would be born 04 April 1851. Because I have the advantage of "looking back", I know she had only eight months more to live. These are the details of genealogy that can make me momentarily sad. But then I tell myself that this is the perfect illustration of how fragile the thread of life really is! So many people to come were dependent on Joanna having that baby boy.
I began to find out more about Joanna's mother and father. I savored the delight of finding them for a few days, then began digging deeper and further back. I always felt that Joanna's "case" would open doors to many new families, and it certainly did. Through the Ancestral file I found out a bit about Eleazer and Susan Love Baker. There was a name and address of the submitter for the information about Eleazer -- so off went a letter to P. Wayne Rose in Salem, Oregon. About three days later I received an e-mail from his wife, Anne. She was the genealogist in the family, but they were HIS ancestors, so she had put his name as the submitter. What a wonderful find she was!
She copied and sent me charts and wills and stories and details of Eleazer Baker's ancestors. Some of the names were Carpenter; Smith; Pomeroy; Gibbs; Osborn; Strong; Bliss; (on his father's side) and Trowbridge; Paine; Spring; Kinne; Bacon; Richards; Brintnall; and Cox (on his mother's side). For five days, Anne mailed me a packet of information each day. It was like Christmas -- multiplied by 100. These people go back to the 1630's in New England and I have learned some pretty interesting things about them. Most of them settled in Connecticut. They deserve a story of their own, and that will be coming in the future. On Eleazer's side I now have two more American Revolutionary Patriots. They are Daniel Trowbridge, Sr. and his son Daniel Trowbridge, Jr.
The submitter for Susan Love's information was not quite so prolific as Anne, but at least he had submitted the information , so I can follow up as best I can. Her father was Robert Love and her mother was Susannah Austin. They were of Rhode Island and Connecticut. Robert's father, Robert Love, Sr. was a Sergeant in the American Revolution, from Rhode Island. Here was another Patriot ancestor for me! I have not done any research in Rhode Island and I am looking forward to learning about that State and its history.
Just as I had always suspected, finding the ancestors of Joanna Baker Sanford, opened up all sorts of doors for me. It also got me back to New England in my research. It is a funny thing, but I feel most comfortable working in those States. When I get South of the Mason Dixon Line, I feel a little bit out of my comfort zone. I go there often enough, but I always feel a bit of relief to get back to Yankee Country.
I feel that Joanna didn't have much of a chance to leave her history, so finding it is sort of like a gift from me to her. She has long been one of my favorite ancestresses. I don't feel that she is quite so alone now, in that cemetery in Akron, Ohio. It is one of my greatest moments to have finally learned about her family.
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