Friday, November 11, 2011

Case Study: Amy McNobney’s Family

1802-Baptism Claudius Guert van Beverhoudt-p105a (Large)
1802 Baptism showing Sally MacNobney as a witness
Today I discovered an interesting record that seems to fit into my family tree, but it is indirect, rather than direct evidence of a family relationship.  I figured that I’d share it and the logic I used to add to my tree.
As I mentioned before, I have been going through Lutheran Church records and collecting information on Johannes van Beverhoudt and Amy McNobney’s children.  I found children back to 1790.  One of the children, Claudius Guert van Beverhoudt (b. 2 Nov 1802) had a listing of witnesses that included one “Sally McNobney”.  Since the surname was pretty rare on St Croix in 1802, it seems likely that Sally was related to Amy.  Since the most common relatives asked to be
witnesses at baptisms were siblings, I tentatively labeled Sally as Amy’s sister (a sister-in-law could have been just as likely).  I had to put in “Unknown McNobney” as their father in my genealogy software (Family Tree Maker 2012).

In the Lutheran records I also found Amy’s confirmation record, either in 1788 or 1789. (I don’t know which because the register simply lists the names of the confirmed in order, and doesn’t indicate a date very often.  Where 1788 begins is marked, as is 1790, and she falls between them.)  Finding this record at this date caused some concern, because Lutheran children were confirmed around age 15 and this could have put her date of birth as late as 1775.  Since her first known child, Dederich Michael, was born in 1790, she would have been as young as 15 or 16 when he was born.  Certainly possible, but unusual for the time and place.  Besides, the census records all show that she reported her dates of birth as 1771 and baptism as 1772. Since the only roll of Lutheran baptisms I have begins in 1788, I can’t find a baptismal record yet.  I’ve ordered the older roll, but it isn’t at my FHC yet.  So, if the census records are correct, she was 17 or so when confirmed.  (Actually, this was a more common age for confirmation in Denmark, but the tendency in St Croix was confirmation at 15.)
1769-sarah mcnobne-im11-detail (Large)
Detail of 1769 Baptismal Record of Sarah (Sally) McNobne
While I was looking at the Anglican records on, I ran across a baptismal record that caught my eye.  It was dated 19 March 1769 for a “Sarah McNobne daughter of John McNobne & Leah”.  I remembered Sally, Amy’s ostensible sister.  I Googled “Sally” and “Nicknames” . Guess what Sally is the standard nickname for. You guessed it:  Sarah.

So I feel I have found a family connection. Although it is far from proven, it is much more likely that this is correct than not.  Here’s my evidence:
  • Sarah McNobne  was born in 1769 and Amy McNobney was born in 1771, making them the right ages to be sisters.
  • Sally is a nickname for Sarah, so Sarah could have been known as Sally McNobney
  • Sally McNobney was a witness for Amy’s child in 1802, so they were clearly close
  • McNobney was a very rare name on St Croix at that time (now too!), suggesting that all the McNobney’s there in the late 1700's were related somehow.
  • McNobney is a Scottish/Irish name and Sarah was baptized Anglican.
  • Sarah’s birth name was McNobne so she wouldn’t be a sister-in-law
Going further, I could assume that since Sarah was baptized Anglican, it is likely that Amy was as well.  This would explain why she was confirmed in the Lutheran church late.  She may have been confirmed as part of a conversion to Lutheran prior to having van Beverhoudt children. Unfortunately, I cannot yet locate a baptismal record in the Anglican records that supports this theory, so it is just that, a theory.  I’ll look through the Lutheran records to see if I find a baptism in 1772.

So, in absence of direct evidence, I do think I have a compelling argument that Amy (probably baptized Naomi) was the daughter of John McNobney and Leah.  It is likely that John and Leah were not married, since other baptisms listed married persons as “John and Mary Smith” rather than as “John Smith and Mary”.

Certainly other explanations are possible. They may have had different mothers but the same father, but this wasn’t as common a practice as you would think.  Unmarried people tended to live in “common law” relationships.  I have done a bit of research on marriage and legitimacy on St. Croix, and I’ll post that in the future.  For now, I'm adding Sarah, John, and Leah to my tree, with a note that details my evidence and argument.  I use a special source citation I call "Estimated Fact" for things like this so that I can clearly identify what is the result of inference and what has direct evidence.


  1. I am enjoying your blog and the excitement of new finds that you have discovered. When I first saw the McNobney name on your site I recalled seeing that name with the Beaudhuy family of St. Croix Danish West Indies. The Beaudhuy family is one that I have been researching, and thought it is certainly a rare name and why is it being used as a middle name. Although I have not researched further I believe it was indicative of a female’s maiden name in the family. The name is Ernest McNobney Beaudhuy born 1852, St. Croix whose parent are John Beaudhuy and Adrianna Adelaide Petersen according to the 1870 st croix census. Thought I would share this with you.

  2. Shelly, this is truly amazing. I just read your comment about Ernest Beaudhuy. This very night, I was going through records I just obtained from NARA and I ran across a Lutheran baptismal record from 15 Dec 1874 for John Gustavus Beaudhuy. His father was listed as E. Mc Nobny Beaudhuy. It caught my eye so I noted it. Then I read your comment about Ernest! Yes, it was common to use ancestor maiden names as middle names. I have two other examples in my family. Thomas McNobney v. Beverhoudt was Amey's son. Christian Mac Nobney Peterson was Thomas' grandson. Adriana may have descended from John and Leah. I'll keep an eye out. Thanks for the timely comment!