Honestly, the more I research my third great-grandmother, Catherine James Bellamy James, the more I don’t think she’s my third great-grandmother. You can read why I think that at the beginning of this series of posts.
There are just some details in her records that don’t make any sense. Like, how was she running two households and two families 50 miles apart in the 1820s?
Here’s what I mean. Take a look at these two census records from 1830.
I know that the census records above contain the right men because they were in the exact same place with the same neighbors in other censuses: Elliot in 1820 and Josiah in the 1840 and 1850 censuses.
The top census record is from Scioto County, Ohio. It says Jacob James is in his 20s, is living with a woman the same age, and has 2 boys under the age of 5, one of whom I assume is Josiah.
The bottom census record is from Gallia County, Ohio, from the same year. It says Elliot Bellamy is in his 30s, is living with a woman in her 20s, and has 4 children under the age of 15.
Some back story: The children of Elliot and Catherine Bellamy were William, Nancy, Joshua and Bartlett. They were all born between 1817 and 1826-ish. My ancestor, Josiah James, is consistently described as being born in 1828 in Kentucky. All of the data of the children in these records checks out.
To give an idea of the geography between these two places, here’s a map of very southeastern Ohio. Kentucky is at the bottom across the river. West Virginia is the far bottom right across the river.
Accounting for all the little turns in the highlighted road and the fact that it takes an hour and a half to drive 58 miles, I’m guessing the land in between these cities is pretty hilly terrain. Granted, in 1830, folks would likely be traveling by boat, so the trip from Gallipolis to Portsmouth would be faster than going back upriver.
Some research of the James/Bellamy family suggests that Catherine was mother to both of these families at the same time, a sort of reverse polygamist situation. I just don’t think it can be true. First off, that’s a ways in 1830 for Catherine to be traveling to raise both families. And it would be very expensive for the wife of two farmers with 6 children to feed. Women did not have the kind of power back then to be able to move freely between households and keep their secret excursions under wraps.
Another reason I don’t think Catherine is the woman in both of these censuses is because I know that Elliot passed away in 1832 or 1833. I found his will on Ancestry on which his son William is executor.
So, in order for Josiah to have been born in Kentucky in 1828 to Catherine, not only would she have been married to another man and raising at least four other children, she would have been on an excursion in Kentucky while pregnant for some reason.
Divorce was uncommon in this place at this time for social and religious reasons. Evidence exists that the James children and the Bellamy children were close when they grew older. Josiah James and Bartlett Bellamy had a double wedding in May 1848. Josiah brought his father and Catherine out to Muscatine County, Iowa, to join William and Bartlett Bellamy in 1854. These facts suggest to me that there was no scandal between them.
So I don’t think Catherine was living with Jacob James in 1830. I do think Jacob had a wife before Catherine. To complicate things, though, I match genetically to descendants of all four of the Bellamy children.
If Catherine wasn’t Josiah’s mother, how could I be genetically linked to her Bellamy children?
Well, I’ve been researching that question.
What if Josiah’s mother was Catherine’s sister?
Like, after Elliot Bellamy and Josiah’s mother passed away, Jacob married his wife’s sister. It wasn’t an uncommon practice. It would explain the genetic ties. It would explain why the James siblings were tight with the Bellamys: they were brother-cousins. And it would make the descendants of Catherine Bellamy my 4th cousins instead of my half 3rd cousins once removed. For you DNA buffs out there, the shared centimorgans between those two relationships is virtually the same.
What do you think?
Sources are located in the links throughout the post. I found all of the censuses mentioned, as well as Elliot and Catherine’s wedding record, on Ancestry. The fact that she married Jacob James as her second husband can be found in censuses and in Joshua Bellamy’s biography on page 518 here.