“In 1836, Sarah Hart welcomed her recently orphaned 12 year old niece Mary into her New Haven, Connecticut home. Mary’s parents had been lost at sea.”
I love this opening line of the new Amazon Prime series, Lore. Any story involving pre 1880’s New Englanders gets my attention.
At this point, I paused the program, wondering if I could research some of the Hart family history, to learn about these real people. I won’t spoil the creepy story for you, but I will take you through the family history records I found over a couple days.
At first, I wasn’t sure what the niece Mary’s surname was, so I didn’t start my research on her.
Searched for Sarah Har* in New Haven County, narrowing in on 1840 and 1850. No likely matches.
Then I watched the show a bit further and we see an image of Mary E. Hart’s headstone. She died October 15, 1872 (note: voiceover says 16th, headstone looks like 15th). She was born December 16, 1824. Here’s the headstone in Findagrave: https://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GSln=Hart&GSfn=Mary&GSbyrel=all&GSdyrel=all&GSst=8&GScnty=308&GScntry=4&GSob=n&GRid=11149432&df=all&
So with Mary’s birthday, we can unravel her life backwards from her death.
In 1870, the only close match is in Guilford, New Haven County. Mary E. Hart, age 45, born in Connecticut, listed as head of household. Also in the household is Susan Pierpont, age 75. FOUND THEM! No occupation listed for either. Census entry: https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:MN7J-FPD
So Susan wasn’t a Hart like the Lore story suggests, at least not 2 years before her niece’s death. She’s a Pierpont (or Pierpoint, both spellings are used). We don’t know if this is her maiden name or married name though.
Going backwards to 1860. In New Haven (Ward 2), Susan Pierpoint is 70 years old and born in Conn. Mary E Hart is 35, and there’s a 13 yr old James P. Hart. Both born Conn. A son? A nephew? Mary is listed as a seamstress (this also jives with Lore’s story and animation), and has real estate worth $1800 and personal estate worth $800. Funny how Susan has only aged 5 years instead of 10 by 1870! This happens a lot in census entries. https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:MHRM-XCB
In 1850 in New Haven city, Susan Pierpoint is 55 years old and born in Mass. There’s two people in her household: Mary E Hart is 25 and there’s a 3 yr old James P. Hart. Both born Conn. No occupation for anyone listed. https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:M685-X75 (towards the bottom is a Mary A Hart, age 45 and Frank B. Hart age 21–more relations?)
In 1840, there are two possibilities: Susan Pierpoint in New Haven, and a Susanna Pierpoint in North Haven. In the 1840 census, only the head of household is recorded, so we can be fairly certain it’s definitely one of these two women (although we have to consider “our” Susan is unidentifiable in another household). We expect her to be about 45 years old. One household is 6 “free white people” total, and one is 5. Both have a female aged 40-49, but only one has a female 15-19 that would be Mary’s age, and that’s the Susan Pierpoint in New Haven. Also in the household is a man aged 20-29 (could be a brother, son, or hired hand, as relationship to head of household isn’t recorded). then there’s several women: One 15-19 (presumably Mary), one 40-49 (presumably Susan?), one 50-59, and one 60-69.
At this point we hit a dead end.
So, we know Mary dies in 1872, so I look for Susan in the 1880 census. She was born circa 1795, give or take. I cannot locate her easily in the 1880 census in Ancestry or Familysearch… it could be she was indexed incorrectly, or she’s possibly died by 1880. One option is to browse the New Haven and Guilford censuses line by line, or see if another online genealogy site has better indexing. As I’m only doing this for fun, I am going to skip it.
My internet searches led me to http://www.damnedct.com/midnight-mary, in particular a comment from Loretta on Fri, 03/30/2012 that mentioned the other people associated with Mary E. Hart’s gravestone, so I dig in. Between Findagrave (a site of transcribed grave markers, etc) and the Connecticut, Hale Collection of Cemetery Inscriptions and Newspaper Notices, 1629-1934. This is a typed listed, so one must be cautious in case errors slipped in. Description http://search.ancestry.co.uk/search/db.aspx?dbid=2900
I assemble the following list of people connected to Mary and Susan, all buried in Evergreen Cemetery in New Haven:
- Section: EVERGREEN AVENUE Plot: 50, Grave: 3 Hart, Fidelia Pierpoint spouse of James P. died Aug 12 1885 age 85 yrs
- Section: EVERGREEN AVENUE Plot: 50, Grave: 4 Hart, Mary E born Dec 16 1824, died Oct 15, 1872
- (No idea who is in Graves 1 or 2; my Google searching didn’t reveal anything. I could contact the cemetery, but as I’m only doing this for fun, I won’t… yet)
- Section: EVERGREEN AVENUE Plot: 51, Grave: 1 Hart, James P, died Jan 10, 1877, age 60 yrs (hold up, this would make him born circa 1817. I look at the image on findagrave and it’s difficult to tell for sure; but does look like 60 years if you view the image in the browser) https://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=pv&GRid=67584787&PIpi=40300152
- Section: EVERGREEN AVENUE Plot: 51, Grave: 2 Hart, Joanna, born Mar 20, 1792 died Jan 31, 1870 (age 77…who is she? I find out later)
- Section: EVERGREEN AVENUE Plot 51: Grave 3 Pierpont, Susan death recorded as Jul. 23, 1887. If it’s the same Susan, she’d be approximately 91 years old at her death. https://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GSln=Pierpont&GSbyrel=all&GSdyrel=all&GSst=8&GScnty=308&GScntry=4&GSob=n&GSsr=201&GRid=147393895&df=all&
- (No idea if anyone is in Grave 4, without contacting the cemetery)
There is no relationship stated between Mary or Sarah and the others, so I don’t want to assume Mary is James’ first wife or even his daughter.
Now I am curious what happened to young James Hart by 1870. He’d be 23 years old now, and there’s several possibilities in Ancestry, but I’m more curious about the exact relationship between Susan and Mary, so I’ll come back to him.
One strong possibility is that Susan Pierpont and Fidelia Pierpont are sisters, with Susan being older by 5 years or so, assuming Susan never married and Pierpont is her maiden name.
When I search for Fidelia Pierpoint in Ancestry, I only get the death records, and 1 public entry on a family tree (these trees can be untrustlyworthy so I view it, but am not including it here. Searching for Fidelia Hart, I get only one new hit. In 1880, she’s a widow, living in New Haven in the household of Leander Parmalee, born 1803 in Connecticut, parents also born Conn. Her occupation is listed as Keeping House. https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:MFCB-3FN
Oddly enough I can’t find a match for Fidelia in 1860 or 1870 census in Familysearch either. Name could be indexed badly…
So I search for James P Hart, and we might have a match in 1870. https://www.familysearch.org/search/record/results?count=20&query=%2Bgivenname%3A%22james%20p%22~%20%2Bsurname%3Ahart~%20%2Bresidence_year%3A1860-1870~
They’re in New Haven ward 6, he’s 52 years old, born Conn, and a printer. Also in the household is Pamalee Hart, age 51, also born Conn. Age isn’t close to Fidelia OR Mary P. Who is Pamalee? Sister? Wife? Any connection to the Parmalee surname?
I find James P. Hart in 1860 as well. He is 43, and a lawyer. The head of household is Joanna Hart, age 66, no occupation. The only other person in the house is a 19 yr old domestic servant from Ireland. https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:33SQ-GYBF-9N2R?i=83&cc=1473181
And Joanna and James Hart are together in 1850 as well with a Julia Jackson (relationship not stated). https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:S3HY-6XT7-ZB8?i=56&cc=1401638
Then I find Joanna Hart’s will and administration papers online in Ancestry from the Probate Files Collection, Early to 1880; Author: Connecticut State Library (Hartford, Connecticut); Probate Place: Hartford, Connecticut. It’s got a lot of detail but doesn’t help connect any other people to the story, so I’ll focus on the highlights: The will was written in 1866 in New Haven, and her son James Porter Hart is named sole heir and executor, and the business is all concluded after Joanna’s death in 1870.
Now I’ve found the administration papers of James P Hart in 1877. It seems he didn’t leave a will, but his papers clearly indicate his heirs are wife Fidelia and son James P. Hart, who are both given cash and property from his estate. James (the son) is also given 4 lots in the Evergreen Cemetery in the name of his father!!
Fidelia’s last will and testament names her grandniece Mary Josephine Parmalee, wife of Leander Parmalee, of New Haven, her entire estate. Samuel Davis of New Haven is nominated as the executor, 12 Sept 1884. I suspect if I search for this Mary Josephine backward from 1884, it could unravel more of the story.
- How are Susan and Mary actually related? Is Fidelia another of Mary’s aunts?
- What happened to James P. Hart, the son of James the elder (born circa 1817, died 1877)?
- Is the the same boy as the James P. Hart (born circa 1847) living with Mary and Susan? Is Mary his mother?
I’m going to stop here. This has turned out to be more complex than I thought, and there’s obviously more records to be found (here’s a collection of early New Haven divorces https://www.familysearch.org/search/film/008237551?i=36&cat=577900) I’m encouraged by the amount of records that Family Search have digitised in the past 5 years or so.
I’m itching to work on my own family now!