Friday, October 3, 2014

52 Ancestors: # 35 Simon (1809-1904) Wilcox and #36 Lydia Sharp (1810-1893) Wilcox -- in which I disagree with The Book of Wilcox

Climbing My Family Tree: Death Certificate of Simon Wilcox
Death Certificate of Simon Wilcox

This is my latest post for the “52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks” challenge initiated by Amy Johnson Crow of the No Story Too Small blog. For more information about the challenge and links to the other blogs participating in the challenge, please click on the badge in the right margin.

As I mentioned in last week’s post about George & Mary Jane (Currier) Wilcox, I have a copy of “The Book of Wilcox” [typed pages stapled together], sent to me by my grandfather Owen Carl Henn which states it is “copied from a paper prepared by Laoma Sanford in 1971” and that it traces my Wilcox family branch back to Simon’s father, who it says is Mortimore Willcock. It also includes some family stories and some descent charts. Unlike some of the written family stories or trees passed down in my family, this one does cite its sources: “1. a psalter printed in London in 1822, with dates recorded by Simon Willcock (now in the possession of William D. Wilcox; 2. Family Bible of William R. Wilcox, copied by Mrs. Floyd Wilcox (whereabouts unknown); 3. Family Bible of George B. Wilcox (in possession of Mrs. Hazel (Henn) McArthur); 4. Family Bible of Charles H. Wilcox (now in possession of Mrs. Pearl Chamber).” I have no idea where those family Bibles & psalter, or the referenced copies thereof, are now and have never seen them. The Book of Wilcox also refers to obituaries and oral recollections collected by Ms. Sanford, and she notes some discrepancies between her sources, most of which are in regard to Simon Wilcox’s birth. And what little I’ve found in regard to his birth contradicts all of those contradictions as well.

Climbing My Family Tree: My copy of the Book of Wilcox - sent to me by my grandfather
My copy of the Book of Wilcox
 sent to me by my grandfather probably 30 years ago
My Dad's name is redacted as I promised not to name the living in my blog

Like with all research done by someone else, I keep an open mind and try not to rely on it too much as family stories twist over the years, and details get lost, and others get grafted on – particularly the further back from the writer’s generation one goes. I discovered that initially in researching my Mom’s side of the family, and I re-discovered it in comparing my research to some of the documents that have come down through my Dad’s side of the family, including Lucille Robson Henn’s book Members of the Flock (some small details and some large, some I haven’t posted about, and some I have, see my post on Andrew Henn.) In researching Simon Wilcox, and, necessarily, his parents, I think I’ve come across another one of those places where my research is going to diverge rather sharply from the accepted norm in the family set by the Book of Wilcox, but more at the level of Simon’s father, than Simon, and this entry is [mostly] about Simon and Lydia. (And it figures that the major break came after I’d thought I’d written 99% of this entry, and had started to consider pictures/illustrations, and I was just doing one more check on one detail, lol. )

The Book of Wilcox states that Simon was born on April 12, 1809. It includes a transcription of an obituary, found in the George Wilcox Bible, (that I haven’t found otherwise yet), which states that Simon was born on that date in Maine, subsequently moved to New Brunswick. In the Book of Wilcox, Laoma Sanford also states her father (William D. Wilcox), told her that Simon was born in Ireland but ran away from home and came over on a cattle boat as “a young lad.”

The claim that Simon was born in Maine in 1809 is problematic in that Maine did not separate from Massachusetts and attain separate statehood until after the War of 1812, finally becoming an official separate state on March 15, 1820.  I have not been able to find a birth record yet, anywhere, for Simon, but on the 1851 Census of Canada East & Canada West and the U.S. Censuses of 1860 and 1870, Simon reported that he was born in New Brunswick (before the country of Canada was created).  The Maine/New Brunswick confusion could have its roots in the ongoing border disputes between Great Britain’s border claims for what became New Brunswick  (at one point that area was almost called New Ireland) and the United States. The final border was settled on in 1842, but the map below showing the various claimed borders and disputed land shows for several years a substantial chunk of land was claimed by each country. If Simon was born in a place that was part of the disputed lands, later ceded to Maine, it could explain why he stated he was born in New Brunswick most of his life and at the end of it his obituary reported that he was born in Maine.

Climbing My Family Tree: Disputed borders between New Brunswick and Maine to 1842, when settled
Disputed borders between New Brunswick and Maine to 1842, when settled.
By User:Magicpiano [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

I’ve not found anything yet to support the claim that Simon was born in Ireland and came over on a cattle boat as a “young lad”, but I may be poring over ship’s passenger lists at Olive Tree Genealogy  in the future to see if I can substantiate it, if my most recent possible breakthrough doesn’t pan out.

The Book of Wilcox states that, according to information written in the psalter by Simon, Lydia Sharpf Wilcox was born September 17, 1810 in King County in the province of New Brunswick, and that she and Simon Wilcox married in 1833 in that province. It does not name her parents.

Simon and Lydia had eight children while they lived in New Brunswick, three of whom died within two years of birth (birth dates courtesy of the Book of Wilcox, The ones I’ve marked with an asterisk I’ve not yet found anywhere else but in the Book of Wilcox):  Eleda Wilcox Campbell (August 24, 1834 –December 16, 1868); William Robert Wilcox (November 27, 1835 – June 5, 1924); Rachel Wilcox (August 12, 1837 - ?); George E. Wilcox* (June 12, 1839 – June 21, 1839); George Butler Wilcox (October 9, 1840 – March 19, 1928); Abner M. Wilcox (September 10, 1843 – January 1, 1917); Amanda Wilcox* (December 20, 1845 – October 24, 1847) and Mortimore N. Wilcox* (November 14, 1848 – April 28, 1850).

In 1849, Simon and Lydia left New Brunswick with most of their family. But, the Book of Wilcox indicates that they left their daughter Rachael in New Brunswick with the Sharps, but does not name them. The 1852 New Brunswick Census shows Rachael Wilcox, 11 years old (should have been 14),  living in Kings County, New Brunswick in the household of her grandparents, William (61) and Sarah (58) Sharp, and their children: Susan (27), William R. (22), and Charlott (20).  I wonder why Rachael was left behind?

In the years leading up to the 1840’s New Brunswick was heavily protestant, but since the start of the potato famine in Ireland, there had been a large influx of Irish Catholics, and a corresponding increase of Orange-Catholic tensions (the Orange Society was a community organization and fraternal order of Protestants in the Provinces), which culminated in riots in 1847 in Woodstock, New Brunswick, and another larger riot, in 1849,  involving a 1000 people  in St. John, New Brunswick, in which 12 people died. In the Book of Wilcox, Simon’s grandson recalled that Simon marched in the Orangeman’s parade every July 12 in Marlette, MI, as long as he was able, & wore orange on St. Patrick’s Day. It is possible that he and Lydia felt this rise in tension between the two religious factions endangered his family which may have encouraged them to move their family to a safer area, where other Free Will Baptists were moving to in droves.

Climbing  Family Tree: Map showing Oxford County in (now Ontario) Canada
Map showing Oxford County in (now Ontario) Canada
By Vidioman [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Simon and Lydia moved, in 1849, with the rest of their family, to Blenheim, Oxford County in the unified province of Canada (in what later became the section of Ontario just above Lake Erie). A history of Oxford County, by Thomas S. Shenston, published in 1852, described Blenheim, as one of the three largest townships in the county. It was “good land and well timbered, and the best watered of any township in the county…”  It was the first settled but was not much improved until the mid-19th century, when it made rapid progress. It was during this period that the Free Will Baptist evangelists came to Oxford County, and a Free Will Baptist church was organized in Blenheim Township. While a large number of them came from the United States, a significant portion also came from the Maritime Provinces. At first the family lived in a shanty (see George’s story for a picture. Simon and his oldest son William worked as coopers, according to the 1851 Canadian Census (taken in 1852). The census does not list an occupation for George (12) or say that he was in school; Abner (9) was in school, and baby Charles was less than a year old. During the period they lived in Blenheim, three more children were born to Lydia and Simon (birth dates supplied by the Book of Wilcox): Charles Harding Wilcox (August 9, 1851 – June 27, 1933); Jane Wilcox (August 25, 1853 – September 17, 1860) and Simon U. Wilcox* (December 20 1846 --??).

But Blenheim turned out to be just a way stop on their journey and Simon & Lydia and part of the rest of the family moved on to Michigan, where tall trees and fertile farmland beckoned. In the 1900 U.S. Census, Simon stated that he entered the U.S. in 1856. The earliest record of him I’ve found so far is the 1860 Census, which shows Simon and Lydia, William, Abner, Charles, and Jane living in Rutland Michigan  (in Barry County). Simon farmed, on property he valued at $1200, and maintained a cooperage as well. [Eleda had married Jabez Campbell in 1851 in Canada, and they later moved to Michigan as well; Jabez moved the family next door to Simon & Lydia after Eleda died.] By 1870, Simon and Lydia and their youngest son, Charles, lived in in Burnside MI in Lapeer County. At age 62, Simon was working as farm labor, while Lydia kept house, and Charles (18) was at home. Simon indicated that he was a citizen of the United States. In the 1880 Census, Simon  said her was a farmer; he was 71 & Lydia was 70. The census shows that they are living with their son, Charles (28), his wife Ida (21), and their infant son Melvin.

There is no copy of the 1890 Census as most copies were destroyed in a fire in the Commerce Building in Washington, DC.

Lydia (Sharp) Wilcox died in January 1894 at the age of 92.

On June 20, 1900, when the census was taken, Simon (91) was a retired farmer, living in the home of his son, George, a farmer; but in this census he indicates that he is not a citizen.  Also in the household were George, 58; his wife, Mary Jane, 57, their son Arthur (22), daughter Mertil (17), son Russell, 17; and daughter Ethel (15.). 

Simon died four years later on August 10, 1904 at the age of 95, in the home of his son George. The death certificate stated Simon died of “senile delability”; it also indicated that his father was Robert Wilcox, not Mortimore as the Book of Wilcox states.

I had not been able to find anything on Mortimore Willcocks/Wilcox after several weeks of searching, and had decided just to wait until my next pass through the family to try more vigorously. But tonight, as I was finishing up this post, I tried searching Robert Wilcox, the father listed on Simon’s death certificate. I found a Robert Wilcox, approximately 23 years older than Simon, born in New Brunswick, and later living in Blenheim Township,Oxford County, in the Unified province of Canada, at the same time Simon is there. Robert was a Free Will Baptist and worked as a Cooper  in Blenheim; his wife, Jane, was too young to be Simon's mother but may be a second wife.  Later Robert and his wife lived in Sanilac County Michigan (which is adjacent to Lapeer County where Simon lived). To me, this looks like there is a strong possibility that Robert is Simon’s father. This idea is reinforced, to my mind, by the name of Simon’s oldest son William Robert Wilcox – was he named for both of his grandfathers? I will be looking to follow this trail further in the future and see where it leads.

 Simon was survived, according to the obituary by his four sons William and George of Burnside Township, Abner of Berrian County (sic), and Charles of Marlette, Michigan, and one sister, Mrs. John Smith of Port Huron, Michigan.

Climbing My Family Tree: The 4 sons of Simon and Lydia Wilcox (William, Charles, Abner & George)
The 4 sons of Simon and Lydia Wilcox [William (front left),  Charles Harding (front right), Abner (back left) & George (back right)]
Found on an tree and used with permission of Kerry Rose

If anyone has any information they would like to share with me on my Wilcox or Sharp families, I'd love to hear from you. Please leave a comment below or email me at the address on my Contact Me page.

Edit: I just realized I never said how Simon and Lydia were related to me. They are my third great-grandparents. My grandfather's (Owen Carl Henn), mother's paternal grandparents. The descent is Simon and Lydia (Sharp) Wilcox, to George Butler Wilcox (m. Mary Jane Currier)  to Myrtie Mabel Wilcox (m. Owen James Henn) to my paternal grandpa Owen Carl Henn (m. Anna Mae Bennett) to my father, then me!

I’m missing George and Lydia’s entire childhood. I’d like to find more about that, for both of them.
 I’d like to fink a marriage record for them.
I need to look further into the possibility that Robert Wilcox is Simon’s father, and trying to find out who his parents are.
I want to check property, probate, and naturalization records for all.

Death Certificate of Simion Wilcox. 1851; Census Place: Blenheim, Oxford County, Canada West (Ontario); Schedule: A; Roll: C_11745; Page: 17; Line: 4 (1851 Census of Canada East, Canada West, New Brunswick, and Nova Scotia ). U.S. Censuses for 1860, 1870, 1880, and 1900. The Book of Wilcox by Laoma Sanford (1971); The Oxford Gazetteer: Containing an Abstract of Each Census of the County of Oxford, and the Townships Comprising it, by Thomas S. Shenston (Hamilton, C.W. by Chatterton & Helliwell. 1852.)[Found as a Google e-book at ]; Pioneer Baptist Work in Oxford County, by Zella Hotson, found atwww.ourroots.ca; History of New Brunswick.; Historical News section of the website of the Irish Canadian Cultural Association of New Brunswick, ; ;


  1. Hi, Jo,

    Nice work! We've featured this post in this week's "What We Are Reading" column on the Ancestry blog:


    1. Wow!! Thank you so much, Amy! You just made my day!!

  2. Hello Jo,
    Very interesting blog. So many of these names are familiar. I will foreward a link to other family members. I'm from the wilcox family of Burnside Twp Lapeer county MI.

    William R Wilcox III

    1. Hi William!

      I'm happy to hear from you! It is always exciting to meet a new "cousin". I'm glad you found it interesting, and I hope the rest of your family will as well. I'd love to hear from you again. Are you down from William & Savilla?

      If you don't want to continue via comments, my email address for genealogy stuff is

      I've had e-mails from a couple other people related to the Wilcoxes in or near Lapeer County, too, as a result of this post. (I'm glad I wrote it!)

  3. Hi Jo
    I too am a new cousin and match your Dads sisters on gedmatch and I am in Australia.

    1. Australia? Oh cool! Thanks for stopping by. I haven't had a chance to do much with GEDmatch this week after uploading everything (busy week). I'll have to go look more at that tomorrow (it being nearly midnight now). So do you connect through the Wilcoxes or the Sharps somehow?

  4. Hello Ms. Jo! My name is Sarah Dreier, née Wilcox, and I discovered your blog via research I was doing on my family tree on Turns out I'm a cousin, too! We share a common 4th great-grandfather in Simon Wilcox. My 3rd great-grandfather was his son, Charles Harding Wilcox - brother of your 2nd great-grandfather, George Butler Wilcox.
    I live in Harbor Springs, MI. :-)

    1. Hi Sarah! Good to meet you! Your 3rd-great-grandfather is the tall, distinguished looking brother in the picture of the four brothers? I had to look up Harbor Springs & then discovered I did know where it was -- when I was a child we lived summers in Montmorency County and I know we went camping in Emmet County. You live in pretty country. I'm from the branch that left Michigan for Ohio, then in my generation we all left Ohio too, in all sorts of directions. I'm near Albany NY.

    2. Thanks for your reply! It's exciting to see the picture of Charles Harding! His son Leo is my great-grandfather. Leo's son LD (my dad's dad) is my Grandpa (who passed away in 2001).
      Leo was born in Burnside, my Grandpa (LD) was born in Marlette, and my dad born in Flint - as I very nearly was! My parents moved to the Upper Peninsula 2 weeks before I was born.
      Years ago my Grandma gave my parents a copy of the Book of Wilcox but it's not something I have access to today, so am enjoying working on my tree on my own and appreciate having your blog to use as a helpful and really interesting resource!
      I'm happy to know you're familiar with N.Michigan. It is beautiful and summers here are glorious, especially when you're a child! If you ever make it back for a visit, let me know. :-)
      Have never been to NY state but have a cousin living in Watertown. Hope to visit someday!

    3. Sarah, it looks like I mislabeled the picture of Simon Wilcox's sons and so gave you the wrong impression of which was your2nd-great-grandfather. I didn't know any better then, but Randy Robson who commented below made a persuasive argument for the labeling to go in a different order and I've changed it. I hope this will still get to you and you can return to see the change.

  5. Thank you for all this information. My Great grand father Was Charles Wilcox and Grand Father is Leo Wilcox. I also have a copy of the Book of Wilcox. I just started doing research on the Wilcox family.

    1. I hope you're having fun with your research!

  6. Hi Jo.

    I've enjoyed stumbling upon your ancestral blog!

    My Grandmother (Lucille Henn Robson) would be so happy that you are enjoying and using her book. She was proud of that book as are all of us.

    How certain are you of the order of the Wilcox brothers in the photo from Kerry Rose? I see you commented to Sarah Dreier above that Charles is the tall one in the photo of the brothers but I suspect that Charles may be the far right brother based on a portrait that I have.

    Long ago, Grandma gave me a large framed wall portrait of who I believe to be George Wilcox and it is virtually identical to the back-right gentleman in the striped bowtie. He is the 3rd brother if only looking left to right. He has the same outfit and hair style and only a slight difference in expression so I suspect it was taken at the same session.

    I was always told it was a Great...(?).. Grandfather but I was young and don't recall who she said it was. I thought I labeled it on the back but cannot find anything on it. It makes sense that Gramdma would have a large portrait of her grandparents and not of a grand-uncle as well.

    Noticing that there are 2 rows of brothers I suspect that the naming in the caption is Front(L-R), Back(L-R) and not just L-R. That would match the portrait that I have.

    Any idea who might be able to confirm this?

    We share ancestry starting with Owen/Myrtie so you might be interested as well. :)

    Randy Robson

    1. Very interested. And I got your email as well (which is what got me over to look at comments and discovering I was way behind again). As I've just noticed it's 2:30 AM, I'm going to respond to your email rather than look further tonight to see where I got the order of people in the photo from. It will probably be on the weekend, I'm not wedded, I just want to check to se if I've a reason for listing it that way. My branch of the family had very few old photos. It's not likely based on anything from my family but I'll check.
      But I've got to go to work in the morning so I've got to get to bed. Thanks for being so persistent in reaching out to me on this! :)


    2. Hi Randy, I looked and couldn't find that I had anything that required the order I had the brothers listed in other than Kerry Rose originally labelled it that way. Your argument is persuasive especially when I really look at the picture I have of George & Mary Jane in a newspaper clipping celebrating their 65th wedding anniversary that I use on their post in comparison to the 4 sons photo. The person you think is George looks a lot more like he could age into the person in the newspaper clipping. I don't know anyone I can contact to verify this. We'll have to wait until someone else trips over this blogpost and weighs in.


Hello! Thanks for stopping by and choosing to leave a message. I read every message and I usually reply via the comment thread. [I recently discovered that I've been having technical difficulties with receiving notification of comments for the last year (2019 through Jan 2020). I think I've fixed that now. I hope. My apologies if you were caught up in that. I think I"ve caught up with, and replied to, all the comments now. EDIT: I continue to have problems. I will respond as soon as I find out there's been a comment.]