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Legacy Tip - entering the good and the bad

With today's discovery I experienced both ends of the genealogical excitement spectrum. I experienced the high end when I discovered Jane Goodhue in an 1879 newspaper - I had no idea she was still alive then! But when I read why the article was written, I felt extreme sadness for her.


Jane Goodhue was the first wife of my 3rd great-great uncle, Joshua Marsden Brown. I have many good memories researching his life, and thus I've developed a kind of genealogical bond with him. But I've always struggled to discover what happened to Jane. I last found her listed on the 1860 census, and then never again. Because I couldn't find her in the 1870, 1880, or other state census records, and since Joshua remarried in 1888, I figured she must have sometime between 1860 and 1880. Yet my in-depth searching of death, cemetery and other records came up empty.

After renewing my subscription this weekend, I began doing random searches for some of my favorite families and wow was I ever delighted to see 5 matches for "Marsden Brown" in Minnesota.


The "Minneapolis News" section of the July 3, 1879 edition of The Saint Paul Globe had an article about Marsden and his wife, "Nancy J. Brown"! Years ago I was ecstatic was I learned that Marsden had a first name (Joshua) and now I've learned the same of Jane. I also now know that she was alive as of about this date. But reading further put a damper on my excitement.


So Marsden - my Marsden - wasn't such a good guy. Yet while he was accused of cruel and inhuman treatment, habitual drunkenness, not supporting his family, and threatening to take her life - all terrible, terrible things - I struggle to know how to feel about him. No woman or family should ever be treated that way, but it makes me wonder what led to this. Did he recover? Did he change? What happened to her? Did she find someone new that loved and took care of her? Was she able to forgive him? How were their children affected? I guess these are all questions we begin to ask when we feel a connection with our ancestors.

Regardless of the emotions, the newspaper article had some very good new information about the family that I needed to document in Legacy. Speaking of documentation, here's how I set up the Master Source and the Source Details in case you're interested.

Master Source


Source Details


After adding the source to the source clipboard, I added a custom event so the lawsuit information would be included in both Marsden and Jane's timelines.


Here's the Event screen enlarged:


I then shared the event with Marsden by clicking on the Share button, and updated his "role" to "defendant". Now this event shows up in both of their event sections.


I also updated her name and her death date:


I also learned from an article on August 17, 1879 that she won the case: "in the case of Mary J. Brown vs. Marsden Brown - judgement for plaintiff". So now I have another name for Jane.

I next learned from the Minnesota Historical Society that they have the actual case files so I just placed a research order for them, and of course, added this to my To Do List in Legacy:


I'm really looking forward to seeing what is in the divorce case. Maybe it will help me answer some of my questions, and hopefully it will point me in a new direction to learn more about Mary Nancy Jane Goodhue Brown.


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While waiting for the document to arrive, follow Mary Nancy Jane Goodhue Brown in the city directories, if they are available. If you can't find a death record, write the state for another marriage record for her.

Geoff: Channeling my inner Judy Russell, you should also investigate the divorce laws as they existed in Minnesota at that time. You may find that the laws were so "anti-divorce" that the only way to obtain a divorce was to claim very dire circumstances. In my research I found a case in Wisconsin in the late 1800's where a woman filed for a divorce from her husband due to his deserting her (he left her behind and moved to Chicago). Her petition was not granted. A few years later, he filed for divorce in Chicago, claiming she deserted him (because she would not follow him to Chicago.) His petition was granted, thus enabling him to remarry two days later.

The law may have been stacked against her, or the newspaper article may, in fact, reflect what happened. The case file will tell you what was claimed in court, and the law will tell you what she had to do to win. The real truth may lie somewhere in between.

Mary K Brown married William F Eckes in Stearns county 1/27/1885....perhaps this is your Nancy Jane/Mary K Brown?

Many thanks for the very interesting article Geoff. I really enjoy learning new things when watching your webinars or reading through your hints.

I had a similar situation unfold during my research.

My great-grandmother, Florence Edith Jane, had her husband and my great-grandfather, Parker Lewis, institutionalized where he shortly afterward committed suicide. My grandfather's oldest siblings remembered their mother much better than he and even they characterized her as "a lady of the night". I always felt badly for Parker; and then I decided to investigate his first wife and a child born out of wedlock.

Parker was born in Canada, arrived in the US and shortly after fathered a son, Walter Brewer (birth certificate names him "male Lewis"), who was raised by the mother, Martha Gertrude Brewer, and raised under her name. Parker then marries Sadie Conner. They divorce (as shown on his marriage license to Florence) and she also remarries. There are 2 daughters born to Parker and Sadie, Winnie and Edith. Winnie drops off the radar after the 1920 census and Edith is adopted by Parker's mother. In my efforts to track down what happened to Edith, I decided to order the divorce record from the state. To my amazement, there are no mentions of either girl in the divorce! What I do discover is that Parker is accused of inhumane treatment, habitual drunkenness, abuse and adultery.

I now do not feel so bad for Parker and actually believe he and Florence were a match made in hell.

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