Tuesday, October 28, 2014

52 Ancestors: #43 ~ Phebe Waterman - Research and Questions

This is part of the "52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks" Challenge begun by Amy Johnson Crow, author of the blog No Story Too Small.

Phebe Waterman was one of the children born to my 4th great-grandparents Dr. Luther L. Waterman and Phebe Barker. She was born on 22 January 1789. At this time, I'm not sure where Phebe was born. In the 1850 Federal Census1 her birthplace is listed as Connecticut. But in the 1870 Federal Census2 her birthplace is listed as New York. Two of her siblings, one born before her and one born after her, were born in Dutchess County, New York.

Phebe married Nathaniel Pierce. Unfortunately, I don't know the date or place of their marriage.

I'm also not sure who their children were. FamilySearch has eight children listed in their family. But, without sources proving they were in fact Phebe and Nathaniel's children, I hesitate to list them here.

I had hoped to find information about Phebe Waterman in the book Waterman Family, Descendants of Robert Waterman, Volume 1 by Donald Lines Jacobus.3 But, in the section about Phebe, Mr. Jacobus stated that Phebe's family was not traced. He did say that they were living in Clayton, Illinois.

I feel fairly certain about the identities of two of Phebe and Nathaniel's children that were included in the list on FamilySearch. They were:
  1. Amanda Pierce (About 1821-1909)
  2. Edwin Barker Pierce (About 1833-1907)
I found Phebe in the 1850 Federal Census living with her husband Nathaniel and son Edwin. This image of the 1850 census shows Phebe and Nathaniel's family living next to their daughter Amanda (Pierce) Selby and her family.

1850 United States Federal Census
Houston, Adams, Illinois

See the far right column? It states that Phebe was deaf. Interestingly, in the 1870 Federal Census, there is no indication that Phebe was deaf. I wonder why. I also wonder if Phebe was born deaf or if she became deaf later in life.

If she was born deaf, I wonder what her life was like as a child. What were her educational opportunities? How did her family communicate with her?

An article in Wikipedia called "History of deaf education in the United States" states the following:
"Before the 1800s, few, if any, educational opportunities existed for deaf children in America. Some wealthy families sent their children to Europe's schools, but many non-high class children had no access to education."
The article also stated that deaf education began in the early 1800s in the United States.

I was hoping to find Phebe in the 1860 Federal Census4 to see if she was listed as deaf in that census as well. So far I haven't found her. I did find her husband and two of her children however. But, Phebe wasn't listed as living with her husband Nathaniel in this census. I wonder where she was.

As you can see from the image below, Nathaniel Pierce was still living next to his daughter Amanda (Pierce) Selby and her family. Nathaniel was also living next to his son Edwin and his family.

1860 United States Federal Census
Houston, Adams, Illinois

By the time the 1870 Federal Census was taken, Phebe's husband Nathaniel had passed away. In this census, Phebe was listed as living with her daughter Amanda and her family.

1870 United States Federal Census
Houston, Adams, Illinois

As you can see, I have many unanswered questions about Phebe and her family. Hopefully I will be able to answer these questions through further research.

Thanks for reading!


© 2014 Copyright by Jana Last, All Rights Reserved

1 Year: 1850; Census Place: Houston, Adams, Illinois; Roll: M432_97; Page: 119B; Image: 246. Ancestry.com. 1850 United States Federal Census[database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2009. Images reproduced by FamilySearch.
2 "United States Census, 1870," index and images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.3.1/TH-267-12391-221369-79?cc=1438024 : accessed 27 Oct 2014), Illinois > Adams > Houston > image 31 of 32; citing NARA microfilm publication M593.
3 Jacobus, Donald Lines, and Edgar Francis Waterman. The Waterman Family. Vol. 1. New Haven, CT: E.F. Waterman, 1939. 565. Print.
4 Year: 1860; Census Place: Houston, Adams, Illinois; Roll: M653_155; Page: 979; Image: 635; Family History Library Film: 803155. Ancestry.com. 1860 United States Federal Census[database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2009. Images reproduced by FamilySearch.


  1. I have an ancestor listed as blind, but she was old. Was she REALLY blind or was she hampered with cataracts? So I wonder if maybe Phebe grew hard of hearing with old age. It's a story certainly worth investigating. I hope you find more about her and her children.

    1. Hi Wendy,

      Ya. I'm wondering the same thing about Phebe. Was she born deaf or became hard of hearing as she aged? And why was she not listed as deaf in the 1870 census? I sure wish I could find her in the 1860 census to see if she was listed as deaf there. Thanks for stopping by!

  2. I have sooo many questions about my ancestors as well and sometimes as I am blogging away, I ask myself what am I doing? I should be researching! But I have found that the process of writing it all out helps me think through the issues and I also hope maybe other people that may hold the clues to the answers find the posts and respond. Good luck with finding your answers.

    1. Hi Michelle,

      You make such good points! I think writing about my ancestors has forced me to really think about and evaluate their lives and my research about them. So, I think blogging is beneficial. Besides, as you say, other people may be able to help answer unanswered questions. Thanks so much for stopping by!




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