Saturday, April 9, 2011

The Continuing Saga of the Search for Newton Ancestors

It was a few weeks ago that I discovered that the Wisconsin Historical Society has a great deal of information available online.  To make a long story short, I discovered that it had a death record for one of my ancestors, Andrew Forsyth, Jr., son of Andrew the Soldier Forsyth.

One of my family mysteries involves Andrew the Soldier Forsyth is his wife, Susan.  I have written before about their marriage.  Andrew the Soldier was born about 1795.  Susan was born about 1781.  That is quite a gap in their ages (14 to 15 years, depending upon when census records were taken).

Through connections I made with distant family members online, I received photocopies of some Forsyth family records, but nothing on Susan.  According to my contact, Susan's family name was AUGARNEL and she was born either in Belgium or the Netherlands in about 1781.

I could find no records online for anyone that might be Susan.  I couldn't even find any record of a family name AUGARNEL. 

I have searched under various spellings beginning with "A" and "O" and I have found - nothing.

Finally, a  few weeks ago, while digging around online records yet again, I turned up a record of the death of Andrew Forsyth, Jr., who died on August 7, 1902 in Preble, Brown County, Wisconsin.  He died on one of the family farms that was created out of land originally purchased by Andrew the Soldier (his father) way back in 1837. 

That death record was abstracted - an image of the actual record was not available.  It stated that Andrew, Jr.'s father was "Andrew Forsyth" born in England and his mother was "Susan Orugwhiel" born in Belgium.  However, I discovered I could order a copy of this record from the Wisconsin Historical Society for $15.00.  I gulped, and did so, via secure network and paid for the record with a credit card.  I could spend a fortune ordering records online and generally, I have avoided doing so.  But this record - I wanted to see.  My thought was - what if someone misread Susan's surname? What if it contains the vital clue I NEED in order to find out more about her and her antecedents?  After ordering ensued the waiting period for the record to arrive...

As far as I know, Andrew Forsyth, Sr. (whom I call Andrew the Soldier) was born in Granard, Granard Parish, County Longford, Ireland, in about 1795. Although I have not been able to find a church record of his birth or the names of his parents, from other military records I have found and that were sent to me by my online contacts, including Julie Neal, I am certain that Granard, Granard Parish, Longford, Ireland, was the location of this particular family Forsyth.  Unfortunately, I have not been able to locate any Forsyths living in Granard Town or Longford Town, or County Longford, Ireland from available online records, which date to about 1835, some 22 years after the last record I have of the brothers Forsyth, who enlisted (all three of them) in the 37th Regiment of Foot at Monmouth, Hants County, on 30 November 1813.

I have discovered online that unfortunately, many records have been lost or destroyed by fires over the years.  It is also possible that this family Forsyth were killed in the Irish famine of 1816, or they may have been wiped out in one of the many cholera epidemics that swept through Ireland again and again during the ensuing years.  Indeed, it is probably remarkable that my three Forsyth brothers:  Andrew (born about 1795), James (born about 1790), and John (born about 1788), survived and thrived in the New World. 

Back to Andrew the Soldier's wife, Susan. On Andrew, Jr.'s death record, she is listed as Susan ORUGWHIEL.

AHA! I said.  But I couldn't find any family names online remotely similar to this name, either.  So - another dead end.  At last, the photocopy of Andrew Forsyth, Jr.'s death record arrived.  Alas, it recorded in very clear handwriting that his mother, Susan's, last name was ORUGWHIEL.  Damn!  Another dead end.

Other than U.S. census records which list Susan as "Susan Forsyth," I have no records on hand or online that actually mention Susan except a birth record from Montreal, Quebec of her and Andrew the Soldier's son, Andrew, Jr.  Thanks to the records at, I have a photocopy of a microfiche entry in a church record from Andrew, Jr.'s baptism.  "Susan, wife of Andrew Forsyth" is listed as the mother, her maiden name is not provided.  This was an Anglican church record, not a French church record, which would have listed the mother's maiden name.  Drat! 

Do AUGARNEL and ORUGWHIEL sound alike? If Susan was, indeed, born in Belgium, my guess is that she was of French ancestry, and in a French accent spoken by Susan and with people not familiar with the language, they may have spelled Susan's surname out phonetically. That's the problem, of course.  If Susan's name sounded something like Augarnel or Orugwhiel, it could be almost anything.  I was searching under as many different variants as I could think up and wrote down (I've got name lists all over my kitchen table and in my notebooks, LOL!).  My best guess at this time is that Susan's surname sounded something like Aug-well or Org-well, or possibly Aug-wheel or Org-wheel. 

This is hopeless task at this point.  To demonstrate the difficulties of surname spellings and how they changed, I discovered another ancestor's wife, also born in Belgium:  Maria Fredricka Susan Ouise - as best I have reconstgructed her actual name. She was born in Belgium in about August, 1863, and married Benjamin Pierce Forsyth, who was the youngest son of Andrew Forsyth, Jr. and his wife, Annie McGinnis. The couple were married in 1881.

Maria Fredricka Susan Ouise was listed on census records after her marriage to Benjamin Pierce Forsyth as "Mary F" (1900), "Mary" (1910), "T Mary" (1920),  and "Mary" (1930).  It was thanks to birth records of her children that I found at that I learned she was variously listed as:

Maria Frederick, born Belgium -- on birth record of daughter Esther L. Forsyth, born 18 Nov 1894 in Scott, Brown County, Wisconsin

Maria Wise, born Belgium -- on birth record of daughter Esther L. Forsyth, born 18 Nov 1894 in Preble, Brown County, Wisconsin (yes, a second birth record for Esther L. Forsyth)

Maria Onise [Ouise?], born USA -- on birth record of female child Forsythi, born 04 Jul 1891 Bay Settlement, Brown County, Wisconsin

Susan Wise, born USA -- on birth record of son Chester W. Forsythe, born 05 Mar 1889 Bay Settlement, Brown County, Wisconsin.

I also found her on various family trees and other records listed as Wyse, Wise, Weiss.  Not as Ouise, which is my best guess at an original surname spelling from Belgium.

So, you see the problems one encounters when trying to decipher family relationships, kinship and surnames from the past!

Another note of mystery from the family line.  This is from Benjamin Pierce Forsyth's line - this line would be cousins to my family line.  At one point, Benjamine Pierce Forsyth and his wife, Susan Ouise (Wise/Wyse/Weiss) lived in South Dakota.  On the 1900 U.S. Census, when they were living in South Dakota, they listed Chester and Martha as children, which I have confirmed through other records.  In addition was listed as a daughter Ellen I. Forsyth, born March 1887 in South Dakota.

From a family tree of a relative, I found Ellen I Forsyth listed as Helen R. Forsyth.

Further digging produced the following information:

Hellen Ida Forsyth, born 7 Mar 1888 in Charles Mix County, South Dakota.
Father: Andrew Hanson Forsyth
Mother: Isabelle Paulson

I do not know what the relationship is between Andrew Hanson Forsyth and Benjamin Pierce Forsyth, but given the surnames, I assume they are somehow related.  I also assume that since Hellen Ida ended up in the household of Benjamin Pierce Forsyth and Susan Ouise/Wyse/Wise/Weiss, that her parents (Andrew Hanson Forsyth and Isabelle Paulson) died.  But - back then, who knows?

I can also tell you that I found records showing that one Helen Ida Forsythe born in Dakota gave birth to a son, Edwarfd Puyleart, on 06 Jun 1903, in Preble, Brown County, Wisconsin.  She was married to Victor Puyleart, born in Belgium.  The marriage records indicates that the couple were married on 25 Nov 1902 in Brown County, Wisconin, and the groom's father was Frank Puylaert, his mother was Mina Spanhoven, and the bride's father was Benjamin Forsyth and her mother was Mary Weiss.

So it goes.  I continue the search...


Becky said...

I am a direct descent of Andrew's brother, John (DOB: Sep 1788). I would love to be able to compare information, give you more for your mystery. My mystery is with John's wife, Catharine. I have found JR in both the Canadian census' and US census.

If you are interested, please contact me at:

Thank you for your wonderful and delightful blog post!

Becky Forsythe

Jan said...

Hi Becky, it's great to meet another cousin! How do you do!

I have made comments at the website about your inquiries, don't know if they have shown up and/or you received them. Anyway, now that you have provided me with your email addy, I will be sending a private communique.

I am thrilled to see another person researching this particular Forsyth or Forsythe family. Prior to you making contact, I had not discovered another soul doing the same and it was disheartening, as I feel that the story of these three Forsyth brothers -- John, James and Andrew (I assume they were named after the Apostles) is well worth telling. Andrew the Soldier's line followed the drum, with sons Andrew, Jr. and Jerome both serving in the U.S. Army, and daughter Josephine marrying three (3!) U.S. Calvarymen. Both Andrew, Jr. and Jerome had sons who volunteered in Wisconsin Regiments to fight in the Civil War, as well as Jerome did himself (I do not approve that Jerome joined up when he had a family and lots of children to take care of, and he left behind a pregnant wife!)

Will be in touch.


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