Week 25: Broken Branch

This sketch of my paternal pedigree tree illustrates my problem with this branch.  My father Lloyd Cecil Arnold is on the lower left side of this chart.  Corporal Parley Brown (upper right) is my most interesting Revolutionary War Ancestor.  Beyond Parley, this branch also takes me back to all three of the Mayflower ancestors I think I’m connected to.  But there is a problem with all of this – Harley Philander Brown and his unknown wife in the middle of the chart.

My Brown family line is not exactly broken, but it is pretty badly bent.

My father was Lloyd Cecil Arnold, on the left side of this tree.  I have very good – rock-solid, you might say – documentation of his father John, his grandfather Warner, and his great-grandfather Miles.  I have documentation that Miles married Vandia (known as Rilla).  But then I have a problem – I’m a little shaky about Rilla’s father Harley and whoever his wife might be.

Going further back beyond Harley, I have good documentation for the lines going into early colonial history, to the Brewster, Cook, and Warren Mayflower passengers and to hundreds of other settlers in early Massachusetts.  I think that Harley was the son of Philip and Betsey (on the chart) — and dozens of trees on Ancestry agree with me — but I can’t prove it and there are some fundamental problems with this relationship.  Neither can I figure out who he married.  If I can’t resolve this brick wall, my branch remains broken and several tantalizing lineage societies remain out of reach.

I have some information about Harley.  This snip is from a book called Personal Recollections 1813-1893 of Rev. Charles E. Brown with Sketches of his Wife and Children, and Extracts from an Autobiography of Rev. Phillip Perry Brown 1790-1862 with Sketches of His Children, and the Family Record 1767-1907 (whew!), page 200.

The author of this book, Charles E. Brown, was Harley’s brother.

I also have some census records that show Harley living in the right county with a child the right gender and age to be Rilla:

Rilla was born in June 1825, so she would have been five years old when the census was taken in June of that year.  This census record fits what I know about Harley’s age and the ages of other children listed.

The 1840 census also supports my case.  Rilla would have been 15 in June of 1840, so this works.

But here’s my problem with Harley:

  • His father Phillip was born in 1790.  I’m pretty sure about that.
  • Phillip married Betsey Dickey in 1809.  I have a secondary source for this but I haven’t been able to find a primary source.
  • Rilla was born in 1825.  I have several census records that support this.
  • But – this means Rilla was born when her father was 15 years old.  That’s a little hard to swallow.  I have two census records showing a Harley Brown who was born at the right place, but in 1805.  That makes him 20 years old when Rilla was born, but it calls into question her older sisters. Plus, there’s that pesky book written by a family member saying that he was born in 1810 (see above).

So, I’m not sure at all about Harley.  The numbers just don’t work out.

Now let’s get to his wife.  Who did he marry, you might ask?

The 1850 and 1860 census records show that he was married to a woman named Hannah who was 12 years younger than him.  This makes it impossible for her to be Rilla’s mother – she would have been three years old when Rilla was born.

Some people have given her the last name “Alden” and traced her back to the Mayflower passenger John Alden.  I have seen no evidence proving this connection.  Someone gave Harley’s daughter Harriet the middle name “Alden” on a family tree on Ancestry, but I think that was wishful thinking.  Another wishful thinker has given her the maiden name “Stevens.”  I can’t find any evidence of that either.

So here’s what I think:  there were two men named Harley Brown living in central Ohio between 1810 and 1860.  One of them was Rilla’s father and the other wasn’t.  One of them died in 1863 and the other was still living in 1880.  One of them was married to a woman named Hannah.  One of them was descended from Phillip Perry Brown and his lineage connects him back to Parley Brown and to all the Mayflower folks I mentioned earlier. The other probably doesn’t — although there’s a chance that he also connects to the same Brown family through a different line. There are lots of people with the “Brown” surname all through colonial Massachusetts.

I haven’t worried too much about Harley.  I’m not wrapped up in joining lineage societies.  But I would like to clear up this problem.

Author: iseekdeadpeopleblog

I am a retired high school history and government teacher. I've been doing genealogy research since I retired in 2012. I define what I do as "constructing a plausible narrative about the past." I don't claim to know everything about the ancestors whose stories I tell, but I try to imagine myself in their lives. I sometimes call it "creative non-fiction." I try to differentiate between what I know for sure and what I "think" I know.

2 thoughts on “Week 25: Broken Branch”

  1. Clear analysis of what you know and do not know. I appreciate the phrase in your bio about “constructing a plausible narrative”. I feel you clearly stated the difference of knowing and not knowing various facts.


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