Friday, May 23, 2014

Polly Bagg Bush: a Surprise Sister



Until I started doing genealogy research a few years ago, I knew that my three-times great-grandfather Stanley Bagg had a brother Abner. Both were well known Montreal merchants in the first half of the 19th century. But I had no idea that Stanley and Abner had two sisters, Polly and Sophia, and a half-sister, Lucie. 

I discovered Sophia Bagg when I ran across the record of her 1811 marriage to Gabriel Roy, a landowner and politician in the Montreal-area parish of St. Laurent. When Roy died in 1848, aged 77, Sophia became a rich woman. 

Sophia made out two wills.  She wrote the first in 1818, a document to ensure that her sister Polly Bagg, wife of William Bush, and Polly’s daughter, Sophia, would have some financial security. 

Sophia’s sister Polly? Who was she?

I discovered that Polly lived in West Haven. At first, I thought it was in Connecticut, but eventually it became clear that that she and her husband were farmers in West Haven, Vermont, a rural area not far from the southern tip of Lake Champlain. 

In 1856, Sophia made a second and more detailed will in which she split the bulk of her estate between the Catholic church, her brother Abner’s widow and children, and Polly’s children: Phineas Bagg Bush, William Bush and Ann Bush. 

This second will did not mention Polly or Sophia Bush, so I assumed that both Polly and her oldest daughter had died. I have since discovered that Sophia and Gabriel Roy, who had no children of their own, adopted the girl and brought her to St. Laurent. The sad story of Mary Sophia Roy Bush, her marriage to the seigneur of Milles-Îles (around Saint-Eustache, north of Montreal), and of her daughter, Marguerite Virginie Lambert Dumont, is for another time. 

Dame Sophia Bagg veuve (widow) Gabriel Roy died in 1860. Present at the inventory of her estate the following year were Phineas Bagg Bush, farmer, of Patoka, Illinois, representing himself and his sister Pamilla Ann Bush, wife of John W. York, of Cornwallis, Oregon, Methodist preacher. Also present was William Stanley Bush, of Johnsburgh New York, Baptist minister. (Johnsburgh appears to be on the western side of Lake Champlain.)

More than a year ago, I did a quick search for Phineas Bagg Bush. He was named after his grandfather, Phineas Bagg, a farmer from Pittsfield, Massachusetts who had brought his children  Polly, Stanley, Sophia and Abner Bagg to Canada around 1795. I found an 1850 U.S. census record for Phineas Bush, farmer, 28, living with Mary Bush, 52 (Polly is a nickname for Mary) and William Bush, 53, farmer, in Clinton County, Illinois. It is not surprising they had moved to Illinois; this was a time when the midwest was welcoming many new settlers, including New Englanders.

Recently I went back to that record on Ancestry and found something new: a link to findagrave.com. I clicked on it, and up came a photo of the gravestone of Phineas B. Bush, 1820-1867. Two more clicks away, there was Polly Bush’s grave. According to date of birth calculated from age, Polly Bagg Bush was born April 22, 1785 and died Jan 9, 1856. She is buried near her son in a rural graveyard in southern Illinois.

Research notes: I still have research to do on all these people. For example, there should be notarized adoption documents for Sophia Roy Bush, and I have yet to find church or census records for the family in Vermont. Without Sophia’s will, I would not have a clue about their existence.

In Quebec, most wills were made by notaries and can be found in the Bibliothèque et Archives nationales du Québec. The three documents I used here are in the files of L.H. Latour, 15 aout 1818, #1456; J.A. Labadie, 18 mai, 1856, #14278; and Leo Labadie, 28 January, 1861, #6248.

According to findagrave.com, Phineas B. Bush was born Dec. 20, 1820 and died Jan. 4, 1867. He is buried in Harrison Cemetery, Marion County, Illinois. I followed up on his wife Louise in city directories and discovered that she was still alive in Chattanooga, Tennessee in 1910.

For the story of how the Bagg family came to Canada from Massachusetts, see http://writinguptheancestors.blogspot.ca/2013/10/an-economic-emigrant.html

When Sophia Bagg married Gabriel Roy on Nov. 25, 1811, the parish priest made a mistake in the record: he gave her mother’s name as Emily. Actually, the mother of Sophia, Polly, Stanley and Abner Bagg was Pamela Stanley, originally of Litchfield, Connecticut.

1 comment:

  1. Wonderful website. A lot of useful info here. I am sending it to a few friends ans also sharing in delicious. And obviously, thanks for your sweat!



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