The sixth in a series of posts revealing the fallability of records, even “official” ones.
Again, from “The Adam Artis Family History” —
Adam Artis had about five wives and 39 children. His first legal wife was Frances Hagens of Eureka. She was very fair and had beautiful long black silky hair.
Frances Hagans. By the early 20th century, that this was Frances Artis’ maiden name was accepted wisdom. When four of her children — Vicey Artis Aldridge, Napoleon Artis, William M. Artis and Walter S. Artis — died, their informants replied “Frances Hagans” when asked the name of the mother of the deceased. Researchers find these records and dutifully set down her name this way in the innumerable family trees of her innumerable kin.
But Frances Artis was not born a Hagans. She was a Seaberry, as her earliest records attest. She is Frances Seaberry, daughter of Aaron and Levisa Seaberry in both the 1850 and 1860 censuses. Most tellingly, it is the name Adam Artis gave the registrar when he applied for their marriage license in 1861.
How, this mix-up? It is a case of transferral. Frances’ mother’s maiden name was Hagans and gave birth to a son, Napoleon Hagans, before she married Aaron Seaberry. Napoleon Hagans grew to become one of the wealthiest “colored” men in Wayne County, larger than life, feared and respected by black and white alike. Given the shadow that Frances’ brother (probably half-brother, in fact) cast, it is not surprising that 50+ years after her death, her descendants assumed that she was a Hagans, too.