History and Science are coming together this week, so I need to skip ahead a bit, to the namesake of my blog, my great-great-great grandmother, Eliza Jane Maddox (1813-1903).
There is something striking and unusual about Eliza Jane Maddox’s place in the historic record. Though supposedly a married woman, in each census she is enumerated as the head of the household (with no husband listed). For that matter, I have never found a marriage record for Eliza Jane, though I have found marriage documentation for 5 of her 9 siblings. Yet, according to her 1903 obituary, Eliza Jane was the widow of Joseph Scott and she had 6 children with him.
I had a sense early on that Joseph’s absence on the census might be the result of his being a mariner, and that would be why he was not home….ever… when the census was taken (though I found it strange he is not listed anyway, as the census includes anyone living within the household in the previous 12 months). That feeling intensified when I visited Eliza Jane’s grave at Mt. Olivet Cemetery. Though 24 people are buried in the Maddox plot, Joseph Scott isn’t one of them. Eliza’s tombstone stands near that of two of her children, and her inscription reads “faithful unto death.”
In 2002 I met two wonderful researchers of the Scott/Maddox family: Harriet S. and Margaret N., who were descended from Eliza and Joseph Scott through their daughter Georgianna (I descend from their son Charles). They provided me with an image of Eliza Jane. They thought that “faithful unto death” was probably not as romantically intentioned as I chose to believe, but they confirmed that Joseph Scott was a mariner. Their family lore said that Joseph “died at sea” on his way to Scotland. I have wondered often since then if “died at sea” was a euphemism for “got drunk and fell out of a rowboat,” or “actually had a wife and whole other family somewhere else” but I have nothing to back that up…yet. It’s just a byproduct of my frustration with my ggg-grandfather, who seems to have lived a life entirely in the margins of history.
Joseph and Eliza’s off the grid love affair lasted at least from 1835 until at least 1856—maybe a bit longer. Joseph appears only a handful of times in one record (at least in the one record that I am certain it’s him) and that is the Baltimore City Directory in the 1850s at Eliza’s house on 23 May Street. Otherwise his presence is peripheral. Like the mention in his wife’s obituary, he is first mentioned when his daughter Mary Scott Jones died in 1861. She is listed as the daughter of Eliza Jane and “the late Joseph Scott”. Sometime between 1856 (when his last son was conceived) and Mary’s death in 1861, Joseph faded out of the picture—without even an obituary.
Who was Joseph Scott and where did he come from? Did he actually die in the time period the Scott family claims, or was Eliza Jane’s widowhood something like another of my great-grandmother’s post-marital experience: her “dead husband” was actually living down the street with their married daughter, but (sick of his drinking) he was “dead” to her! When the census taker asked where Joseph was born (in the box by the child’s name) over the years we get mixed answers. Eliza always said Maryland when answering for her children. Her children (as adults) mentioned Virginia a handful of times. My grandfather, John G. Scott, always told me that the Scotts came from Southwest Virginia and were somehow divided over the Dred Scott decision (with the Baltimore Scotts being outraged by it). Is that a clue? It’s such a specific event in history to pass down, might there be some truth to it?
One night in August of 2003 I dreamed that I was on a ship with Joseph Scott and his son Benjamin Franklin Scott (who was briefly a sail-maker) and we were fighting our way through a gale. The next day I received my first email from Benjamin Franklin Scott’s great-great-great grandson (insert chills here). Jim’s family was also on a quest to find Eliza Jane and Joseph. We shared information and Jim mentioned that he had just found a researcher online with a Scott/Maddox family tree —and it included our family. We emailed this researcher who was a descendant of James Scott and Elizabeth Maddox of Campbell County, Virginia. She told us that she had seen a Bible years before that listed James Scott and Elizabeth Maddox and their children, along with Joseph Scott and Eliza Jane Maddox and some of their children. The Bible seemed to indicate that James Scott and Joseph Scott were brothers, the sons of a John D. Scott (she had no dates of birth or death listed for Joseph or John D.). It also appeared to indicate that Eliza Jane Maddox and Elizabeth Maddox were sisters. The latter supposition is definitely not true (Eliza is the daughter of Edward and Rachel Maddox of Baltimore, Maryland. Elizabeth is the daughter of Sherard Maddox and Catherine Simpson of Campbell County, Virginia and she had a sister named Eliza Jane too—more than 20 years younger than mine). But could James and Joseph be brothers? We are certainly an obscure family. No one has written anything on us—in my opinion there is no reason we would be in another family’s Bible, unless we were related.
Genealogy requires a high standard of proof. Since the researcher has never furnished a photocopy of this Bible page, nor have I found any records tying the Scotts together, I have filed this away under “probably true” but have despaired of ever finding out for certain. As the years have gone on, I have investigated other possible angles. When I discovered that a photo of my great-great grandfather Charles Scott (Eliza and Joseph’s son) was taken at a studio on Market Street in Wilmington, DE in 1853 (a city where we have no relatives to my knowledge) I went looking for Joseph Scott there.
I found one—also on Market Street, and he was a patent medicine dealer turned book seller who traveled frequently to Baltimore during the course of his career. He was born in 1796 and died in 1856—the year Eliza and Joseph’s last child was born. He was single until the last few years of his life, when he married a wealthy woman from New York. I went to the Archives in Delaware to read his will (hoping it would mention a consort and illegitimate children!) but all he had went to the only wife I can prove he was his—not Eliza Jane. Here and there I have tried to contact other researchers of the Campbell County Scott-Maddox family, with little luck.
But recently the stars aligned and I found the right person to marry up my history with a little definitive science. I met a researcher with a private tree on Ancestry.com whose father is a direct male descendant of James Scott of Campbell County through his son William Peerman Scott. Not only this, but when I mentioned the possibility of a DNA test, the family was quite willing. So this week, my father (a direct male descendant of Joseph Scott) and the researcher’s father are swabbing the inside of their cheeks and sending the results to a lab in New Mexico that will then conduct a Y-DNA test. What will that accomplish?
All males carry a Y-chromosome that are generally identical down the paternal line. In other words, a snapshot of my father’s DNA will show the same chromosome carried by his father, and his grandfather, etc. and thus of Joseph Scott and of Joseph Scott’s father. If the James Scott descendant in Virginia carries the same markers, then we know we share a common ancestor in the recent past (probably Joseph and James’ father). If not, I will know Campbell County, Virginia is a dead end.
Though Joseph Scott did seem to have done his best to remain out of the public record—at least as far as his Baltimore family was concerned—soon I’ll have a very different, highly definitive identity for him. Maybe I will never know where he truly spent his time (or how lost at sea he was), but with my father’s DNA (Campbell County positive or not) I can plug into any number of Scott family DNA projects and hopefully connect us to the rest of the family he omitted from his record.