Sunday, November 30, 2014

52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks: #47 Nerinda Margaret Kerr Crispen Tookey

One of my favorite heritage photos is my great-great-grandmother sitting on a camel in Lincoln Park in Chicago around the turn of the last century. Nerinda Margaret Kerr Crispen Tookey was quite a character and taking a camel ride was yet another measure of her adventurous spirit.

Quick drop page from Sorrento, ClubScrap

Every story that I've ever heard from this branch of the family has been riddled with untruths. Many of the census records are suspect, as are the death records.

The 1850 census shows Nerinda, age 8, living with the blacksmith William T Kerr and his family in Toby Township, Clarion County, Pennsylvania. Mary Williams was the first wife of William Kerr, though the 1850 census is very unclear about the family structure. An 1852 deed confirms Mary as the name of William's wife. DNA testing has confirmed my match to others descended from that couple, though not with a scientific match (yet).

Nerinda's death record shows a birthdate of April 2, but a different year. Based on her age of 8 in 1850, I believe 1842 is the best estimate of her birth year. On February 22, 1858, Nerinda signed a deed to sell land with her husband, Jacob Crispen. That would have made her just shy of her sixteen birthday, yet a married woman.

In 1860, Jacob and Narinda Chrissman (misspelled) were living on a Porter Township farm worth $850. They had a one-year-old son named William H. Meanwhile, oil had been discovered just north of the area, in Venango County. Jacob abandoned farming to work in the oil fields. He became a torpedo shooter, a man who fired oil wells using nitroglycerine.

The years after 1860 are very much a mystery.  Three more children were born: Mary, Clark and Laura, the youngest, born about 1864. For some reason, possibly the job, Jacob and Nerinda separated. My ancestor, Clark, was apprenticed to a blacksmith. How Margaret and the girls survived is not known, except that their lives were difficult. Brother William was never mentioned, so must have died young. Jacob filed for divorce in 1867, but Nerinda failed to respond. She then filed in 1874, using the name Margaret Crispen. The divorce was kept a secret from later generations, with the family claiming instead that Jacob had died young.

Margaret married Thomas Seymour "Charlie" Tookey about 1882. The couple made their home in Chicago, as did the Crispen children. She shaved years off her age in each census, likely because her husband was some ten years younger than she was. In their later years, Margaret and Charlie moved to the area of Benton Harbor, Berrien County, Michigan.
She was able to enjoy her four grandchildren until her death on March 1, 1923. Margaret was buried in the Crystal Springs Cemetery in Benton Harbor.

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