Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Wedding Wednesday: Permelia Burno, the bride of Charles H. Backus

While this post is not exclusively on a wedding, it does focus on a bride and her family origins. I am on a roll with blogging prompts this week so I want to keep the theme. I will finalize this post series with a Thriller Thursday post as my research into this family has an interesting ending.

Online records are scarce on anyone named Charles Backus in Wyoming County, New York and I was searching for two of them. The obituary listed online at on Etna Smith Backus indicated that she was the mother of Charles Backus. Inferred in that record (though no source stated) is that she was the wife of Charles Backus (1814-1881). It also infers her maiden name as Smith. The cemetery transcript mentioned in yesterday's post helps confirm those assertions as the transcript specifically states her maiden name and that she was the wife of Charles.

I mentioned previously that Wyoming County enumerations for the New York state 1892 census are not extant. The best we get on anyone named Charles Backus for census data is from the 1880 federal census. Charles and his wife Etna are listed as age 65 as household number 105 (Arcade, Wyoming County, New York). Charles H. and his wife Pamelia A. are listed as household number 35. Charles and Pamelia have five young females (the eldest is listed as Etna, presumably named for her grandmother although other records indicate she was later known as Etta Mae). They are a typical family for that time period as each of the children are 1-3 years apart in age. I also believe the child Backus who was interred on October 31, 1874 fit in here somewhere, too (refer back to the cemetery transcript. As the youngest child listed on the census was 3 years old, we can rightfully assume that another child will be coming along soon. The indirect evidence indicates that the next child was a (perhaps long-awaited) boy whom they named Rollie George. Records on Rollie show he was born in August of 1881.

For further proof of this implied relationship, we have to further explore the mother's family. The year she became the bride of Charles H. Backus is unknown but we presume it was at least by 1870 when their daughter Etna was born. She was born in New York, but Charles was not found in either Wyoming or Cattaraugus County during that census year. His father was enumerated in Arcade, but Charles H. was not listed in that household nor was he listed in the household of his father-in-law Paul Burno's. I will make no other assumptions other than to say I have been unable to find him in the 1870 census thus far.    

Paul Burno is more steadily found in census records although this is a name often spelled alternately (Burna/Burns). Below are abstracts of entries for his household:

1880, Wyoming Co, Arcade, NY, household 165/67
Burna, Paul age 65, farm labor, born Canada, father born France, mother born France
 " ", Eliza, age 59, daughter, keeping house, born NY, father born Mass,, mother born Mass.
Backus, Lizzie, age 9, granddaughter, born NY, father born NY, mother born NY

1870, Wyoming Co, Arcade, NY, household 8/8
Burno, Paul, 55, works on farm, born Lower Canada
" ", Sarah, 49, keeping house, born NY
" ", Clarissa, age 19, at home, born NY
" ", Clarinda, age 14, domestic servant, born NY
" ", Caroline, age 13, attend school, born NY
" ", Roselia, age 10, attend school, born NY
" ", Lewis, age 8, attend school, born NY

1860, Wyoming Co, China, P.O. Eagle Village, household 375/365 (Arcade was once called China)
Paul Burna, 41, farmer, L. Canada
Sarah E. " ", 39, NY
Pamelia, 16, housework, NY
Elton, 16, NY
Lorenzo, 12, NY
Clarissa, 10, NY
Clarinda, 9, NY
Caroline, 5, NY
Rozella, 3, NY

1850, Wyoming Co, NY, China, household 550/558
Paul Burno, 34, farmer, Canada
Eliza ", 29, NY
Newton [? indexed as Anderson] " ", male, 8, NY
Parmilla, 6, NY
Edson, 4, NY
Lorenzo, 3, NY
Clarissa, 1, NY

Before we analyze these records further, I wanted to note that it was not until after I started compiling the data in a narrative form did I think to look back in that cemetery transcript for a reference to Burnos. That's what I love about the research cycle: gather, compile, analyze, then do it all over again.

We can see from those census records the further indirect evidence that Rollie's mother was Permelia Burno Backus. Her father's birthplace is listed as Canada in the 1880 census in her husband's household. We find Pamelia living with her father Paul, a native of Lower Canada, in the 1850 and 1860 census as well as her sister (and Rollie's aunt) Clarissa. Paul even has his young granddaughter Lizzie Backus listed in his household in 1880 (It appears she was actually enumerated twice, both here and in her parents household) which further confirms the relationship.

So Permelia, born around 1844, became the bride of Charles H. Backus sometime around 1870. She died August 15, 1892 and was buried in the Arcade Rural Cemetery along with her father- and mother-in-law and probably one of her children who died in 1874. (I also determined that her mother was buried there in 1888.) The question is: What happened to her groom?

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Tombstone Tuesday (without a tombstone): Charles Backus and family of Wyoming County, New York

The other clue on the Backus family I needed to follow up with was the fact that Rolla Backus, age 16, was listed as a nephew in the household of Adelbert Hitchcock and his wife Clarissa during the 1900 federal census. They lived in the town of Yorkshire. Also living with the family was a son, Carl R. Hitchcock, age 15. In what ways could Rollie be a nephew? Rollie's mother could be a sister of Adelbert or Rollie could be the nephew of Adelbert's wife. The research I was able to do online on the Hitchcock family did not yield any connections to Rollie Backus that I could see.

Adelbert Hitchcock's wife is listed as Clarissa B. in other records and a Rootsweb WorldConnect submission gives her last name as Burnham. In 1910, Clarissa's birth place is listed as New York, her father's as Canada (English) and her mother's as New York. Clarissa was born about 1851 and was the mother of three living children. Her and "Delbert" were married 37 years according to this census, putting the wedding date in the year 1873. The 1892 state census shows Adelbert and Clarissa with three children Homer F. [sic] age 18, Lenna W., age 16 and Carl R. age 7. None of this helped tie Rollie to the family definitively, so I left it for another day.

That day came on my Thanksgiving break this year. I was not even actually researching the Backus name although my mother-in-law had been here for Thanksgiving dinner. I was looking up some general information about the town of Java in a January 1980 edition of the Historical Wyoming County newsletter, a copy of which is found at In the same newsletter, I also found a transcript of the Arcade Rural Cemetery which included four entries for the surname Backus. This just happened to catch my eye because of Java being the birthplace of Rollie's son. None of these names matched what I had so far but I printed out the information to check later against what I did know.

What luck I had with this one! Sometimes I really believe the ancestors nudge us along. Truly there was really nothing to suggest that this Backus family buried in Arcade Rural Cemetery was the right family. Just juxtaposed to information about the town of Java made me think about it, although the areas are within proximity.

The information from the cemetery transcript is as follows:

Charles Backus, July 15, 1814 - Oct. 6, 1881. (Son of John)
Etta Smith, wife, died May 1889, -- Yrs.
Permelia Backus, wife, Charles, and
Dau. Paul and Sarah E. Burno, died Aug 15, 1892, -- Yrs.
Child Backus, interred Oct. 31, 1874

Still really nothing to go on, but I went back to looking at online records on the Hitchcock family to see if I could figure out if Clarissa B. Hitchcock was the family link for Rollie. For the record, the child listed as Homer F. Hitchcock in 1892 appears to actually be Herbert E. Hitchcock born 1874. Herbert died in 1933 and is buried in the Delevan Cemetery in Delevan, Cattaraugus County, New York. It is a record on the son Carl Hitchcock, though, that yielded a bingo winning in the game of family connections here.

From, I retrieved a marriage record of Carl R. Hitchcock age 25 and Evelyn M. Dornan in Cattaraugus County. Carl's parents are listed as Adelbert Hitchcock and Clarissa Burno. Aha! A probable connection to Permelia Burno Backus listed in the cemetery transcript. Time to look further at this Backus family. It was a tombstone kind of search as further information was gleaned from Much of it confirmed what was listed in the cemetery transcription. Click on the names below as they are linked to the entry for each.
Image from

Charles Backus
Etna Smith Backus
Permelia Burno Backus

Interestingly enough the entries on indicate that the burial information for each of these was from the Wyoming County Historian's office but no gravestones were found. The Historical Wyoming Newsletter did not include information regarding when the transcript was originally completed, but the date of the newsletter was January 1980. This issue began the transcript, though it was not completed in that issue. I believe the remainder of the transcript ran in subsequent issues after that.

Even without a tombstone, I was able to confirm the connections with further research into the Burno family, but I will save the details of that information for another post.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Matrilineal Monday: An Update on Jennie Hayes, wife of Rollie Backus

In January 2014, I wrote a post summarizing what I had so far on the ancestors of my mother-in-law, Ruth. I was stopped on Rollie George Backus who was born 15 August 1881 in New York. Rollie had a son named Herman who was born in the town of Java on 1 March 1905. One step in a potential research plan was to obtain a birth certificate on Herman but I have never done so.

Another action on my list was to explore any Hayes enumerated in Cattaraugus or Wyoming County during the 1900 census to try and find the parents of Jennie who married Rollie. I suspected that Jennie's maiden name was Hayes based on a newspaper entry found at stating under the heading of Lime Lake that "Miss Iva Hayes returned from a month's visit with her sister, Mrs. Rollie Backus at Curriers Corners."

I went back over those newspaper entries recently. I was able to pinpoint that this entry was dated July 15, 1903. I also went back to the original announcement of the birth of a son to Mr. and Mrs. Rollie Backus in the town of Java. Underneath that entry it stated that "Mrs. Hayes of Machias is caring for her daughter, Mrs. Backus."  This further confirms that Jennie's maiden name was Hayes.

Using those clues, I still have had a hard time trying to come up with a matching Hayes family in either county during the 1900 federal census or the 1892 New York state census. (I did determine that the 1892 enumeration for Wyoming County is not extant which is good to know for further research). Lime Lake is just a small hamlet of Machias which are both in Cattaraugus County but I was still not having much luck identifying the Hayes family I needed.

I did find a sweet newspaper entry for Jennie and Iva Hayes showing how they did in school:

Image from

I found a couple more entries for Iva Hayes: In May of 1904 she was visited by the Misses Gertrude and Bessie Phillips. In May of 1907 under the area heading "Elton" it was noted that "Miss Iva Hayes of the Lake road is spending some time at Mrs. Hills." There were no other entries for Jennie Hayes but under the same heading wherein Iva was listed as visiting her sister in 1903 (but in the second column of the newspaper), Frank Lafferty and family were visiting George Hayes of Lime Lake as well.

I typed in George Hayes residing in Cattaraugus County for the years 1892-1910 at In the 1900 federal census, I found George B. Hayes, age 27, born December of 1873, in the household of his parents, Erwin and Mandania Hayes in the town of Yorkshire. This was the same town Rollie was living that year with his uncle Adelbert Hitchcock. Even better, George had two sisters listed, one named Nancy (age 12, born August 1887) and one named Jennie. Perfect, right?

Well, there appears to a discrepancy, though. Jennie's age is given as 9 and her birth month and year as June of 1890. I'd be inclined to dismiss it and probably did before but I found Iva with the same family in 1905. William E. Hayes age 61 and wife Mandana 52 are listed with Iva Hayes age 14 during the 1905 New York state census. (Luckily his wife has a distinctive name.) Besides the husband and wife still listed in Yorkshire for the 1910 census (Mandania was listed as the mother of 5 living out of 10 children), nothing else comes up for William E. Hayes or Erwin Hayes in I did a quick google search and found an index for the name Mary Mandania Pettengell but could not locate anything further.

The final thing for now that I have found is an old photograph of Erwin Hayes of Yorkshire in a 1976 edition of the Olean Times Herald. He was a war veteran and is listed here with others of his post:

Image from;
Erwin Hayes is front row, sixth from the left, with arms crossed