Me and Mine

Life, Family and Ancestors

Finding Mary Head

- Posted in Family History by

Post Updated 13 Mar 2022

In my post, The Two Minnies, I wrote about finding two girls in the Charles Head family named "Minnie", either of whom might be my grandmother, Mary Head. As described in that post, I found enough evidence to conclude that it was the younger of the two, born around 1875, who married William Poole. But that left unresolved the more fundamental question of why there were two girls in the family with the same name and where that second girl came from.

Let's review the problem. In the 1880 census, Charles and Bridget Head have a single daughter, Mary. She is 16 years old. Twelve years later, in the 1892 New York State census, there are two Minnies (a common nickname for Mary) living with them. One is 25 years old now, consistent with the girl from the earlier census. The other girl is 16. Who is the that younger Minnie? Where did she come from? The 1892 census does not list family relations and at the time I had found no earlier source of information about my grandmother.

But now we do have more information!

This story is a bit complicated, I'll start with the conclusion and then explain how I came to it.

Mary E Head, originally named Elizabeth Head, is the daughter of Mathias, eldest son of Charles Head, and Kate Noll, youngest daughter of a family from Germany!

Here's the Story...

Charles Head emigrated from England around 1850. We still don't know exactly where in England he was born. Bridget McEntee, who was often referred to as Elizabeth, came from Ireland in 1840. Again, we don't exactly where in Ireland she came from. The two met and married soon after Charles' arrival in this country. Over the next dozen years, they had five children, three of whom survived to adulthood.

Mathias Francis Head was their first child. That's his photo on the right, taken later in life at a studio in Las Vegas, New Mexico. Mathias was born in Brooklyn in about 1852. From the available records, we know that he lived with Charles and Bridget through 1870.

In July of 1871, he turns up in Chicago, where he is enlisted in the army by a certain Captain Young. He is 18 or 19 years old at the time, but gives his age as 21. The record shows that he deserted the army seven months later, in January 1872. Strangely, all five new recruits enlisted that month by Captain Young ended up deserting!

Back in Brooklyn again, Mathias made the acquaintance of Kate Noll, the daughter of John and Elizabeth Noll. The Noll family had immigrated from Germany in 1848. They had two sons born in Germany, a third born at sea and two daughters born in the United States. Catherine (Kate) was the youngest. Elizabeth, their mother, had died in 1872.

We don't know how Mathias and Kate met but it may have been in the local church or elsewhere in the neighbourhood, as the two families lived close to one another. The couple was married on August 23, 1874 and moved in with Kate's father John Noll, where we find them in the 1875 New York State census.

On August 9, 1875, Mathias' and Kate's daughter Elizabeth was born. She may have been named after both grandmothers, Elizabeth Noll and Elizabeth (aka Bridget) Head. According to city directories, Mathias lived with his father-in-law through 1878. Neither Kate nor their child would normally be listed in a city directory, but my working assumption is that they were together during that period.

I have not been able to find Mathias in the 1880 census. Kate, on the other hand does appear. She is now married to Charles Service and living in a different part of Brooklyn. We know this is our Kate because her daughter, listed as Minnie Service, and her father, John Noll, is living with them. There is also a one-month-old baby Charles, who may be Kate's second child.

Because the date given on Elizabeth Head's birth certificate matches the date of birth on my grandmothers death certificate, it's clear that they are the same person. Mathias and Kate were her parents. At some point, she came to live with her grandparent's, although we don't yet know the full story.

One big mystery remains: my grandmother's death certificate gives her father as Frank Head rather than Mathias. To resolve that problem, we need to follow Mathias further.

In 1883, in Chicago, a fellow named Frank M Head enlisted in the army and was deployed to Fort Union, in New Mexico. He is listed as a soldier stationed there in the 1885 New Mexico census. While in New Mexico, he met Sara Mullen, born in Watertown, Wisconsin, the daughter of Irish immigrant parents. Frank and Sarah were married on November 25, 1885 in Santa Clara Church in the village of Wagon Mound, Mora County, New Mexico. In the registry for the marriage, Frank's parents are listed as Charles Head and Elizabeth McEntee, the same as Mathias' parents.

It appears that Mathias changed his name the second time he enlisted so that the army wouldn't realize he had previously deserted. He switched his first and middle names and as an extra precaution, told them he was born in England. As simplistic as the change was, it apparently worked because he was honorably discharged a few years later.

Frank and Sarah had a son, Frank J Head, in New Mexico in 1889. A second son, Henry, was born a year later in Minnesota. At some point, Frank left his second wife as well but it's not clear exactly when. We do know that she was living with her two sons in Minnesota in 1895.

How Do We Know All This?

This connection would never have been found without DNA testing. Frank M Head's great-granddaughter, Diane, found it after a DNA match with my cousin Christine. Examining Christine's tree, she saw that the names of Frank M's and Mathias F's parents were the same, suggesting they might be the same person.

After I had my own DNA tested, I saw that I had a close match with Diane and contacted her. We put our heads together trying to figure out the connection. At first I was hesitant to say that Frank and Mathias were the same person, but the combination of records and DNA evidence convinced me. With the recent discovery of matching birth and death certificates, I no longer have any doubt.

There is one final revelation. The information on Mary Head's death certificate, including the names of her parents as Frank and Catherine Head, was provided by my aunt Monica. That implies that the whole story, including Mathias' desertion of his first wife, his name change and possibly even his second family and their subsequent desertion, was actually known to some of the Pooles, but held as a closely kept secret!