September 17, 2011

From Judy Ranta:

Dear Mr. Paul,

I have attached a copy of an old photo (seems to be a tintype) that my family inherited. I wanted to ask if you have any ideas as to the woman's identity. One of the reasons I'm writing to you is that I think the woman's name may have been Mary Paul.

My great-great-aunt was adopted by a family who lived in Bethlehem, New Hampshire. She inherited all their belongings, including two old photo albums. The Native woman's photo appears in an album with many other photos mostly from the Civil War era. The other people appear to be of Euro-Amer. ancestry (although there are a couple of people who look like they might be of mixed Native/Euro ancestry in the other photo album -- pls. let me know if you would like to see those photos). Most of the photos were taken in New Hampshire towns such as Littleton, Dover, Manchester, Lake Village, etc.

I have donated the photos and other papers to the New England Hist. Genealogical Society. I included with that some research I've done in US censuses, as follows:

“The Native Woman: A Possible Identification” by Judith Ranta

Her tintype photo appears on p. 40 of the large photo album.

In the 1880 census, there are several women identified as “Indian” living in Bethlehem and Littleton, NH. These are: Mary Talmont, Sarah Summers, Mary Capino, and Hannah Capino. Other evidence suggests, however, that the woman’s name was Mary Paul.

In the Ellis (Alice) (Meloon) Gilman Fern Smith letters, there are five references to a person named “Fifield.” There is one reference to “Fifield” in the miscellaneous letters. This may be Fifield Gilman, b. ca. 1816, who appears in the 1850 census for Bethlehem, N.H.

In the 1860 census for Lisbon, N.H. (not far from Littleton), there are two “Indian” women named Mary Paul. One Mary Paul, aged 27 and born in Canada, is listed next to a 9-year-old boy named Charles Fifield, also labelled “Ind.” Might he be Mary Paul’s illegitimate son? The other Mary Paul, a basketmaker aged 65, might be the 27-year-old’s mother.

The surname “Paul” is found among Abenaki people in the northeast U.S. and in Eastern Canada.

In the 1870 census, Charles Fifield, aged 18 & now identified as “white,” lives with the Atwood family in Lisbon. Due to racial discrimination, it was not uncommon for Native people to claim to be “white” if they could pass for white. Several Atwood family members signed Cora (Green) Wilkinson’s Shakespeare Birthday Book, linking this family (as well as Fifield) with the Baker and Burnham families of Bethlehem, N.H. In the 1880 census, Charles Fifield may be John C. [Charles?] Fifield, aged 29, living in Bethlehem, N.H.

This evidence suggests that the Native woman in the photo is Mary Paul, an Abenaki born about 1833 in Canada. ***

Thank you for your attention, Judy

My response, September 19, 2011

Hi Judy:

It is an almost an impossible task to find the origins of a person such as Mary Paul, especially, without a baptismal certificate. One of the prime reasons for this is that the Paul surname in First Nations societies is comparable to the commonness of Smith in Caucasian.

The second most important reason is that the given name Mary is almost as common. For instance, I have several ancestors who were given the name Mary. My Great-Grandfather Joseph Paul Jr. had a sister Mary and I think his father also had a sister Mary. Another Mary is found at this URL: http://www.danielnpaul.com/MaryChristiannePaul(Morris).html

Sorry I can't be of much help. However, should you get luck and find some history on Mary, please let me know, I find such info interesting.

P.s., Just in case someone may see the picture and have some knowledge of the origins of Mary I've placed the picture on-line. "