Lewis Harris, my great-great-grandfather Frank Benjamin Harris' brother, joined a very complicated family when he married Ella Coleman in 1898. I found their marriage record about a year ago on FamilySearch's Montana marriages database. The marriage record itself was pretty straightforward - Lewis is listed as the son of Thomas and Lizette Harris, which matches my records exactly. It was Ella's parents that threw me - Wash Man and Lucretia Grace. My first thought was that Ella's father might have been Native American - I didn't see where else a name like Wash Man could have come from. Lucretia Grace was a very interesting name as well, and made me wonder if Grace was her last name or a middle name. I figured I'd look more for them later, and moved on. Now that I've started going through my Harris files, I finally came back to them, and began to try to work out the details of this family.
I found Lewis and Ella in the 1910 census, with two step children, Albert and Myrtle Coleman (from a presumed first marriage of Ella's to a Coleman) with Lewis' sister-in-law Grace Click living with them. I figured Grace would have been Ella's sister (as I knew of no Click's marrying any of Lewis' siblings) and, given Grace's marital status was single, thought that meant Ella's maiden name was Click. Case closed, right? That sounded plausible, but just didn't feel right. So, to find more about Ella, I tried looking at the marriage records of her children from her first marriage. They weren't too hard to find, fortunately. Myrtle married twice, first to Tom Miller in 1911, and then to Martin Wallace in 1917. In both records, she said her father was B.W. Coleman, and her mother was Ella Harris (or E. Coleman, now Harris). That told me who her father was, but nothing about her mother's maiden name. Albert's marriage record was about equally as helpful - his father was listed as Ben. W. Coleman, and his mother's maiden name was Ellen Harris. That didn't sit right either - how could her maiden name have been Harris, if her father was "Wash Man", and she only took the Harris name when she married Lewis?
Given that Ella was apparently from Iowa (according to her marriage record and the 1910 census), I went to FamilySearch and just did a search for Lucretia Grace in Iowa. What I found was startling - a marriage record in 1859 between Lucretia Grace and George W. Maun. Suddenly the name Wash Man made much more sense - George Washington Man/Maun! Now I was excited!
I went back to the Montana marriages database, and did a search there for Lucretia Grace, and the records just jumped out at me - I found a marriage for a James Wise and Grace Clark (not Click), daughter of Lucretia Grace and - Ben Coleman? I decided to ignore that anomaly for the time being. In this case, Montana's marriage (and divorce) culture worked in my favor, as Grace married again in 1917 to John Harris (no known relation to my Harrises). Her marriage license for this marriage was actually on the same page as Myrtle Coleman's marriage to Martin Wallace. This time, Grace's parents were listed as Lucy Grace and B. M. Mann. The mom's name fit, and the dad's was halfway there. I was certain I had the right bride, as the witnesses for the marriage were L.A. Harris and Ella Harris - too perfect a fit to be pure coincidence.
I went back to my search results, as there was one more hit for Lucretia Grace, again as the mother, but this time to a Minnie Henderson. Minnie married Sylvester Babbitt in 1899, and her father was none other than Geo. W. Mann. This was beginning to feel pretty good. I went back to Lewis and Ella's marriage license, the one that set this whole thing in motion, and there I noticed something that seemed to wrap the whole thing together, and confirm all I'd found. One of the witnesses for Lewis and Ella's wedding was Mrs. Minnie Babbitt!
So, to sum up - George Washington Mann and Lucretia Grace, married in 1859 in Polk County, Iowa, were the parents of three daughters - Minnie, Grace, and Ella. Minnie married a Henderson, and then Sylvester Babbitt. Grace married a Clark, then James Wise, and then Martin Wallace. Ella married Ben W. Coleman, then Lewis Harris. Sounds pretty simple when you lay it out like that, but it took a lot of work to get to that point. Now I can finally put this family together in my database, and move on to the next challenge.