Who Were Dora Ward Helmer’s Parents?

April 9, 2016 in Allied Families, Bruce's Family, Solving Puzzels

Dora is in many public trees.  Fourteen, in fact.  And some have parents listed for her and some do not.  Dora is related to me by virtue of being the mother-in-law of Knapper’s 1st cousin 3x removed.  (The relationship is as follows: Dora Ward Helmer to Ellen Mildred Helmer Edgerly married to Harvey Edgerly the son of Anne Elizabeth Lyons Edgerly who was the sister of Mary Jane Lyons White Raymond who was the mother of Anna White Knapp who was the mother of Louise Knapp to Phyllis (Knapp) Wheeler Knapp who was Knapper’s mother.  Confused?  That’s okay.  Just know that Phyllis was born Phyllis Ann Knapp and adopted by the Guy and Lois Wheeler family, then married Jack Knapp, Knapper’s father.)

So Dora isn’t a close relative, but she’s married into Knapper’s line, so I research her anyway.  And I made a mistake at first, thinking she was this other “Dorras Ward” found living in Bunker Hill, Ingham County, Michigan in 1870.  It’s the same mistake other trees have made.  But here’s the thing; Dora Ward married Albert Helmer in Allegan County, Michigan.  And at the time of her marriage in 1876, she was living in Hopkins, Allegan County, Michigan.  Why was “Dorras Ward” living in Hopkins and marrying in Allegan, Michigan?  Now, it’s not impossible that Dora was working as a servant to a household in Allegan County in 1876.  I’ve seen that before.  Carrie Mills was doing just that in Newaygo County, Michigan, but she was born in Ingham County, and she married in Newaygo County.  But Carrie’s father was also living in Newaygo County for some reason at the time Carrie was working as a servant and then married Guy Wright, Knapper’s great-grandfather on his father’s side.  I didn’t know that for a long time, about Carrie’s father living in Newaygo County as well, but I learned it later when I researched just him.  But why was Dora Ward living in Allegan County in 1876?  She would have been 18 years old, having been born in 1858.  School teacher perhaps?  Maybe, but I wanted to know for sure, so I started digging.

Dora’s death certificate has “Unknown” listed for both her parents names.  No help there.  Her marriage record to Albert doesn’t give her parents names either, and the witnesses to her marriage were James and Perla Milgard.  I have no idea who they were.  Albert was born in New York and then moved with his parents to Allegan County.  They are found in 1870 living in Filmore, Allegan County.  Who were Dora’s parents?  In the 1880 census she states her parents were both born in England.  Wow.  The other Dora’s parents were both born in New York, so that didn’t fit, but it’s not unusual to find someone saying their parents were born someplace other than where the parents have said they were born in other earlier or later census records.  In 1900, Dora Ward Helmer also says her parents were born in England.  Henry Ward, the father of “Dorras Ward” from Ingham County, was living with one of his sons, Thomas, in Stockbridge, Ingham County in 1900, and he’s listed as divorced.  Mary is living in Bunker Hill, Ingham, Michigan, with 3 servants and lists herself as divorced also.  No Dora in sight, which would make sense since she’s married and living with Albert in Allegan County.  Still, both Henry and Mary list themselves as being born in New York, not England.  I’m pretty sure by now they’re not my Dora Ward Helmer’s parents.

In 1910, to shake things up a bit for future researchers, Dora’s parents are listed as her father born in Canada and her mother in Michigan.  Thanks, Dora.  I stopped looking for Henry and Mary Ward in Ingham County, sure they aren’t her parents.  In 1920 Dora’s parents are now both Canadians by birth.  Okay.  In the final census she’s found in, both of her parents are still Canadians.  Dora died in 1937 and the informant for her death certificate was one of her sons, George Helmer, who stated his mother was born in Wayland, Michigan (which is in Allegan County) and her parents names and places of birth were unknown.

Now is the time to get creative and think outside the box.  The first two census records I had for Dora, the 1880 and 1900, she stated her parents were born in England.  She never stated she herself had been born anywhere but in Michigan, and she married in Allegan County.  I plugged the last name of “Ward” and the place name of “Allegan County, Michigan” into the main search engine of Ancesty.  No date of birth.  When you do that the first records that come up always are the 1940 census records.  That was much too soon, so I went to the census years and tried 1860. There wasn’t a “Dora Ward” in 1860 in Allegan County, but there were many, many, MANY Wards.  There was a male, Richard Ward, born about 1815 in England, and his wife, Mary, born about 1823, also in England, and their children:  Benjamin, aged 19, born about 1841 in Canada; Sarah, aged 18, born about 1842 in Canada; Emeline, aged 16, born about 1844 in Canada; Olive, aged 15, born about 1845 in Canada; Robert, aged 12, born about 1848 in Canada; George, aged 10, born about 1850 in Canada; Daniel, aged 8, born about 1852 in Canada; Ellen, aged 4, born about 1856 in Canada, and Millord, aged 2, born about 1858 in Canada.  Here we have the best of both worlds; England and Canada-born members of a family in Hopkins, Allegan County, Michigan in 1860.  The youngest, Millord, is born in the right year to be Dora, but it states Millord is a male and was born in Canada.  Looking at the actual 1860 census image, the name is spelled “Midord” and the sex is definitely “M”.  But then in 1870 the family is still there with a few variations:

Name: Richard Ward
Age in 1870: 58
Birth Year: abt 1812
Birthplace: England
Home in 1870: Hopkins, Allegan, Michigan
Race: White
Gender: Male
Post Office: Hilliard Station
Value of real estate: View image
Household Members:
Name Age
Richard Ward 58
Nancy Ward 57
Medora Ward 13
William H Ward 7
Zylpha E Cole 16
Daniel Ward 17
Ellen Ward 15

Nancy Ward is said to be born in New Hampshire, so she’s new; perhaps Mary Ward died between 1860 and 1870.  If I had to guess, I’d say she was probably Nancy Cole before she became Nancy Ward sometime after 1860 and before 1870 because of the presence of Zylpha E Cole, age 16.  Unless Zylpha is a grandchild of Richard, which is entirely possible, I believe her to be Richard’s step-daughter.  In fact, following up on Zylpha, she married a man in Michigan and died as Zylpha Diefenbaker in 1904 in Grand Rapids, Michigan, her parents listed as Alexander Cole and Nancy Sindak.  William H Ward is new from 1860 and following him I found that he died in Kalamazoo County, Michigan in 1939 and his parents are listed as Richard Ward and Olive Darling.  His marriage record to Burtha Shutt in Kalamazoo in 1888 gives his parent’s names as Richard Ward and Olive Tine.

But the one who really makes me believe that Richard Ward is Dora Ward Helmer’s father is Meldora Ward, aged 13, born about 1857 in Michigan.  I bet that’s the Midord Ward from the 1860 census, born not a male, but a female, and born in Michigan instead of Canada.

I also followed Daniel and Helen/Ellen Ward.  Daniel married a woman named Mazy Nelson in Hopkins in 1880.  His father is listed as Richard Ward, born in Canada, his mother as “Unknown” born in Canada, and his wife, Mazy, giving the information.

Helen/Ellen married a man named Joseph Douglas in Wayland, Allegan County, Michigan in Sept of 1874, no father or mother named, but her place of birth given as Hopkins.  She died in 1887 in Hopkins and no parents names are given.

So by circumstantial evidence, I feel certain that the parents of Dora were Richard Ward and his wife, Mary.  They were not Henry and Mary E West Ward of Ingham County.