Friday, April 9, 2021

More Evidence of Chicken Bakers


 In support of International Women's Day earlier this month, I had posted my tribute of my 3rd great grandmother Frances. She was born in Wisconsin to English immigrant parents, her father died in the 1849 California Gold Rush and her mom took her and her two siblings back to England. Frances however, sailed back to the U.S. five years later at age 17 to marry my 3rd great grandfather, someone who she was most likely familiar with since he lived in the same town she was born in Wisconsin. The story of Frances celebrates independence and the American dream all in one microcosm of a family. The post drew a comment from someone interested to learn more and when I went to provide the link of her biography information on WikiTree, I realized I hadn't updated it. This led me to updating not only her profile but those of her kids which brings me a long way around to the gist of this post, her son Robert James Chicken.

Robert James Chicken was actually born Robert James Baker due to his father changing his surname after the Civil War. I wrote more about this earlier HERE.  In short, Robert went to live with his uncle Robert Chicken and adopted the surname Chicken back.

I have always assumed it was an informal adoption and it still may be, but in cleaning up Robert's family tree sources, I found a new source, his death record. It says at the top that Robert J. Chicken and that "He was adopted when small and took this name, the original name was Baker". Since this was Robert's son Otis dictating this information, one must place weight to it and perhaps he indeed was officially adopted. At the end of the day, it doesn't really matter to me and it yet another link strengthening the Chicken - Baker surname swap.

The death certificate wasn't done with the surprises. Turns out he died of a probable heart attack but the additional information was enlightening. It went on to say he just dropped dead in the barn yard while choring. He was 64 years at the time and this probably wasn't all that unusual back then. But how many of us work now right up until the moment we check out. I'm guessing quite a bit fewer.

13 comments:

  1. Yor title got me picturing chickens by the oven in chefs hats. :)

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    1. Try googling chickens and bakers. This has been a really hard family to track down over the years.

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  2. When I see these "ancestral posts" on your blog Ed, never sure what to say but it IS impressive how diligent you are in finding your roots! As for Robert dying at 64... at least it was a sudden one. Both of my parents got cancer around 60 years old (my age--ulp) and suffered 2-3 years before dying. Anyway--I cannot imagine having Chicken as a last name!

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    1. I mostly post these for someone to stumble upon someday in the future. You wouldn't believe the number of genealogy posts I've had distant cousins find and write to me. In seasonal term, I feel like an Easter bunny leaving eggs for someone to find someday.

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  3. I imagine that with the lack of any medical tests they didn't know what was wrong (or how to mitigate it) thus they more frequently dropped dead of heart attacks or strokes. 64 is MY AGE. It seems very young to me these days. I discovered my late husband's great-grandmother on his grandfather's birth certificate which, for some reason, I had never looked at before. I had everything all wrong, thinking that Grandfather(who was illegitimate) was related to one of the male Fents since he went by that name. However, he was actually the son of one of the daughters. I would sure love to know more about that story!

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    1. Sounds like something fun to dig into.

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  4. Ed, honestly (given my recent experiences), I really think that is the way to go. The alternative - the slow decline - seems horrible, albeit in a genial way.

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    1. I'm in complete agreement. Give me a nice solid heart attack over a lingering miserable death anyday.

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  5. This is probably a strange question, but I thought that divorces were pretty rare in this time frame. In my family, it seems like people just took off and remarried without bothering with the technicalities. I am curious about just how common this is, to have it listed so matter of factly with single, married, and widowed

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    1. In my experience with my family tree anyway, divorce AND leaving one's spouse were very rare. Off the top of my head, I can only think of one direct ancestor (I guess besides my parents which would make two) who got divorced and remarried to someone else. Almost all the others were marriages after the death of a spouse and there is evidence that a few may have been split apart living with different children. I have one that was divorced but the same couple remarried a few years later.

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  6. on an official form, I meant.

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    1. Re-reading your original query, I think it was common to ask this question as it is on most census records of the time. I don't think divorce as a practice was very common, at least not like it was now. In the one divorce (outside of my parents in more recent times) on my family tree, it was much publicized and not in favor of the wife. The newspapers said she ran off with a man from the circus leaving her poor husband all alone with young children. What the newspaper didn't say was that he married a short time later to the nanny. I think I can read between the lines and see what really happened in this case.

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  7. Gosh! He changed his name from Baker to Chicken? That's very interesting.

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