When I first started working on my family history over 30 years ago, I was thrilled to find an already published book, The Kelloggs in the Old World and the New
by Timothy Hopkins (hereafter referred to as the Kellogg book), that traced the line of my 3rd great grandfather, John Abel Kellogg (1842-1909), all the way back to an immigrant ancestor who came to the United States in the 1600s. As new researchers, my mom and I were so excited to see our family (including the names of recent relatives) listed in this book, that we assumed it must be correct. Now as a more experienced researcher, I know that all information found in printed family histories should be verified independently, before accepting it as accurate, especially when the family history does not explain where the author obtained his information, as this book did not.
I started to look over my old research on the Kellogg family recently and in the process, made a discovery that shook some of our previous beliefs (including our faith in the Kellogg book’s assertions) and has left us with a fair number of unanswered questions.
I began by trying to find John, his parents Martin and Eliza (Eaton), and siblings Wealthy and Veron/Vernon Kellogg in the 1850 census. I found a John Kellogg age 8, living with his presumed grandparents, Thomas and Mary Kellogg in Huron County, Ohio, and a Martin Kellogg (right age and details) boarding with a Reaves family in Madison Co, IL (which agreed with the Kellogg book), but no trace of Eliza, Wealthy or Vernon Kellogg in this census year. Upon closer examination of the book, Eliza was supposed to have died on June 14, 1846, which would explain why the family seemed to have split up by 1850. I checked Huron County, Ohio Cemetery Inscriptions
to find out where Eliza was buried. There was a listing for Martin and Eliza’s 17 month-old daughter Mary E., who also died in June of 1846, but no tombstone for Eliza in the same cemetery or any other cemetery in the county. This seemed odd to me, although it is entirely possible that she had a stone at one time that has since been lost to the ravages of time, or that her stone was missed or misread in the cemetery inventory. So, I continued to research this family.
Imagine my surprise to find Abel J. (John), Wealthy and Vernon in the 1860 census in Huron County, Ohio with an Eliza Kellogg, born 1818 in Vermont, as head of the household! Could this person be their mother? Censuses before 1880 did not state the relationships of persons living in the same household. Further investigation turned up other sightings of a mysterious Eliza Kellogg. In the 1850 census, Elija [Eliza?] Kellogg, born 1818 in Vermont, was listed with the Hiram Curtis family in Huron County, Ohio. Her vital details indicate she was probably the same person as the 1860 Eliza Kellogg, but mistakenly transcribed by the census indexer at Ancestry.com
Son John Abel Kellogg moved to Barry County, Michigan by 1870. In the 1870 and 1880 censuses of Barry County, there was an Eliza Kellogg who lived in the County Poor House. In 1870 she was listed as born in 1830 in Ohio and a pauper, and in 1880 she was listed as from Baltimore Township (where son John lived) and ill with “scroffulia” [sic] or scrofula (a type of tuberculosis of the skin), no birth date or place given. No other Eliza Kellogg was enumerated in Barry County before or after these years. Between 1880 and 1894, son John moved to Montcalm County, Michigan. And oddly enough, an Eliza Kellogg, born 1821, place unknown, died in the Poor House there in 1896 of erysipelas (a skin infection). No other Eliza Kellogg was found in online Montcalm records, except for a couple of Elizabeth Kelloggs who were married in that county, but with ages inconsistent with our Eliza. Were these sightings coincidental; or were one, some or all of the Eliza Kelloggs that we found after our Eliza’s supposed death in 1846, actually the mother of John Abel Kellogg? I lean toward believing that they were all the same woman, but clearly more research is needed.
If even one of these Eliza Kelloggs was our John’s mother, then the Kellogg book that we placed so much reliance on was either misinformed about the family details or tried to deliberately mislead readers about the fate of Eliza Kellogg. Another fact that the Kellogg book may have gotten wrong is Eliza’s maiden name. The book says it was Eaton, but the only likely marriage record found in Ohio for this couple was for a Martin Kellogg and Eliza Payn(e) in Huron Co. Ohio in 1839. There were multiple Martin Kelloggs in Huron County, but which one married Eliza Payne? What was our Eliza’s correct maiden name? Could she have been an Eaton who was married previously to a man named Payne? More mysteries to solve.
Without a doubt, we have proven again through this incident that genealogical information found in published family histories should be verified, rather than accepted as gospel truth, especially when sources are not cited. Family histories or online family trees can be used as a great starting point for one’s research, but then the real work of proving or disproving the information found begins. My work will continue as I seek the truth about Eliza Kellogg and fact-check the remainder of the pertinent Kellogg information listed in the book.