• Brigette Cook Jones

Filling in the Family Tree


I hope you can follow me on this one - because I am trying to fill in some holes in Little Orphan Annie aka Mary Alice Smith's family tree - - and have uncovered some unique connections that may be very pertinent to the orphan girl's story . . .

Hopefully, you have read my post on the Rittenhouse family and the search for what happened to Mary Alice's mother. That information will help you in understanding some of the complexities that I am trying to untangle today.

To bring you up to basic speed, Mary Alice Smith, Little Orphan Annie, was the daughter of Thomas and Ellen Rittenhouse Smith (or at least I am fairly certain that those are her parent’s names). The fate of Ellen Rittenhouse remains a mystery, and the fact that the Rittenhouse family is a bit of an anomaly - as this particular branch is not well documented - remains an existing problem in determining what happened to these family members.

If you read my previous post on the Rittenhouse family - you will know that I believe that Ellen Rittenhouse is the daughter of John and Rachel Rittenhouse who are found in Fayette County in 1850. I want to explore that a little further.

Unfortunately, the previous census - 1840 census, which would record Ellen Rittenhouse's presence in the family, only lists the head of household by name, and then gives hash marks in age categories for other members of the family. On the other hand, the 1850 census lists everyone in the household by name and their age. However, Ellen was already gone and married so she does not show up with her parents. Also, if we are to believe that John Rittenhouse, the uncle who brought Mary Alice to the Riley home, is not only a paternal uncle in law (married to Mary Alice's father's sister), but also her maternal uncle (brother to her mother) - then he too would need to be present in the 1840 census with his Mom and Dad. Like Ellen, he would have married prior to the 1850 census - and would not be present with his parents. Are you following me? We are trying to see if Ellen, John Jr, and Nathaniel - who I believe are all siblings - are all present in the 1840 census with their parents John (sr) and Rachel.

In the 1850 census John Rittenhouse (Sr) is listed as 69 and Rachel is listed as 66. This means that their birth years are likely - 1781 for John and 1784 for Rachel. There is also a son living with them who is listed as Nathaniel, and he is 21. This means his birth year was 1829.

John Rittenhouse (jr) who married Malinda Smith (Mary Alice's father's sister) has a birth year of 1820.

Ellen Rittenhouse has a birth year of 1823.

Now - it is important to note that all of these birth years may not be "exactly" right. Census takers were sometime not the best at getting all of their facts straight - so these years may be off a little. Also, in the case of the 1840 census - a person was marking hash marks in small columns, and the possibility of marking someone in the wrong age group - is possible. So we will need to try to also get collaborating evidence for this connection.

in 1840 John Rittenhouse (sr) was living in Wayne County. There are only six Rittenhouse families listed in Indiana in the 1840 census. In 1850, there is a John Rittenhouse family, with the father of the right age, that is living in Fayette County. If you have read my post on what happened to Mary Alice's mother - - you will see why I believe this John Rittenhouse family - is Ellen's family, and why she may have returned home to her parents in Fayette County in the early 1850's.

Here is what we know about the John Rittenhouse Family of Wayne - and how they match up with this "put together Rittenhouse family" with John and Rachel as Dad and Mom, and John Jr, Ellen, and Nathaniel being the kids:

John Rittenhouse (sr) - who should be the oldest and head of house - is listed as at least 50 but under 60 (so in 1840 with a birth year of 1781 he would be 59) MATCH Oldest Woman (assuming this is Rachel) - she is listed as at least 40 but under 50 (so in 1840 with a birth year of 1784 she would be 56) - no match Oldest boy (assuming this is John Jr -married Malinda Smith) - he is listed as at least 20 but under 30 (so in 1840 with a birth year of 1820 he would be 20) MATCH Youngest boy (assuming this is Nathaniel) - he is listed as at least 5 but under 10 (so in 1840 with a birth year of 1829* he would be 11 - if he hadn't turned 11 yet he would be ten) MATCH Oldest girl (assuming this is Ellen) - she is listed as at least 15 but under 20 (so in 1840 with a birth year of 1827 she would be 13) CLOSE MATCH

So what do you think?? Is it likely to assume that these family members all fit together?? The problem is - there would be no death records to connect the children to the parents - as death certificates were not required by the State of Indiana until 1886. So the only way I can put these together would probably be through probate records. For that to work, I need to know the county in which John and Rachel Rittenhouse died. I am going to assume that this was Fayette County - as they disappear after the 1850 census. They were old by that time - and their lifespan could not have gone on much more.

The only other corroborating evidence I have is this - - and this is important: A couple of years ago, I was doing some digging in Shelby County Indiana - as I was trying to nail down the story about Mary Alice's father's family - this would be about her Grandfather Peter Smith. I also was looking into the marriage of John Rittenhouse to Malinda Smith. Now to refresh a point: Malinda Smith was a daughter of Peter and a sister to Thomas, Mary Alice's father. She married John Rittenhouse in Shelby County in 1842. On their marriage license - John Rittenhouse is listed as John Rittenhouse, Jr. In no other documents have I found this information. - However, if this is correct - then - his father is John Sr.

However, I also looked at others - named Rittenhouse in Shelby County at this time. There was one that caught my eye - because I recognized his name from some of the Civil War records that I had been researching on John Rittenhouse, Jr. This man's name was Nathaniel Rittenhouse. Here is what the records said:

Nathaniel Rittenhouse was born June 13, 1830 (*note correct birth year) in Indiana, a son of John and Rachel Rittenhouse, natives of New Jersey, and resident of Columbia township, Fayette county, Indiana in 1850. Nathaniel was married to Nancy Youngs, in Shelby County, on November 7, 1851 and by 1860 they were living in Hanover Township, Morristown. Nathaniel served in the civil war from December 14, 1861 until June 28, 1862 in Co D. 51st Infantry. His death occurred six weeks later on August 16, 1862 and he is buried at Blue River Baptist cemetery. A military stone marks his grave. His widow later married to Joseph Bauman on April 17, 1866.

"Co D 51st Infantry" - is the same company and unit that John Rittenhouse (jr) signed up to serve in the Civil War. The note does not say if Nathaniel was injured or sick, but he signs up in December and returns home in June - dying in August. I believe that John and Nathaniel are brothers. I believe that they signed up to serve together during the war - which is when Mary Alice was sent to live at the Riley Home. When whatever happened to Nathaniel happened (injury or illness) - would his brother have accompanied him home? Then, did his brother, John - never returned to service? This follows the timeline in Mary Alice's story that her "Uncle's fortunes had changed. He returns and collects his niece." John Rittenhouse returns home upon bringing his sick/injured brother home. As a result, he never goes back to serve in the war. All of John Rittenhouse's military records say that the result of his military service was either "not stated" or "never notified." It is as if he signs up to serve, but then disappears. Yet there is no record of a desertion or an AWOL. So I am not sure how this happened? But, the enlistment, the illness and then death of Nathaniel follows Mary Alice's arrival at the Riley Home, and then her subsequent return with her Uncle's family after only a short stay of "only a season."

This timeline of Nathaniel and John Rittenhouse corroborates the story of Mary Alice's brief stay at the Riley Home. From the Riley Home, she is then put to work in a tavern along the National Road - but it is closer to the Rittenhouse Family who was living in Philadelphia, IN at the time. This is only a theory. I have no evidence to support John's leaving to go home with his brother. I don't know if Civil War records from National Archives would help answer those questions? Possibly - However, those records are very expensive to request. I may have to go at this - - one piece at a time.


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