Hiram’s wives

Have you been able to do genealogical research during the pandemic? With libraries and other resources closed I used the internet. We have a subscription to and other sites which made researching easier. My July columns will deal with individuals I was researching and what I found in online records. I hope my research path will be of value to you facing your own puzzles. 


So, here goes.


In the 1850 Census, Hiram Brann, aged 17, is listed as the son of William and Mary Brann. In 1860 he has a wife (caution: no relationships were spelled out in the census until 1880) named Lucy A. and a young daughter, Eldora. In the 1870 census Hiram is with a wife, Etta, daughter Eldora, and a son Everett, born in 1863. Logically it seems Lucy was his first wife and Etta his second. 


My problem was finding the surnames of the two women, when Lucy died, and confirming Etta was Hiram’s wife. Any other information I could locate on the women would be gravy. This is the kind of puzzle genealogists commonly face. 


I found that the Maine Old Cemetery Association has placed several of their collections on Ancestry, and there I discovered that Hiram’s cemetery plot in the Methodist Cemetery in East Vassalboro houses his remains and that of his wife, Lucy A., born 1835, died 1863. I later discovered his second wife, Etta, in the same cemetery. That record provided proof that Lucy was indeed wife number one, her birth and death dates, but not her maiden name. 


I’ve often suggested checking out known family members when you need to try to break down brick walls, and in this case it proved true. It was Eldora and Everett’s marriage records that gave me my answer regarding the two wives’ surnames. On Everett’s marriage license in 1914 it states his parents were Hiram Brann and Lucy Goodwin. Eldora listed her father, Hiram Brann, and mother, Rosetta Wood, on her marriage record. On Eldora’s death record, her mother is listed as Lucy A. Goodwin. The listing of a stepmother instead of a birth mother on a marriage record is unusual but happened. Eldora was born in 1858 and Lucy Goodwin was clearly her mother. 


I found Rosetta (Etta) Wood and her family in the 1850 census, where Etta was listed as 4 years old. Because Maine didn’t require submissions of marriage information to the state until 1892, I will need to utilize town records to determine the exact dates of Hiram’s marriages. The birth of Eldora in 1858, Lucy’s death in 1863, and Rosetta listed with him in 1870 narrows the time range needed to research. There’s more to be done, but I was able to clear up several issues through online records.


This was a fairly easy genealogical puzzle to solve though it took time to locate the answers. In my next column I’ll tell you about a much more difficult, frustrating and time-consuming case.


Nancy Battick is a Dover-Foxcroft native who has researched genealogy for over 30 years. She is past president of the Maine Genealogical Society, author of several genealogical articles and co-transcribed the Vital Records of Dover-Foxcroft.  Nancy holds an MA in History from UMaine and lives in Dover-Foxcroft with her husband, Jack, another avid genealogist. You can contact Nancy at

Get the Rest of the Story

Thank you for reading your 4 free articles this month. To continue reading, and support local, rural journalism, please subscribe.