Have you ever had a brick wall, and no matter what you do you cannot get any information on that person. I have two, and they are both on the Maxwell side of my family. My great-grandmother Lydia Jane (Jennie) Canniff Maxwell, and Arvilla Dibble Maxwell my 2nd Great-Grandmother. My 3rd cousin Chris has been looking for Arvilla for 30 years and the only thing we can come up with is a possible father in New York. It’s crazy, but she just seems to be dropped out of the sky in to our world.
My Great Grandmother Jennie, pictured above, was born in 1862 in Hastings Ontario. Apparently her parents died when she and her brother were 7 and 8 years old and they were both raised by different people. Jennie by the Fox family, and brother Jonas, or Thomas Jonas was raised by the Stratons. In the 1871 Census of Hastings Ontario, Canada they are listed with the respective families in the same area, possibly close neighbors. There is no other record of Jennie until her marriage to my great-grandfather William Henry Maxwell. She bore 10 children between 1880 and 1903, with my grandmother Cora Myrtle being the last child. According to my aunt who was born in 1928, they lived with my grandparents and other family members when they were elderly and Jennie “lost her mind.” The way it was described to me and for the lack a diagnosis in those years, I believe she may have had Alzheimer’s disease. I so much want to learn more about her, but that is the sum of everything I know about her. The Canniff’s were a large family in Ontario, large enough that there is a town named for them, Cannifton, Ontario. But do you think that I can connect even one of them to my Jennie? I found an e-book about the Canniff’s online, so I have started a separate tree for them, hoping to find her. There also happens to be a Flagler connection, so I have been following that also. In one document it lists her parents as Jonas and Lillie, but this has not been actually proven. One of her children was also named Jonas Canniff Maxwell.
One day I was on 23andme and I did a random search for the surname Canniff in my DNA matches, and lo and behold, there it was! Someone who has a great-grandmother with the surname of Canniff. Caroline Canniff! In this particular tree there is also a Jonas Canniff married to Letty Flagler! Then just the other day I came across another DNA match with the surname Flagler! I still have not been able to connect them, but I feel like that wall is being chipped away, a little at a time. And I actually have two DNA matches that I can connect to her!
One of the things I have learned from my search in to Caroline Canniff and Thomas Jonas Canniff, is that I think one of the ways we have all gone wrong, is by limiting myself to Canada for the search. Many family members of Caroline’s immigrated to Michigan, as did Thomas Jonas. It just so happens, that my 2nd Great Grandfather William Maxwell hung out in Michigan also, and many of his children were born there. Could Jennie’s parents have lived in Michigan and immigrated to Ontario? The mystery is waiting to be solved!