Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Wednesday's Child - Finding the Lost Biddle Children

Several Christmases ago, some old family photographs were circulated amongst the family, and in my possession I found a digital photograph of my great-great grandmother, Christine Williams Biddle Cadwalader (1847-1900) as a child. She was photographed with her parents, Jonathan Williams and Emily Skinner Meigs Biddle, and two younger siblings.

(Since I have only the above digital copy, I have no idea what form the original photograph takes.) Knowing that Christine was the oldest, born in 1847, I hypothesized that the photo was taken after 1850 and tried to identify the other children. The 1850 census listed the children in the household as:
  • Christine - age 3
  • Charles M. - age 1
  • Williams - age 1/12
Presumably Charles and Williams are the two other children pictured in the above photograph. But by 1860, the children listed in Emily Biddle's household (Jonathan died in 1856) were:
  • Christine - age 14
  • Thomas - age 6
  • Emily - age 5
But where were Charles and Williams, the two little boys pictured with their parents and older sister? I presumed they had died, but really wasn't sure where to go to find more information about the deaths of two small children in the span of 1850 to 1860.

So last week, I was wandering the church cemetery looking for more family graves when I found the Biddle family plot, not far from where Christine Biddle Cadwalader is buried with her husband and unmarried children.

In the Biddle family plot were three small graves, in a row.

Also in the plot was a large horizontal slab, listing the family members, among them three children.

There were Williams, who died in 1852, and Charles, who died in 1853, along with little sister Mary, who died in 1851.

I've come across child deaths in my genealogy before, and given the times, I shouldn't be surprised by it, and I'm not. But heartbroken, though, at the thought of this family losing three children in three years. I'm also a little haunted by the photograph of the children, which had to have been taken before Williams died in January 1852. The likelihood of having a photograph of two little boys who died in 1852 and 1853 seems remote, but I do have it, and can see their faces, and am glad to know where they're buried.

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