Fearless Females Challenge: March 2 – Photograph

The following post continues the month long Fearless Females Challenge by Lisa Alzo, author of The Accidental Genealogist blog, which is focused on “celebrating and honoring ‘fearless females’ in our family trees” to mark National Women’s History Month, which is the month of March, with a post responding to unique prompts for each day of the month.

Prompt for March 2 — Post a photo of one of your female ancestors. Who is in the photo? When was it taken? Why did you select this photo?

Although I don’t have as many family photos of my ancestors as some do, I do have some good ones, particularly of my female ancestors. There are two photos that stand out the most in my family when I think of female ancestors. The first photo (shown below) is of my 6th great grandmother, Sally (Todd) Thornton (1793-1891). Although I am not sure when the photo was taken, it seems likely it was taken towards the end of her life in 1891. I selected this photo because it is the only photo I have for a 6th great grandparent. I like this photo because it is amazing to see an ancestor of mine that was born five years after the ratification of the United States Constitution.

Sally (Todd) Thornton
Sally (Todd) Thornton

The second photo is one I featured on my blog nearly a year ago. Taken in 1965, this photo (show below) is a unique photograph in my family’s collection, as it consists of six generations of women in one photograph. The photo features women in my family born between 1873 and 1965. In the front row of the photo, from right to left, is Crystal (Graber) Friederich (1950-2011), Tirzah Olive (Stephens-Agee) Martin (1873-1967), and Gloria Lois (Lapham) Graber (1933-2008), who is holding Tracy Lynn Friederich (LIVING). In the back row of the photo, from right to left, is Alice Lucretia (Wellin-Lapham) Graber (1916-1985) and Lois Beatrice (Agee) Wellin (1897-1983). I selected this photo because it features three of my female ancestors, Alice, my great grandmother, Lois, my 2nd great grandmother, and Tirzah, my 3rd great grandmother. For me it is amazing to see that many generations in my family tree in one photo.

Six Generations of First Daughters
Six Generations of First Daughters

Mary (Todd) Lincoln Family Connection Claim

Mary (Todd) Lincoln

On July 16, 1882, one hundred and thirty years ago today, Mary Ann (Todd) Lincoln (1818-1882), widow of U.S. President Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865), died in Springfield, Sangamon Co., Illinois, USA. Although I am not a descendant of Abraham and Mary Lincoln, there is a claim in a branch of my family that there is a connection to Mary (Todd) Lincoln.

Sally (Todd) Thornton (1793-1891), my 6th great grandmother, apparently always claimed throughout much of her long life that she and the First Lady were distant cousins. Sharing the surname Todd and having a connection to Kentucky (where Mary was born) undoubtedly was all that was needed to convince Sally of her relationship to the wife of the 16th President of the United States. When I discovered this claim, I set out to learn if it had any truth to it.

Sally (Todd) Thornton

Sally’s family did come from Kentucky, as did Mary’s, but hers came from Madison County, while Mary’s came from Fayette County, which shares a border with Madison County. Mary’s grandfather, Maj. Gen. Levi Todd (1756-1807), appears to have settled in Kentucky prior to 1792, while Sally’s grandfather, Benjamin Todd (1725-1810), came around 1797. Both Sally’s and Mary’s grandfathers came from Pennsylvania, with Sally’s being from Northampton County and Mary’s being from the nearby Montgomery County. Both of their great grandfathers were also from Pennsylvania as well.

However, it is with their 2nd great grandfather’s that the story shifts. Sally’s 2nd great grandfather, Joshua Todd (ca. 1685-1721), was born in Pennsylvania the son of Joseph Todd (1645-1699), who was born in Eling, Hampshire, England. Mary’s 2nd great grandfather, Robert Todd (1697-1780), was born in County Armagh, Ireland and immigrated to Pennsylvania prior to 1725.

The ancestral lines prior to their 2nd great grandfathers become difficult to trace and confirm for both Sally and Mary. Both are claimed to either be of English or Scottish ancestry prior this generation. Most argue that Joseph Todd (Sally’s 3rd great grandfather) was the son of a John Todd (1594-1678), also of Eling, whose father, William Todd (1569-1617) was from Scotland. As for Mary, her 2nd great grandfather’s ancestry is said to be either English or Scottish prior to their presence in Ireland, with many claiming that the father of Robert was a James Todd (ca. 1638-1669), who is said to have been born in Scotland and died in Ireland.

Despite the remarkable similarities in journeys within the United States between their families, I have yet to find any connection or evidence that Sally (Todd) Thornton was indeed a distant cousin of Mary (Todd) Lincoln. Perhaps a connection still exists, but the significant challenges in tracing either line with certainty beyond their respective 2nd great grandfathers makes it unlikely that it will ever be discovered.

Headstone of Sally (Todd) Thornton

Although it is very likely that there is little merit to her claim of kinship to one of the most famous First Families in U.S. history, Sally remains for me a fascinating person to look at in my ancestry. It is interesting to note that her long life began in the presidency of George Washington, the 1st President of the United States, and ended, at the age of 98, during the presidency of Benjamin Harrison, the 23rd President of the United States. It must have been amazing to witness all that she did.

Sally and her husband, William Thornton (1792-1858), are direct ancestors of my 4th great grandmother, Mary Elizabeth Thornton (1847-1920), who, together with her husband John Agee (1839-1912), are direct ancestors of my 2nd great grandmother, Lois Beatrice Agee (1897-1983), who is the mother of my great grandmother, Alice Lucretia Wellin (1916-1985), who was the wife of Theodore Alexander Lapham (1910-1955).