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Stefani Evans, CG, “Evidence Correlation,” OnBoard 18 (September 2012).

Mary Alden Allen, wife of Peter DeGarmo Sutton, never knew her mother. Her death certificate names one set of parents and her obituary another.1 Evidence correlation, defined by BCG Standard 20 as “comparing information items to identify connections and contradictions,”2 allows formation of a testable hypothesis: that Joseph Allen of Dublin, Indiana, was Mary’s father.

Mary’s Death Certificate

Informant: Margaret Curren [daughter]
Birthplace: Indiana
Birth date: 28 February 1841
Father: Henry Allen, born Scotland
Mother: “No Record”3


Mary’s Obituary

Author: Fred Ellsworth [Fred Ellsworth Sutton, son]
Birthplace: Dublin, Indiana
Birth date: 28 February 1841
Father: Joseph Allen, “an American father”
Mother: Mary, “a French mother,” died “at the birth of this child, who was reared and cared for by an aunt, a sister of her mother, Mrs. Jane Hull.”4


These records agree on Mary’s birth date and birthplace, but disagree on parents’ names and origins. Inconsistencies suggest the siblings did not consult one another.

Norma Painter’s Photo Captions
Granddaughter Norma Painter identified Mary’s aunt; two sisters, Margaret and Matilda; and two brothers, Henry and Wilbur, in a scrapbook’s photograph captions. Painter’s reckoning differs from the obituary regarding the aunt’s forename, Jemima versus Jane, but concurs on the aunt’s married surname, Hull.5

1840 Census
Correlating information items from Joseph Allen’s 1840 enumeration in Dublin, Indiana, with evidence from independent sources, the obituary and Painter’s captions, creates new knowledge—details of a proposed Joseph Allen family structure—that must also be tested.6 See table below.

The forename of possible brother, Henry, suggests that Henry S. Allen of LaPorte County could be related.7 However, Joseph Allen was in the right place at the right time for Mary’s 1841 birth. If the mother died shortly after Mary’s birth, and if they were Mary’s full brothers, Henry and Wilbur Allen were born before 1840. If Joseph Allen’s 1840 entry enumerated Mary’s family, one alleged son was omitted, or perhaps he boarded out.

Proposed identities for 1840 family of Mary Alden Allen

Relation to Mary 1840 Censusa Obituaryb Painter’s Photo Captions
Father Joseph Allen
Male 20 years and under 30 years
Joseph Allen No information
Mother Female 20 years and under 30 years Mary No information
Brothers Male under 5 years No information Henry Alanc or
Wilbur Aland
Sisters Female 5 years and under 10 years
Female under 5 years
No information Margaret Alan, Mrs. Geo. Smithe or
Matilda Alan, Mattie Dodsonf
Mary No information “Mrs. Peter D. Sutton” Mary Alan Suttong
a 1840 U.S. census, Dublin Twp., Wayne Co., Ind., pop. sch., p. 321, line 8, Joseph Allen.
b Fred Ellsworth, “My Heart Maketh a Cheerful Countenance,” undated clipping from unidentified newspaper; Edna Parry and Norma Painter, scrapbook begun in the 1920s; photocopies, author’s files.
c Norma Painter, caption, “Henry Alan,” studio photograph, trimmed to approximately 3 ⅞” x 2 ½”; Parry and Painter, scrapbook.
d Norma Painter, caption, “Wilbur Alan,” studio photograph, trimmed to approximately 3 ⅞” x 2”; Parry and Painter, scrapbook.
e Norma Painter, caption for Smith studio photograph, trimmed to approximately 8” x 6 ¼”; Parry and Painter, scrapbook.
f Norma Painter, caption for Alan−Dodson studio photograph, San Diego, approximately 3 ¾” x 2 ⅜”; Parry and Painter, scrapbook.
g Norma Painter, caption for Mary Sutton, studio photograph, trimmed to approximately 5” x 3 ⅜”; Parry and Painter, scrapbook.


Other Independent Sources
In 1850 Mary Allen, nine, and Leah M. Allen, fifteen, both Indiana born, lived in Berrien County, Michigan, with Sewell Hull and New Jersey native, Jane Hull, forty-four.8 Joseph Allen, forty-four, of Maryland birth, lived nearby with supposed daughter, Indiana-born Matilda J. Allen, sixteen. If Joseph were Mary’s father, he had remarried and had a two-year-old daughter.9

Jane Hull could be the aunt, Mrs. Jane Hull, per Mary’s obituary. Painter’s identification of Seville Hull resembles Sewell Hull, but the caption’s “Jemima” differs from Jane. If Matilda J. Allen were Mary’s photographed sister she would have been six in 1840, consistent with the older 1840 female child’s age. See table. Leah’s age in 1850 conflicts with the under-five age of the younger 1840 female. Leah’s forename disputes the caption for Margaret Smith, but her initial, “M.” suggests Margaret as a middle name.

In 1860 Mary lived in Cass County, Michigan, near Sewell Hull, sixty-one, and Jane Hull, fifty-five, born in New York or New Jersey.10By 1870 Suel and Jane Hull, seventy-two and sixty-five, respectively, had migrated to Atchison County, Kansas, as had Mary.11 New York native Mrs. Jane Van Vliet Hull, wife of Sewell Hull, died near Sacramento, California, 27 August 1879, “in the 75th year of her age.”12 If correct, Jane was born in 1804–5.

In 1840 Jane Van Vleet of Berrien County lived with an unknown adult female and unknown male aged between five and ten years.13If born in 1804–5, Jane’s age conformed to the older female’s age.

Mrs. Jane Hull, reportedly Mary’s aunt, was born about 1805 in New York or New Jersey apparently as Jane Van Vliet. She married Sewell Hull before 1 June 1850, when she lived with Mary and Leah M. Allen as Jane Hull. Unless Jane married a Van Vleet before marrying Hull, Mary’s mother was a Van Vleet. The name of Mary’s fifth son, William “Van Vleet” Sutton, supports a Van Vleet link.14

Geography, time, and juxtaposition of surnames suggest that the Joseph A. Allen and Jemima Van Vleet who married 27 October 1830 in Fayette County, Indiana were Mary’s parents.15 Dublin, Indiana, Mary’s likely birthplace, borders Fayette County, and Jemima had time, nearly eleven years, to bear four children before Mary. The French mother indicated in Mary’s death certificate was Jemima, not Mary, and Painter perhaps misremembered “Jemima” for “Jane.”

Joseph Allen has not been located after 1850. Likewise, Wilbur and Henry Allen have not been identified.

The captioned San Diego photograph of “Matilda Alan[,] Mattie Dodson” bolsters independent sources. Matilda Allen supposedly married Nelson Highland Dodson May 1870 in Sacramento.16 Matilda, wife of N. H. Dodson, died 9 December 1874 in San Diego.17No marriage or census record was found.

Leah Margaret Allen, wife of George Richardson Smith, was born at Dublin, Indiana, about 3 December 1835 (calculated from age at death) to Virginia-born Joseph Allen and New York native, Jennie Van Vleit.18 Barring the father’s birthplace, the direct evidence of Leah’s Dublin birthplace and Van Vleit mother supports indirect evidence from independent sources.

The sum of the evidence supports the hypothesis that Joseph Allen of Dublin, Indiana, was Mary Alden Allen’s father. New knowledge suggests that Jennie Van Vleit, mother of Leah Margaret Allen, was the same person as Jemima Van Vleet, wife of Joseph A. Allen and sister to Jane Van Vliet, wife of Sewell Hull. Most likely Mary Alden Allen, Leah Margaret Allen, and Matilda J. Allen (and possibly Henry Allen and Wilbur Allen) were children of Joseph A. Allen and Jemima Van Vleet.

Correlating evidence from a census, an obituary, and a scrapbook identified connections and contradictions and created new knowledge, which was tested against data items from other, independent sources. In pursuit of supporting or rejecting hypotheses we build the strongest cases by continually analyzing and correlating new knowledge against the old.


1 The author thanks Donn Devine, CG, CGL, Kay Freilich, CG, CGL, FNGS, and Thomas W. Jones, PhD, CG, CGL, FASG, FNGS, FUGA, for editorial comments, and Laura DeGrazia, CG, Donn Devine, Kay Freilich, Alison Hare, CG, and Thomas W. Jones for discussions that shaped this article. Although records exhibit variant spellings, the author uses “Allen” and “Van Vleet” unless quoting a source.
2 Board for Certification of Genealogists, The BCG Genealogical Standards Manual (Orem, Utah: Ancestry, 2000), 8, Standard 20. Also, ibid., 1, the Genealogical Proof Standard, bullet (d).
3 Missouri State Board of Health, death certificate file no. 2128, certificate no. 12937 (1920), Mrs. Mary A. Sutton; Missouri State Board of Health, Jefferson City.
4 Fred Ellsworth, “My Heart Maketh a Cheerful Countenance: Tribute to a Pioneer Woman Who Has Passed Beyond,” undated clipping from unidentified newspaper; Edna Parry and Norma Painter, scrapbook begun in the 1920s; photocopies, author’ files. Edna was Peter DeGarmo Sutton and Mary Alden (Allen) Sutton’s youngest child. Edna’s daughter, Norma, maintained and continued the scrapbook.
5 Norma Painter, caption for Jemima Hull, studio photograph, trimmed to approximately 4 ½” x 3 ¼”; Parry and Painter, scrapbook. Cited photographs identify no photographer or studio unless through a caption.
6 1840 U.S. census, Dublin township, Wayne Co., Ind., pop. sch., p. 321, line 8, Joseph Allen; NARA microfilm M704, roll 98.
7 1840 U.S. census, [no twp.], LaPorte Co., Ind., pop. sch., p. 126, line 15, Henry S. Allen; NARA microfilm M704, roll 85.
8 1850 U.S. census, Berrien Co., Mich., pop. sch., Division 10, p. 136v, dwell. 49, family 49, Sewell Hull; NARA microfilm M432, roll 346.
9 Ibid., p. 134v, dwell. 24, fam. 24, Joseph Allen.
10 1860 U.S. census, Cass Co., Mich., pop. sch., Jefferson Twp., p. 169, dwell. 1302, fam. 1328, Peter Sutton; NARA microfilm M653, roll 541. Also, Ibid, p. 170, dwell. 1311, fam. 1337, Sewell Hull. Birthplace entry is ambiguous.
11 1870 U.S. census, Atchison Co., Kans., pop. sch., Shannon Twp., p. 336v, p. 4, dwell. 17, fam. 17, “Suel” Hull; NARA microfilm M593, roll 428. Also, ibid., p. 432v, p. 16, dwell. 97, fam. 97, “P. D. Sutton.”
12 Pioneer Collections, Report of the Pioneer Society of the State of Michigan (1881; reprint, Lansing: Wynkoop Hallenbeck Crawford Co., 1906), 4:222 (meeting), 228 (memorial).
13 1840 U.S. census, Bertrand Twp., Berrien Co., Mich., pop. sch., pop. sch., p. 22, Jane Van Vleet; NARA microfilm M704, roll 203.
14 Jackson Co., Mo., probate case file no. 54378, William Van Vleet Sutton (1943), appointment of Edith M. Haas, Admx., 4 June 1944; Probate Court Clerk, Kansas City.
15 Fayette Co., Ind., Marriage Book B:206, for Allen−Van Vleet; Clerk of the Circuit Court and Probate Office, Connersville.
16 Thompson P. Ege, Dodson Genealogy 1600−1907 (Philadelphia: Deemer & Jaisohn, 1908), 71.
17 San Diego Union, San Diego, Calif., 10 December 1874, p. 3, col. 2.
18 Orange County, Calif., death certificate, local registered no. 159, state index no. 76 (1919), Leah Margaret Smith; Clerk’s Office, Santa Ana. Death entered in space for birth. Also, “Mother of Senator Smith Passes to Final Reward,” Register, Santa Ana, Calif., 22 September 1919, p. 1, cols. 2–3.


Stefani Evans, CG

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