Week 15 – #52Ancestors

Merriam-Webster defines solitude as “the quality or state of being alone or remote from society.”[1] Elizabeth Forrester, my paternal great-grandaunt is the closest ancestral relative I have who fits this description.

Elizabeth was born 19 March 1837 in North Carolina to William and Nancy (Greer) Forrester. Elizabeth had nine (9) children who lived to adulthood.

A marriage license was issued to Elizabeth and William Main on 6 October 1860 (Elizabeth would have been twenty-three.) However, Elizabeth and William are never found on any census record living together.

In 1870, she was enumerated under the name Elizabeth Forrester, and all of her children are reported with the Forrester surname.

In 1880, the household was using the Main surname, and Elizabeth was reported as being a widow. Her youngest child was 9 months old.

In 1900, Elizabeth was back to using Forrester, and was reported as being a widow.

Family lore is full of assumptions as to the father of Elizabeth’s children and her relationship with William Main. And despite what may have happened in the years be census enumerations, Elizabeth was living as the sole adult in the household at those times.

What I find most interesting is that it appears she raised nine children by herself, for the most part. On census records, she enumerated living near family members, but given that this is Johnson County, Tennessee, “near” could be a mile or more!

Despite social constructs, even back then, I am finding many women who, for whatever reason, never married and yet raised several children on their own (my own grandmother included!). So while not living entirely in solitude, there is the aspect of being the only adult in the household who is responsible for absolutely everything. Let’s face it, something as simple as making dinner – for nine children! – wasn’t as simple as throwing something in the crock pot or the microwave. Going into town for household supplies likely would have taken most of the day.

Having nine children doesn’t permit the standard definition of solitude, but I can guarantee that Elizabeth enjoyed those precious moments of peace and quiet when all of the children were away from the house!

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