The Case of the Unfortunate Emeline Church

I’ve been consistently researching my family history for close to 17 years.  Over that time certain ancestors captured my attention, and I have a difficult time putting them aside.  We are all interested in discovering someone of note in our pedigree, but I find the ones that had a bumpy course in life have story worth finding as well.  The famous ancestors will have reams of historic tidbits to pull; their deeds are very well documented, perhaps even exaggerated.  The humble folks, those that struggled to make their way deserve their due too, but the search can be very problematical.  I’d like to take this time to introduce Emeline Church my paternal third great-grandmother, her story is by no means complete, but this is it as it stands today.

Although it was in the beginning of my interest in genealogy by the time I had decided to research my maiden name my grandfather, John King was 10 years gone and his health had been failing for years before that.  I had fond memories of him but I didn’t know much about his family.  When I was a little girl I would visit my grandparents in Stonington Connecticut, he and I would bring a small shovel and go for long walks.  I recall him telling me his own father sold antiques, and that “in the old days” any trash that didn’t burn easily often would be buried.  We would go to spots his father had brought him and dig for old china and bottles.  When my grandfather passed away I met his younger brother Leonard, who looked just like my grandfather before life got the better of him.  That pretty much was the extent of my knowledge of his family.  My grandmother didn’t know much either; John King’s father had died years before she and my grandfather met but she did recall he was an antique dealer.  She is not one to focus on the past, but provided what she could; his mother was named Anna Lee, he was born and raised in Norwich (Connecticut), and that the family was German. I had a little information to work with but it was sketchy at best.  I prepared a bit by looking for German variations of “King” so that I could find all possible spellings of his surname, and to see what research had already been done for the KING surname in Norwich.  I did see that there was a King family that was connected to Benedict Arnold, but the likelihood that we were related was slim. Luckily I do love a puzzle.

I started with what I knew about my grandfather, and built upon that very small foundation. Living in New Jersey and he being from Connecticut would be a bit of a challenge.  This was about 1996 before the Internet was really a genealogical tool that it is today.  I worked, and had two small children so time was limited.  I began with what I could do remotely and accessed the social security death index.  I found my grandfather, and ordered a copy of his application for a Social Security card (SS5 form*).  On this document he wrote his parents were Charles James King and Anna Lee, and that he was born November 1915, in Norwich Connecticut. It also noted he was employed by Norwich Golf Club.  Analyzing the facts gleaned from this form I recalled a family friend mentioning John was an excellent golfer in his youth.  Lee seemed a bit odd for a German surname, but not thinking too hard about it I documented and moved along.  Since my grandfather entered this in his own hand, I had no reason to doubt any of it.  Next I had to get the census records for his hometown.  This was prior to the availability of subscription based census records so I had to locate a repository that held the Connecticut Federal Census.  On one my visits to my grandmother I went to Otis library in Connecticut, and discovered not only the census but also a local directory.  I pulled all occurrences of KING in Norwich back to 1850, with 1920 being the most recent available.  I focused on the census’ that had Charles as the head of household, and Anna as wife, which was 1910, and 1920 the latter having a John L King age three.  My grandfather’s age seemed a bit off in some of the census, but I felt since he completed the social security application himself that it would be the more valid date.  I compiled all the entries for both the Census and the directories and discovered that my grandfather appeared to be the second youngest of many siblings.  His father was an antique dealer in Norwich for decades, and earlier he was a laborer.

With the birth date from my grandfather’s SS5 card I could obtain his official birth record.  In Connecticut each town clerk has the vital records, you must request from the town, so you need to know the town of the event and the date.  There is an additional requirement you must be a registered member of a CT genealogical society to obtain a copy.  I joined a society and sent my request for John King’s birth record to Ms. Muldoon at the Norwich city office.  I received my check back with a note that my grandfather was not in her books for that date, or thereabouts.  This was troubling and I was a bit disappointed, it seemed his family truly stayed in Norwich, and I had a date, where could the record be located?  Years later I would order the Norwich vital records on microfilm from LDS only to discover that my grandfather had inaccuracies on his SS5 form.  He was born John Leonard King, but two years later a younger brother came along and given the name Leonard.  Sometime between the 1920 Census and his SS5 application my grandfather started using James as a middle name.  He also had his birth year 2 years earlier, and shortened his mother’s name from Wohlleben to Lee.  Perhaps he needed to be 21 to work at the golf course, and it is quite possible he didn’t know his mom’s surname; my grandmother also thought his mother’s last name was “Lee”.  John’s SS5 application was also around WWII, and her German surname may have been Americanized for obvious reasons.  Interestingly this was an instance where the census proved correct, and the “first hand knowledge” did not.

Early in my research I had looked into cemeteries that were in operation in Norwich during Charles King’s approximate death date.  None of the online lists mentioned Charles King, but the were also very incomplete. The Norwich directory of 1928 has Charles King (Annie ) listed, but in 1929 Annie (wid) appears at the same address.  Directories were usually a year or so behind, so this would indicate Charles probably died in 1928 or earlier.  I decided to try my luck at the Yantic cemetery in Norwich, and after about an hour located his gravestone.  I now had Charles’s death date and could order this record from the clerk.  Unfortunately being a beginner, with my family in tow I did not think to record the other headstones around his but there were a few, so I do need to make a trip back one of these years.  Charles King’s death certificate indicated his parents were Joseph W. King, and Eliza Hyde both of Norwich.  With Charles birth date from this certificate I was able to locate the birth record as well, which had one differing fact that Eliza was from Hartford.  This perhaps is the more accurate than Charles’s death record, as it was more than likely provided by herself or her husband. I now have two more ancestors to research, and they both seem to be born in Connecticut.

Joseph King was not as easy to locate.  The Norwich town records appear very orderly; no missing volumes on the LDS films, but the only entries I find for Joseph are the birth and death of Charles James King, where he is listed as the father.  He is listed in several census records and quite a few years on the Norwich City directory.  He seems to fall off both after 1920, giving me a window to search for a death certificate.  I ordered the vital record films for Norwich from the LDS again and no birth, marriage, or death records appear in Norwich.  I also searched the surrounding towns of Franklin, Preston, and Montville with no success.  It was at this point I decided it would be best to look at the Norwich town hall in person.  Since I couldn’t get there quickly I hired a professional genealogist.  She opted to go to Hartford and work at the state archives and library.  I waited patiently for her response, hoping she would locate Joseph’s death certificate, or the marriage record for he and Eliza.  I have a strong theory on Joseph’s parents were and I am hoping a vital record will confirm this easily.

The search to find Joseph’s mother and prove the relationship has been a bit difficult, although I feel confident at my conclusion, it’s a case I am still building.  On the 1860 Norwich Census I found a Joseph King age 2 living with an Emily King 45, and Harriet King 1, in what appears to be a poor house or some other institution.  The list is not in alphabetical order, but the three are one right after another and listed as paupers, there are several other families that seem to be recorded in this manner as well.  Although the 1860 census does not indicate relationships this points strongly to a mother and her two children; same surname, the order in which they appear on the census Emily, Joseph, and finally the youngest Harriet, and the three are listed as paupers, while the entries below and above indicate insane.  This is the only occurrence in Norwich for Emeline/Emily King or Joseph King, and there is only one Emeline King listed in the city directory in the years before and after.  There is a strong indication that this may be my Joseph King, his mother, and sister.  The age is in the correct range, however it’s not enough, it doesn’t establish a family relationship between the three, or that they are “my” Kings.  As stated earlier I know Charles J King had a father named Joseph King, whom we think was born in Norwich Connecticut.  The only insight we had into the parents of Joseph was the 1900 Census where it was listed that his father was born in France, and spoke French, and his mother was born in Connecticut, and spoke English.  Contrary to the 1880 census, but to me it’s an important entry.  On a page where almost every place of birth has Connecticut listed, this is a deliberate entry, written more neatly, that stands out.  Could Joseph’s father have been from France?  Family lore had them being German, but anything could be possible at this point.  I then turn to the vital records again.  Up to now my family’s marriages haven’t made it to town hall so I’m not too confident.

I located every King marriage in Norwich during 10 year span and find 3 possible occurrences.  I research all three using census, directories, and Norwich vital records and I can easily eliminate two on what I find.  I am left with one potential marriage; in the births marriages, and deaths book 7 I find John King born in France and Emeline Cranston born in Norwich were married on July 1, 1856.  The dates are in line with the Emily King found in the poor house 4 years and, two children in later.  John King is from France according to the marriage entry; in 1900 Joseph W. King indicates that his father was born in France.  I go to the directory during this time period and there is only one John King appearing for one year, it states he is a physician.  Although this is all considered indirect evidence, the accumulation of facts, and the elimination of other people in Norwich leads me to conclude that this couple was probably the parents of my Joseph W. King and I should research further.  Because Emeline is in an almshouse shortly after her marriage to John King, I decided to search for his death record.  Harriet the youngest child was 1 on the 1860 census, so I start with 1858 and go through until 1861, no death record.  I expand my search to later and early as 1856, still no sign of a death of John King.  I searched a Norwich newspaper during those years no death announcement.  I guess it is possible that he deserted the family, perhaps he wasn’t, a physician but rather a sailor a common profession in Norwich.  It’s been many years of searching and I have not located the fate of John King, so taking the path of least resistance I turned my attention to Emeline Cranston.

Back to the Norwich vital records and I look for a birth of Emeline Cranston, and a death for Emeline King.  Not a single entry.  The unfortunate woman had two young children, possibly deserted by her husband, and was a ward of the town’s poor house, I really wanted to get her story.  Where was her family? What happened to her husband?  Did her lot in life improve after 1860?  With the name Cranston, and Rhode Island not being too far, I checked some records to see if Emily could have been from that family, but nothing jumped out. She languished on my family tree until I subscribed to  A quick census search to locate her prior to her marriage to John King and I find an Emeline Cranston living with two children Charles and Annie Cranston on the 1850 Census.  Could this be the Emeline Cranston that married John King in 1856? If so where were Charles and Annie in 1860?  They would have been 17, and 15 years of age.   I accepted that there was a possibility that Emeline Cranston, and Emeline King was one in the same.  Validating this theory would take a bit of time which is at a premium right now, my twins sport schedule, and work is more demanding than ever, Emeline doesn’t get much of my attention.

Years pass, the children are seniors and I find myself looking at a very empty nest, and I start taking on some clients.  I have some success with Google Books with one case, so I try it on some of my brick walls. I stumble upon, Vital Records of Connecticut Series I, Town II Part II Vital Records of Norwich 1659-1848, and the following entry,  “ This may Certify that I lawfully joined together in marriage Mr Charles Cranston of Norwich and Mifs Emeline Church of Montville  this 2Ist day of August AD 1842 Ent by Othniel Gager Asa Roath Town Clerk Justice of the Peace.”

While I am pretty comfortable that Charles is the first husband of Emeline King, I still need more proof.  From this published book it’s very   easy to locate the original marriage entry in the Norwich vital records.  It’s exactly as was published in the book that I found on Google.  To further solidify the link I need to also prove that Charles died before Emeline Cranston married John King in 1856.  I look for Charles death record between 1848 and 1850, I find him deceased in November 1848 of consumption.   Emeline was widowed well before her marriage to John King.  Google books also opened up another door; the publication was A Modern History of New London County Connecticut and an entry on page 41, several generations of the CHURCH family, their military service and most importantly a mention of Emeline’s two marriages.  In this book it is George Cranston instead of Charles, but another similar book has Charles Cranston mentioned.  I feel confident enough to update my family tree and with Emeline’s surname as Church.  Online I find a descendent of Annie Cranston, Emeline’s second daughter from her first marriage. That cousin has a bible record indicating Emeline died in 1877.  I have not been able to locate a death record, which is odd indeed, but perhaps I am not looking in the right spot.

The professional genealogist I contracted to conduct an in-person search for the death record of Joseph King or the marriage of Eliza Hyde and Joseph King has done her magic. I was hoping to find a document stating the name of Joseph’s parents.  Right now the weakest link is that between Joseph King and Emeline Church.  They are on the census together in 1860, and though they are grouped, as a family would be, that year relationship was not collected.  Joseph indicated that his father was French in the 1900 census, and Emeline’s second husband, John King was also born in France.  There are only so many entries of Kings in Norwich, and pretty much I’ve narrowed it down to these individuals by researching any other occurrence of these names and eliminating them.  Finally a small possible link Joseph names his first-born son, “Charles”, the same name as Emeline’s eldest son. I receive an email from Betsy the genealogist that she found three Joseph Kings, but none of them passed away in Norwich.  I ask her to please pull them anyway, as it could possibly belong to my family tree.  I receive a follow-up and she has located the death records of both my second great grandparents.  Eliza (Hyde) King died in Norwich, before Joseph and there was a very long obituary.  In it mentions her parent’s names, but more importantly that Joseph was a war veteran and living in a soldier’s home in Darien Ct.   I never would have looked there for his record so far from the Norwich area.  Sometimes it really is beneficial to hire someone to take a second look, if only to have someone think outside of your own assumptions.  She sent a copy of Joseph’s death certificate, and of course no mention of parents, not surprising the person providing the information was from the Soldier’s Home…. Eliza’s obituary mentioned Joseph was a civil war soldier not likely since he would have been a small child; perhaps that assumption was made because he was in a soldier’s home.  The genealogist found a transcription of Joseph’s grave in the Hale Headstone collection, and he was a veteran of the Spanish-American war.  His company and unit indicated on the stone itself. The genealogist discovered some great information for me to follow-up on, but not one fact strengthening the relationship between Emeline and Joseph.

I still don’t know as much about Emeline as I would like.  Interestingly she,  Joseph King, and Harriet King are not indexed in the 1870 census.  I had done a line-by-line search for Emeline in Norwich, with no hits.  They could have been missed, or all lived elsewhere.  Joseph reappears in the Norwich city directory in 1878, the year after her death.  I also checked with the CHURCH’s in Montville, and no sign of them there in the 1870 census.

I have many questions, some of which I may never find the answer.  Emeline’s father Erastus died after she did, and it didn’t appear he was destitute, did her family help her in any way? Why was her first marriage to Charles Cranston performed by a Justice of the Peace, and her second a Reverend?  What happened to her husband John King? Where is she buried, and what did she die from?  I can’t imagine in Connecticut in 1877 her death would not have been recorded in the vital records.

While it appears as if I hit a bit of a dead end I still have several options.  I can try the collections at the Connecticut state library myself and see if Emeline turns up anywhere else. I can obtain Joseph’s military pension file, which could have genealogical data.  The year he served his file should be with the Veteran’s Administration, but I probably have to put a request through the national archives first, wait for the rejection and then send that rejection to the VA.  The fine people of Norwich had more than one poor house, I can see if a manuscript collection exists with data on residents.  I can also find the church Emeline worshipped at and see if there are any baptismal or other records.  In 1856 Reverend C.S. Weaver officiated the marriage between Emeline and John King.  I can try to track down where the church records exist.  Churches like people have their own genealogy of sorts.  Sometimes congregations broke off from others, ministers may have served multiple churches, and the records will reside in what would be considered their “home” church. Many religions also keep old records in regional repositories with research rooms.  Reverend Weaver appears to be Baptist and also worked in more than one place, so it will be a bit of work to track the records down, if they exist at all.  The Church family in Montville likely belonged to the Congregational church, if I find their church I can perhaps find the minutes, and it might give some insight into the family and Emeline’s early life.  Finally though I felt it was unlikely I would find much I should at least look into probate and land records.  Another path is Harriet King, see if I can find her vital records, if she married and see if there is something that will help there, perhaps she will have an obituary, it appears my Joseph did not.  So while I have a bit of a brick wall, there are still options open.

The family lore proved helpful in isolating Charles’s records, in particular multiple references to antique dealer.  There was more than one Charles J King in the directories and census throughout this time period, but only one with that occupation.  The German family story, seemed only be related to Anna, the mother of John King, my grandfather as that was where she was born.  From what I have gathered about the family to date Emeline Church began life in Montville, New London County, Connecticut 1822 the daughter of Erastus Church and Nancy Ford.  She is one of eleven known children, and her mother passed on in 1826, when Emeline was four.  She was widowed twice and a ward of the Norwich poor house. It appears as if her older children were forced to fend for themselves at a young age. Her lot in life couldn’t have been easy, and I really want to learn the rest of her story.

*Note as of this writing, the availability of the SS5 data and the social security death index is undergoing drastic changes and will be limited in the future.

Sources, Social Security Death Index (Online publication – Provo, UT, USA: Operations Inc, 2010.Original data – Social Security Administration. Social Security Death Index, Master File. Social Security Administration.Original data: Social Security Administration. Social Security D),,, Number: 040-14-1186; Issue State: Connecticut; Issue Date: Before 1951. Birth date: 23 Nov 1916 Birth place: Death date: Oct 1986Death place: Pawcatuck, New London, Connecticut, United States of America, 1850 United States Federal Census (Online publication – Provo, UT, Operations, Inc., 2009. Images reproduced by FamilySearch. .Original data -Seventh Census of the United States, 1850; (National Archives Microfilm Publication M432,1009 rolls); Records of the Bureau of th),,, Year:1850; Census Place: Norwich, New London, Connecticut; Roll: M432_48; Page: 159B;Image:. Birth date: abt 1822Birth place: ConnecticutResidence date: 1850Residenceplace: Norwich, New London, Connecticut., 1860 United States Federal Census (Online publication – Provo, UT, Operations, Inc., 2009. Images reproduced by FamilySearch. .Original data -1860 U.S. census, population schedule. NARA microfilm publication M653, 1,438 rolls.Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Recor),,,Year: 1860; Census Place: Norwich, New London, Connecticut; Roll: ; Page: ; Image:. Birthdate: abt 1858Birth place: ConnecticutResidence date: 1860Residence place: Norwich,New London, Connecticut, United States. and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1880 United States Federal Census (Online publication – Provo, UT, USA: The Generations Network, Inc., 2005. 1880 U.S. Census Index provided by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints ©Copyright 1999 Intellectual Reserve, Inc. All rights reserved. All use is subject to the limited),,, Year: 1880; Census Place: Norwich, New London, Connecticut; Roll: T9_107; Family History Film: 1254107; Page: 141.4000; EnumerationDistrict: 92; Image: 0567. Birth date: abt 1879Birth place: ConnecticutResidence date:1880Residence place: Norwich, New London, Connecticut, United States., 1900 United States Federal Census (Online publication – Provo, UT, Operations Inc, 2004.Original data – United States of America, Bureau of the Census. Twelfth Census of the United States, 1900. Washington, D.C.: National Archivesand Records Administration, 1900. T623, 18),,,Year: 1900; Census Place: Preston, New London, Connecticut; Roll: T623_150; Page: 8B; Enumeration District: 484. Birth date: Jun 1878Birth place: ConnecticutResidence date:1900Residence place: Preston, New London, Connecticut, 1910 United States Federal Census (Online publication – Provo, UT, USA: Operations Inc, 2006.Original data – Thirteenth Census of the United States,

1910 (NARA microfilm publication T624, 1,178 rolls). Records of the Bureau of the Census, Record Group 29. National Archives, Was),,, Year: 1910; Census Place: Norwich, New London, Connecticut; Roll: ; Page: ; Enumeration District: ; Image:. Birth date: 1878Birth place: ConnecticutResidence date: 1910Residence place: Norwich, New London, Connecticut, 1920 United States Federal Census (Online publication – Provo, UT, USA: The Generations Network, Inc., 2005. For details on the contents of the film numbers, visit the following NARA web page: NARA. Note: Enumeration Districts 819-839 on roll 323 (Chicago City.Original data – United States),,, Year: 1920; Census Place: Norwich, New London, Connecticut; Roll: T625_197; Page: 16A; Enumeration District: 277; Image:. Birth date: abt 1917Birth place: ConnecticutResidence date: 1920Residence place: Norwich, New London, Connecticut.

Stedman’s Directory of the City and Town of Norwich and Part of Preston Connecticut, Otis Library, Norwich Connecticut, Multiple years.

Town of Norwich, Records of Births in the Town of Norwich 1878 (Official Vital Records town of Norwich), Jesus Christ Church of Latter day saints, School House rd

Town of Norwich Vital Records, Births Marriages and Death, Jesus Christ Church of Latter day Saints, Clinton, NJ 08869, Microfilm of original records 1311437.

Bureau of Vital Statistics, Medical Certificate of Death Charles J King (Connecticut State Department of Health), Collection of Elizabeth Pellicane, private residence, 557. State of Connecticut, Death Certificate Joseph W. King (Connecticut State Department of Health), The State Vital Records Office at the Connecticut Department of Public Health, Hartford CT, Transcription. Connecticut Department of Health, Death Certificate Eliza King (Bureau of Vital Statistics), The State Vital Records Office at the Connecticut Department of Public Health, Hartford CT, Transcription.

Obituary Eliza Hyde King (Norwich Bulletin), State Library Hartford Connecticut, Page 5 Column 6.

Clerk of Norwich Connecticut, Town of Norwich Births Marriages and Deaths boo IX (Norwich New London Connecticut, City of Norwich, New London, Connecticut), Jesus Christ Church of Latter day saints, School House rd Clinton, NJ 08869, Book 7 page 87.

Benjamin Tinkham Marshall, A Modern history of New London County, Connecticut A Modern history of New London County, Connecticut A Modern History of New London County, Connecticut (New York, NYC, Lewis Historical Publishing Company, 1922),,, Erastus Church, son of Peleg Jr and Mary (Leach) Church was born April 6, 1792. He married (first) Nancy Ford, daughter of John Ford. and had children:4. Emeline born Sept 20, 1822 and married (first) George Cranston * (Second) Dr. King of Norwich. Note it was really Charles Cranston see marriage record and census data Second note – John King was listed in the directory as a physician. Digital Image Also available on

Email referring to Bible record, Death information of Eliza Church (Connecticut, private individual),,, Personal information…Jul 9 10:49 PM GMT, History of Montville, Connecticut : formerly the north parish of New Londonfrom 1640 to 1896 (Online publication – Provo, UT: The Generations Network, Inc.,2005.Original data – Baker, Henry A.. History of Montville, Connecticut : formerly the north parish of New London from 1640 to 1896. Hartford, Conn.: Press of the Case, Lockwood & Brainard Co.),,, Residence date: 1640-1896Residence place: New London, Connecticut, USA. Digital Image Also available on

Vital records of Norwich, 1659-1848, Volume 2‬ By Norwich (Conn.), General Society of Colonial Wars (U.S.). Connecticut,, viewed January 201.

Charles R Hale, Connecticut Headstone Inscriptions (Connecticut USA, Charles R Hale Collection), Connecticut State Library, Hartford Connecticut, #405-2 Page 62 Darien. King, Joseph W Spanish American War Co. C 3rd CVI died Nov. 27. 1929 age 72 years.




Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top