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  • Writer's pictureTheFormidableGenealogist


On the 1870 federal census, the family of William and Amanda Baldwin are enumerated in Payson Township, Adams County, Illinois. The eldest child living in their household this year is a 14-year-old girl, whose name has been transcribed and recorded in many, many places as Mulepie. There are a lot of unique names in the world. There are some unique names just among the other children of this household. [Hezekiah and Almina, I am talking to you.] But Mulepie?

I can see where a person would have some difficulty discerning the name. Tracing the strokes of the name on that census entry could be Malissa, with one S in the old style of the double-S. To confirm, on the 1860 census entry for the family is Malissa. She’s four years old and the second-eldest child after Mary. At her October 1875 marriage to William Riley Gipson, her full name is recorded as Elizabeth M. Baldwin.

Certainly there will be many errors in my own work. And the “proper spelling” of any name cannot be a deal-breaker in genealogy. Mulepie, however, represents a common practice—accepting someone else’s information without carefully and critically looking at the original source and the factors around it. You don’t know whether the information presented by anyone is accurate—even the information I’m presenting here—unless you access the sources yourself. Even a quick web search reveals that not even the Internet knows what the word Mulepie is. The problem is less that this person is associated with a silly name, and more that the inaccuracy has rendered her lost. I looked very long and intently at Malissa and her siblings to try to find her sister, my 2nd great grandmother Ella Baldwin Simpson. There are many trees that include Malissa Baldwin and several that include Elizabeth M. Baldwin Gipson, but I have seen none that connect her as the same person. It must be a roadblock for people trying to find their ancestors.

Elizabeth M. Baldwin was Malissa, the daughter of William Riley Baldwin and Amanda M. Baugher. It may be more than a coincidence that Malissa’s father and husband had the same first and middle names. Malissa Baldwin’s and William Riley Gipson’s fathers were both associated with Indiana. I find no record of William Riley Baldwin or Amanda Baldwin by 1880. That year, Malissa is married and caring for her youngest sister Carrie, born around 1874. Her sister Almina (who later used the name Ella) was age 11 in 1880 and living with William Riley Gipson’s parents.

William Riley Baldwin and Amanda Baugher Baldwin encountered a period of difficulty around 1874, according to court records. Their children were sent to various locations throughout Illinois. There may have been a strong reason that the children Malissa, Ella, and Carrie ended up over 200 miles from their home in Adams County, Illinois, with the Gipsons in Perry County.

I keep searching for it.

The 1870 census of Payson, Adams County, Illinois. The household of William and Amanda Baldwin is near that of Amanda's sister Sarah Sherman and their brother John Baugher.


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