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  • Writer's pictureTheFormidableGenealogist


Updated: Sep 30, 2018

There were three mysteries I wanted to solve when I picked up my mother’s genealogy notebooks from the 1970s. They all involved finding the families of women who seemed to not exist before their wedding days in 1885, 1849, and 1839. I’ve been able to reconnect two of the women—in two differently sad stories—to the lost little daughters they had been. The third unfinished story is Rebecca.

Rebecca E. Shultz married Martin Arment in Vermilion County, Illinois, in June 1849. Martin’s family had come from North Carolina. Census records agree that Rebecca was born in Virginia; among records regarding her children, Virginia is usually recorded as her place of birth, with Kentucky a frequent variant. Like most of my family of early pioneers, she seems to have arrived in a geographic location in its formative American years, when record keeping was not as well established or as feasible as in some other places in the country.

Many people are looking for Rebecca. She was the mother of 14 children—the most of any one mother in my family tree—and the number of her descendants must be staggering. The birthdate circulating online for her is unsourced. There are no records for any people with the same surname or later associates in the geographic area in Virginia where she is said to have been born. When she is associated with parents, she’s been shoe-horned into the family for lack of any other evidence about her. DNA has connected those of us looking for her, but it hasn’t yet led me to anyone further back than her.

My best theory is that she had a brother a couple of years younger than she was: George W. Shultz, who died in Riverside, California, in 1906. He married Mary Powell in Christian Co., Illinois, in 1861. Rebecca and Martin Arment were also living in Christian Co. in the 1860s, and Mary Powell appears to have been a daughter of Martin Arment’s sister Anna--whose family lived two census households from George Shultz in 1860. Rebecca Shultz Arment and her husband's niece Mary Powell were only about 7 years apart in age. Furthermore, George Shultz is also living in Vermilion Co., Illinois, in 1850, a year after Rebecca Shultz and Martin Arment were married in the same tiny county. The circumstantial evidence is strong, but that’s as far as I can get with any confidence to Rebecca’s family.

I revisit my research on Rebecca a couple of times each year, until I get frustrated and shelve it again. I looked at her profile last week and noticed her death date, making note that it was just a few days before the 130th anniversary of Rebecca’s death on April 19, 1888. The two-sentence notice of the death and burial of Mrs. Martin Arment at Novelty, Missouri, had been published in local paper the following week but contained no information of her life, even her first name.

Maybe my dusting off Rebecca’s research on an arbitrarily-round-numbered-anniversary of her death would really emphasize to the cosmos how much I would like to find her and there has never been a better time to send me a clue. [Lightning struck once in this manner, and I am receptive to a second jolt.]

Rebecca’s third daughter Mary Catherine Arment was born in Christian County, Illinois, around 1862. The family had moved to Salt River Township, Knox County, Missouri, before 1870. Mary Catherine Arment married Daniel Andrew Rhoads around 1880. They were my second-great-grandparents; their youngest child Alma, born in 1903, was my great-grandmother. Alma, whom we called “Granny,” lived until she was 90 and I was 20. She would not have known her own grandmother, Rebecca, who had died about 15 years before Alma’s birth.

Friends, neighbors, and associates of Rebecca and her husband include families named Steidley (in particular), Hotchkiss, Warner, Lyman, Raney, Hunsaker, Sconce, and Walker. They’ve helped me formulate theories, and I continue to learn more about them to see if the information reveals a greater connection between them and the Arments.

Until then I will keep searching for Rebecca, the mother of 14, long disconnected from her own childhood.

Photo: Daniel Andrew Rhoades and his wife Mary Catherine Arment Rhoades. He died in 1924 and she in 1936.

Photo: Daniel and Mary Catherine's youngest child Alma.


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