Monday, February 6, 2012

Matrilineal Monday ~ Esther Abigail Whitman

Esther Abigail Whitman was the wife of James Pyle, the founder of James Pyle & Sons. I have previously shared James Pyle's obituary, which mentions that he is survived by a widow, but doesn't name her.

Much of my information about my Pyle ancestors comes from a privately published book, Pyle, Smith and Allied Family Histories, privately published in 1951. Unfortunately, the primary source information is lacking, so I have to use this as a resource to point myself in the direction of primary sources.

Great great grandmother Esther was the oldest of nine children, born on February 2, 1828, in Guysborough County, Nova Scotia to Thomas Cutler Whitman and Diana Morgan. I believe that the following passenger list record for Esther Whitman from Nova Scotia to Boston could be my great great grandmother.

Boston Passenger and Crew Lists, 1820-1943. From Pictou, Nova Scotia to Boston, Massachusetts, on the Schooner Chedebuck, arriving Boston June 28, 1849. Record for Esther Whitman.

Esther Whitman is 21, making her birthdate in 1828. Her occupation is Dressmaker. She is a native of N[ova] Scotia, and intends to become an inhabitant of the U[nited] States. None of the others listed on this passenger list are Whitmans, so I can only surmise that this is her.  (Much of the rest of her family immigrated to New York in 1857.)

According to the Pyle book, Esther Abigail Whitman married James Pyle on August 16, 1853, in New York City. They had four children:
  1. Great grandfather, James Tolman Pyle (9 February 1855 - 8 February 1912), who married Frances Adelaide McAlpin
  2. William Scott Pyle (6 April 1856 - 1 January 1906)
  3. Charles Sumner Pyle (1858 - 1 December 1873)
  4. Sara Carter Pyle (9 February 1863 - 14 May 1949)
Newly found in February 2012: James and Esther's gravestones, which show there were three more daughters who died in infancy.

Esther became a widow at age 71 when her husband died on January 20, 1900. You can see her in census records in 1860, 1870, and 1880, with her husband and family here.

Later census records are interesting.

In the 1900 U.S. Federal Census (taken June 2, 1900), Esther is living at 215 West 45th Street (the home at which her husband had died five months before and where they had lived for almost 20 years). However, it is her sister, Ella Bruce who is listed as Head of Household., database online. Year: 1900; Census Place: Manhattan, New York, New York;
Roll: T623_1113; Page: 2B; Enumeration District: 724. Record for Ella Bruce (and Esther Pyle).
Ella M. Bruce, born October 1835, is the Head of Household with an occupation of Boarding House Keeper. The "R" in the far right column indicates that she rents the house. The census indicates that Ella is mother of five children, but only one is living.

Esther Pyle, Sister, is the next name at this address. Her information is inaccurate, based on other sources. This census indicates that she was born in June 1823 and that she is mother of two children, both living. However, I know she is mother of (at least) four children with three still living, and I believe that she was born in 1828. Both of these women were born in Canada.

Other family members in the house include two granddaughters of Ella's, Marie and Kathryn Miller. In addition to four boarders, two servants, and a cook, is Harriet Bliss, another (married) sister, born in January 1852.

It certainly is puzzling to me as to why James Pyle's sister-in-law (Ella Bruce) is considered head of the household instead of his widow. And is their home now a boarding house, where Ella and Esther are taking in boarders to make ends meet? Considering how financially successful James Pyle was, this doesn't make sense to me. Perhaps it took time to settle the estate. (Note to self - need to do probate research in New York.)


By the time of the 1910 U.S. Federal Census (and New York City Directory), Esther has moved to 200 West 57th Street., database online. Year: 1910; Census Place: Manhattan, New York, New York;
Roll: T624_1045; Page: 8A; Enumeration District: 1287. Record for Esther Pyle.
Here, Esther is living in an apartment building with a maid. She is an 82-year-old widow, mother of two children, with two children living. (She had four children, but now, only two are still living - James Tolman Pyle and Sara Carter (Pyle) McAlpin.) The unusual (incorrect) thing about this census record is that she and her parents are listed as having been born in England. In column 18 (trade or profession), is listed "Own Income" and in reviewing other residents listed on this page, many of them also list "Own Income" in this column.


In the 1920 U.S. Federal Census (and 1918 New York City Directory), Esther is listed at 200 West 58th Street., database online. Year: 1920; Census Place: Manhattan, New York, New York;
Roll: T625_1212; Page: 7B; Enumeration District: 1057; Line 4. Record for Esther Pyle.
Esther Pyle, Head of Household, is a 91-year-old widow indicating that she immigrated in 1868 and became a naturalized citizen in 1871. Living with her are two friends, Eliza Orcutt and Georgia Gordon, and an Irish maid, Katy Gilroy. Well, I know the immigration year is incorrect, because I know she married James Pyle in New York in 1853, and all four of her children were born in New York before 1868.


Esther Abigail (Whitman) Pyle died on November 8, 1921, at age 93 and was buried in Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn, next to her husband, James Pyle. The New York Times published a simple death notice.
The New York Times, November 10, 1921

I do not have any photographs of Esther or her husband, James. If there are any cousins out there with photographs of this couple, I would love to see them.

My descent from Esther Abigail Whitman > James Tolman Pyle > Charles McAlpin Pyle > Charles McAlpin Pyle, Jr. > me.

Matrilineal Monday is a daily blogging prompt from Geneabloggers, the genealogy community's resource for blogging. It is used by many genealogy bloggers to help them tell stories of their ancestors.


  1. Elizabeth, this is so neat. I clicked on the link you had for the entry on James Pyle, and that was even more fascinating. I figured he had to be pretty well-known, and I googled his name to see what else was out there about him and his Pearline soap.

    A biography of St. Padre Pio would probably be the last place I would have thought his name would turn up... apparently one of the Pyles, Adelia Maria McAlpin Pyle, had a connection to him! Wasn't sure if you had seen this or not:

    It also mentions that James was unusually tall by even today's standards-- 6'5"!

  2. Karen, thanks for reading and commenting. Yes, I have seen this book, at Google Books, not a physical copy. Adelia is a great aunt of mine, though I don't know much more than what is in the Padre Pio book and what I've found in her passport applications. An interesting family...

  3. As that is the Nova Scotia branch, it would be interesting to see how many had emigrated from the US as loyalists in the Revolution. Tories in our midst might be a good blog post.

  4. RTP, thanks for your comment. I know that of this branch of the family that came from Nova Scotia, several families were Loyalists who came from Pennsylvania and Connecticut. (However for some, they were in N.S. previously and I'm not sure of their origins.) I will put this idea on my list of future blog posts.