Thursday, September 20, 2018

Deaf Ancestor Mary Emma Rose ~ 52 Ancestors #38

I am participating in this year's 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks writing challenge from Amy Johnson Crow. Each week has an optional writing prompt and this week's writing prompt is Unusual Source. In fact, Amy introduced the idea of this source in another blog post from last week: Researching Deaf Ancestors.

I didn't think I had any deaf ancestors; I'm still pretty sure that none of my direct ancestors were deaf. However, I explored the Ancestry database she mentioned, U.S. Special Census on Deaf Family Marriages and Hearing Relatives, 1888-1895, and I found a fourth great aunt. All I knew of this 4th great aunt was from her gravestone: Mary Rose Mitchell Totten, 1808-1897, which I photographed when visiting Rose Hill Cemetery in Matawan, New Jersey, in 2013.

Mary Emma Rose was the daughter of Joseph Rose and Frances Stanton. From the few records that I previously had on this family, I only knew of six children of Joseph Rose and Frances Stanton and I had complete birth and death dates for only my direct ancestor, Joseph Stanton Rose, whose detailed obituary I transcribed at Joseph Rose (1809-1877). He is buried at Rose Hill Cemetery in Matawan, New Jersey, and was the reason I visited the cemetery. Finding GGGG Aunt Mary's gravestone was by chance.

This survey of deaf individuals collected a lot of family information and WOW: I now know that Joseph and Frances had ten children with four dying very young. This is a wonderful example of researching collateral relatives to obtain more information. Not only does the survey include all of Mary's siblings, but their full names and birth dates. No specific death dates are listed, but several siblings died young and those are mentioned. Mary Emma signed the last page.

The following page is the third page of the four page document reporting on her first marriage. It provides information about her parents, Joseph Rose and Frances M. Stanton. (His death information is incorrect.)

It also provides the names and birth dates of her siblings as well as general death information for those who had predeceased her. Unfortunately, she didn't know the whereabouts of two of her siblings, including brother Joseph Stanton Rose, who had died in 1877, and whom she was ultimately buried next to.

She reports that she has a granddaughter, Cordelia Mitchell, who became deaf at the age of three after an illness. She also reports that she was born deaf and that she attended school in Hartford and New York City, admitted in 1817 and was "under instruction" for seven years, one in Hartford.

U.S. Special Census on Deaf Family Marriages and Hearing Relatives, 1888-1895, Ancestry ( : accessed 18 September 2018) > R > Ro > Rose, Mary Emma and David / DeWitt Clinton Mitchell, p. 3.

In September 1825, she married DeWitt Clinton Mitchell in New York City. According to this source, he was able to hear. They had two sons: James Mitchell (b. 1828) and Joseph Clinton Mitchell (b. 1829). Her first husband died and Mary married Nathan Miles Totten in July 1838. He was a deaf mute. They had one daughter who died at birth.

I was able to find Mary in the U.S. Federal Census for 1860, where she is working as an assistant matron while living in an Institution for the Deaf and Dumb and in 1870 in a "Deaf + Dumb Asylum." No luck finding her in the 1880 census or the 1850 census. A brief death notice in the New York Tribute reports that Mrs. Mary E. Totten died in April 1897, at the Gallaudet Home for Deaf Mutes in Poughkeepsie, New York, and was buried in the Rose Hill Cemetery in Matawan, New Jersey, where I found her gravestone over five years ago.

I encourage you to read the description of the database at Ancestry and give a try on looking for an ancestor.


  1. Gallaudet University was an institute established for deaf people but now is open to others, I believe, who are interested in deafness and training. Never knew about Poughkeepsie- wonder if there were more schools established in other areas. Fascinating!!

    1. Yes, man who founded the school in Connecticut was Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet; his son Edward Miner Gallaudet founded the University. Another son, Thomas Gallaudet, founded the Home for Aged and Infirm Deaf-Mutes which moved to Poughkeepsie in 1886 and renamed as the Gallaudet Home for Deaf Mutes.

      It would have made this blog post way too long if I had added all the other things I learned, but I have linked the Wikipedia articles about these men for reference.

      Thanks for your comment!