52ancestors-week28Genealogist Amy Johnson Crow, who blogs at No Story Too Small, has set a challenge to write about one ancestor each week. I’ve decided to take up that challenge to wake up my (somewhat) languishing blog, but to honor my ancestors. I plan to post every week on Sunday, and I encourage others to join the challenge with me.



I never noticed until today that my 3x great-grandmother died on my birthday. Mind you, we were separated by 70 years, but it does feel odd when you find an event in your family tree that happened on a significant date in your own life.

Mary Lavinia Arbegast Randolph (1824 – 1882) was born in Pennsylvania; most likely in or near Montour County. I don’t know the names of her parents or any siblings. For that matter, I’m not even sure why I believe her maiden name is Arbegast* (the dangers of putting information into your tree without sources).

But I do know that my 3x great-grandfather, John G. Hiler was married to a Lavinia. They appear together in the 1850 through 1880 censuses in Danville, Montour County, Pennsylvania. They had five daughters and one son between 1848 and 1867. Although her first name of Mary never showed in a census, her burial record gave the full name of Mary Lavinia Hiler. She and my 3x great-grandfather, and at least one known child are all buried at the Episcopal Cemetery in Danville.

If you believe everything you see in other people’s trees on Ancestry.com, then Lavinia supposedly was married to another man besides John G. Hiler, and even managed to have a child in 1823, before she herself was born! Plus, the 16 children she was shown to have with her two husbands were born in alternating years in Ohio and Pennsylvania! Quite a feat. Unless you’re a clone.

I think I may remove the Arbegast maiden surname from my tree until I can document what it should be. Otherwise, I could be guilty of perpetuating bogus information too.

But what I do believe, based on the cemetery and census records, is that she died on my birth date, in 1882.

*Update: Lavinia’s maiden name is Randolph. This information came from the death certificate of her daughter Phoebe Ellen Hiler Hower (1853-1934), and from the marriage license of her daughter Jane “Jennie” Hiler when she married Edward Starick in 1886.