Since I last wrote about Stephen Parker, I’ve learned a bit more about how to do genealogy and have gained some confidence in pursuing leads.
I mentioned it only in passing on this post about my 2nd great grandmother Mary Parker, but that search turned up the baptismal record for her brother Stephen as well. Most of the records about Stephen Parker give only an approximate age for him, and it usually worked out to be around 1837. But the baptismal record for him puts his date of birth as 2 Jun 1835. I’d thought I wouldn’t ever find a real date of birth for him.
At the Iowa Historical Society a couple of years ago, I couldn’t find any record of his death in the county microfilm holdings. The only things I found were obituaries in their newspaper holdings. The Historical Society also did not have any records from the Hospital for the Insane where Stephen had been committed.
Recently, I wrote to both the Independence Mental Health Institute (M.H.I.) (the successor agency to the Iowa Hospital for the Insane) and to the Buchanan County Genealogical Society looking for how I might find information on Stephen Parker. The fellow who answers email for the genealogical society went above and beyond what I’d hoped, which was contact information at the M.H.I. beyond what I could find on the web site. He looked in the society’s records and after finding nothing, made a trip to the courthouse on my behalf. Unfortunately, he found that no deaths had been recorded at the county from 1889 to 1897, or that those records had been lost. Then he also provided me with instructions on how to request information from M.H.I.
At the same time, I received a response from M.H.I. with the formal version of the same instructions. Having information from the genealogical society on how to navigate the complicated forms was very helpful. I sent those in. M.H.I. didn’t have much information on Stephen Parker, but they did provide the specific date he’d arrived and date and time of death, which turned out to be a day earlier than indicated in his obituaries.
I also requested Stephen Parker’s civil war record from the National Archives. That wasn’t too interesting, but it did provide a physical description for him that came with his oath when he enlisted. He’s described as 5 foot 10 inches, hazel eyes, brown hair and dark complexion on 18 May 1863 when he enlisted.
He didn’t last long in the military, being discharged on 6 Aug 1862 at Fort Hamilton New York fir disability, not even three months later. The only information on that comes from the one line notation in the register of enlistments for him.
I’ve also looked for Stephen Parker in the census. He appears with his parents’ family in 1852 in Canada and in 1860 in Wisconsin. In 1870 and 1880, he’s recorded living in Clarion Iowa as a farmer. In 1870 on his own, and in 1880 with a wife and two young daughters. But he was already marked as insane by then, and in fact I believe was not even living with the family despite being recorded there. He’s also recorded on the supplemental schedules for the insane in the 1880 US Census. The records from M.H.I. indicate he’d entered the hospital on 14 Feb 1878. In 1878, there are several entries in the Wright County court docket on a guardianship being established for Stephen’s financial affairs, including this petition from May 1878 saying he’d been committed:
The next census where Stephen Parker appears is in the 1895 Iowa census, where he’s still listed living in the hospital. Where I haven’t found him is in the 1885 Iowa census. He doesn’t show up in the indexes for that year, and there are 124 pages for Independence. I haven’t yet had the patience to read through those pages one by one to see if he shows up in some fashion.