23 February


Saturday Night Genealogy Fun: Minnie Varney Chapman

By Stephanie Pitcher Fishman Chapman 4 Comments

Start and End with Family (

It’s been a  while since I’ve been able to work on my own family’s history. I decided to throw caution to the wind and toss the work aside for a few minutes this weekend so that I could participate in Randy Seaver’s Saturday Night Genealogy Fun. Hosted over at Genea-Musings, Randy gives us a fun mission that’s part scavenger hunt.


This week’s mission: Ancestor Roulette!

Following Randy’s instructions, I landed on my second great-grandmother, Minnie (Varney) Chapman. Unfortunately, I didn’t know very much about Minnie. It was time for research!


Known Information:

According to Minnie’s marriage record, she was born in Fairfield, Franklin County, Vermont to parents James Varney and Miranda Peters. I’m not sure where or when she met her husband, Daniel R. Chapman, my second great-grandfather, but what is known is that she married him on 9 November 1880 at 19 years of age in Enosburg, Franklin County, Vermont. Alfred B. Swift performed the ceremony. (1)

Twenty years later, a 37-year-old Minnie was enumerated in Enosburg, Franklin County, Vermont in the 1900 US Federal Census (2) along with her family:

  • Husband, Daniel Chapman (age 42), a painter;
  • Daughters Lizzie (age 17), Alta (age 14), Fannie (age 12), Stella (age 10), Jessie (age 8), and Marian (age 6);
  • Sons Merritt (age 4), Clifford (age 2), and Robert (age 3 months).


In 1910, she was once again enumerated at age 48 – though as “Varney” – in the US Federal Census (3) in Enosburg, Franklin County, Vermont along with her family:

  • Husband, Daniel Chapman (age 52), a painter “on buildings”;
  • Daughters Jessie L. (age 19), Marion E. (age 17), Eleanor F. (age 7), and Minnie L. (age 3);
  • Sons Merritt G. (age 14), Clifford (age 12), and Robert (age 10).

Apparently, this is where I stopped in my research for my second great-grandmother, Minnie. Until now.


New Information:

I decided that I wanted to see where Minnie was later in her life. My great-grandmother Jessie, Minnie’s daughter, would eventually make her way through Vermont and Massachusetts into Ohio where she would meet my great-grandfather, Ara D. Pitcher. But, what happened to Minnie? My research goal was to find out where Minnie lived out her days and where she was buried – if I could.

First, I looked at the 1920 US Federal Census (4). And, I found her! This time, a 57-year-old Minnie is living on a dairy farm in Johnson, Lamoille County, Vermont:

  • Husband, Daniel Chapman (age 62);
  • Daughters Eleanor (age 17) and [Minnie] Lorraine (age 13);
  • Sons Merritt (age 23), Clifford (age 21), and Robert (age 19).

Looking at a map, it appears that Daniel, Minnie, and family moved 27 miles south. 1910 = Living in town with a painter husband. 1920 = Living 27 miles south on a farm with a dairy farming husband? There might be a story here, and I’d love to find out what it is! That, however, is a story for another day. Today we’re on the trail to see where Minnie spent her last years.

The next logical step for me in my research plan is to look at the 1930 US Federal Census to see if Minnie and her family are still in Johnson. A search for this census turns up husband Daniel as a widower. Apparently Minnie passed away sometime between 1920 and 1930. The first place I tend to look for death records is FamilySearch. No luck. Ancestry wasn’t cooperating tonight, but I was able to find a death certificate there. The cause of death: Crushed Head. They live on a farm… farm accident? No. Automobile! According to the scanned copy of the certified death certificate, Minnie was “motoring through” Bakersfield, Franklin County, Vermont when an automobile accident occurred. Minnie was killed instantaneously by a crushing blow to the head at age 66 years (5). Interestingly, when you look at a map Bakersfield falls between her previous residence of Enosburg and her current residence of Johnson. Perhaps she was visiting family with the trip ending differently than anyone could have expected. Find-a-Grave holds a memorial that appears to be Minnie’s.  As usual, I’d like to do more research to verify all of this before sharing more.

My research time for today is over. Unfortunately, I haven’t found a source for historical newspapers online that includes one that may hold the key to discovering more about this accident either through an article or obituary. However, I’ve learned more about my Grandma Minnie, and I will definitely continue through this line to learn more about her.


Would you like to play along? Follow Randy’s instructions, and then head over to Genea-Musings to share your link and read comments from others playing along as well. Above all, have fun!



1) What year was one of your great-grandfathers born?  Divide this number by 100 and round the number off to a whole number. This is your “roulette number.”

2) Use your pedigree charts or your family tree genealogy software program to find the person with that number in your ancestral name list (some people call it an “ahnentafel” – your software will create this – use the “Ahnentafel List” option, or similar). Who is that person, and what are his/her vital information?

3) Tell us three facts about that person in your ancestral name list with the “roulette number.”

4) Write about it in a blog post on your own blog, in a Facebook status or a Google Stream post, or as a comment on this blog post.

5) NOTE:  If you do not have a person’s name for your “roulette number” then “spin” the wheel again – pick a great-grandmother, a grandfather, a parent, a favorite aunt or cousin, yourself, or even your children!



1: “Vermont, Vital Records, 1760-1954,” index and images, FamilySearch ( : accessed 23 June 2012), Daniel R. Chapman, 1880, page 543.

2: 1900 US Census, Franklin County, Vermont, population schedule, Enosburg Town, enumeration district (ED) no. 105, supervisor’s district (SD) no. 279, sheet 1-A, dwelling 5, family 5, Daniel R. Chapman household; digital image, ( : downloaded 22 June 2012); National Archives micropublication T623 roll 1691.

3: 1910 Federal Census, Franklin County, Vermont, population schedule, Enosburg Falls Village, enumeration district (ED) no. 103, supervisor’s district (SD) 301, sheet 14-B, dwelling 294, family 327, Daniel R. Chapman household; digital images, ( : downloaded 22 June 2012); National Archives micropublication T624 roll 1614.

4: 1920 US Federal Census, Lamoille County, Vermont, population schedule, Johnson, enumeration district (ED) 101, supervisor’s district (SD) 1, sheet 10A, dwelling 45, family 45, Daniel R. Chapman household; digital images, ( : downloaded 23 February 2013); National Archives micropublication T625 roll 1872.

5: Minnie Varney Chapman, death certificate No. 162 (1928), Vermont State Archives and Records Administration, Montpelier, Vermont.

© 2013, Stephanie Pitcher Fishman. All rights reserved.


  • Kristen

    23 February 2013 Reply

    Sounds like fun, and it looks like it got you somewhere. I’ll have to join in myself!

  • Kristen

    24 February 2013 Reply

    Or not! All of mine equal 19 and I don’t have a 19! Guess that makes for easy writing.

  • Lisa

    8 March 2013 Reply

    Very cool game & research summary! “Crushed head” is a term that will echo in my head all day, I’m afraid!

    I’m curious, though–how did you find death certificates listing the cause of death? I’ve never come across one myself–does it just depend on the state? I’ve found digital records (no images) from Washington etc that only list a name, date, and certificate number, for example.
    Lisa recently posted..(Isobel) Isla Bagnall (1896-1984)My Profile


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