52 Ancestors,
in 52 Weeks
Week 33:
Family Finds Charter Oak

Family Tragedy

Once in a while a vital record reveals a tragedy about an ancestor. Sometimes a record documents death at an early age, or from a disease that is curable today. I have also found newspaper articles that include details of a family tragedy: divorce, illness, accidents, house fires, and loss of a child. These discoveries lead me to wonder what impact a tragedy has on the whole family. This week I consider the fate of my 3rd great-grandmother, Mary Hebble 1812-1851, and the impact her illness and death had on her immediate family.

Mary Hebble Russell

My 3rd great-grandmother, Mary Hebble, was born in Lancaster County in 1812 to Peter and Elizabeth Whitestick Hebble. [1] Her family were Mennonites. [2] Mary was married to William Russell about 1835 when she was 23. William was 26 and worked as a carpenter. Sadly, their first child died. But their second child, my ancestor Eliza Russell, was born in 1837, followed by three more children: George 1840, Ann 1843, and Sarah 1847. There are no records or stories to let me know what life was like for the six members of the Russell family. But, by the 1850 census Mary is recorded as “insane”. [3]

Grey Tree

1850 Lancaster County

The 1850 census does not provide much information for the genealogist, but it does have a write-in category for condition. Column 13 of the 1850 census is “Whether deaf and dumb, blind, insane, idiotic, pauper or convict.” This is how I discovered Mary Hebble Russell, age 38, was identified as “insane”. No one else on the page of 41 people had anything written for this category. Additionally, I found Mary living with her parents, ages 68 and 62, plus her youngest child, Sarah age 3. Presumably Mary’s mother was providing the primary care for Sarah.

What constituted insane in 1850, in Lancaster County, PA? I have found for the 1850 census the enumerator was to ask the health condition of each inhabitant of the household. Therefore, this was the condition of Mary as reported by her father. What led him to identify his daughter this way is purely conjecture. I have read that a variety of issues, in 1850, could lead to this broad diagnosis. Including, anxiety, depression, post-partum issues, and other symptoms we are familiar with today. However, there is also a list of conditions that could lead to a diagnosis of insanity that seem odd. Including, measles, alcoholism, religious fervor, and others.

Family Impact

I do know, from the census, in 1850 the Russell family was broken. William was living in a boarding house in Strasburg, Lancaster Co, PA. [4] Eliza and George, ages 13 and 10, were living as boarders in the home of a family named Worrell in Drumore Twp, Lancaster Co, PA. [5] I have not found where Ann Russell, age 7, was living. But, I have presumed the family was living apart due to Mary’s condition. Just 6 months after the 1850 census, Mary’s father Peter died, intestate. [6] Mary had two brothers, David and John ages 32 and 27, and they prevailed upon the local courts to assess and distribute their father’s estate according to Pennsylvania law. [7]

Peter Hebble’s Probate

Mary had a trustee (also referred to as a committee in the estate filings) appointed, a man named John Peoples. In the estate papers, Mary is regularly referred to as a “lunatic”. The word seems harsh, so perhaps her condition was severe even by the standards of 1850. I wonder how her condition contributed to her father’s death, if it did. From the estate papers I discovered many things. Mary’s mother died in the spring of 1851. Her father’s real estate holdings were modest, but according to law were to be divided equally among all his surviving children. Mary’s trustee sought to have the property sold, and so it was. But, Mary died before all was sold. However, her portion was divided among her four children. All four were named in the final filing in July 1853.

Peter Hebble probate p1

Above, inquest filing for Peter Hebble’s estate, June 1851. Below, final real estate settlement, July 1853. Contact me for high resolution version.

Peter Hebble probate p2

Mary’s Legacy

I have no way of knowing if the children received the legacy, it was possibly less than $200 per child. But, it seems the loss of their mother and maternal grandparents impacted the family. Eliza married in October 1853 at the age of 16 to Levi Illges age 26. [8] William Russell and his children, including Levi Illges whose father Paul had recently died, moved to Indiana in 1856. They all lived near Germantown in Wayne County for awhile. Ann Russell married Cornelius Boyer there in 1858 at the age of 15. Sarah lived with her sister and brother-in-law, Eliza and Levi Illges, until she married Jake Hackleman in 1866 at the age of 18. William and George returned to Pennsylvania about the time the Civil War began, but I have not found either of them in vital records to confirm this information. George Russell did serve during the war and returned to Germantown afterwards where he married Angeline Lyons and had two daughters.

Illges family 1882

Above, Eliza Russell Illges with her husband Levi and children: Minnie, Alfred, Charles, Elnora, seated: Otto and George.
I previously wrote about the Illges family for the prompt “Tombstone[9]


I’ll never know for certain the exact condition Mary Hebble Russell suffered from. But, I do believe her personal tragedy impacted her family. Her husband did not re-marry and her children were cared for by others until they could care for themselves. Records often reveal bits of information about our ancestors but we lack the details to know the full story of their lives. All I have here for Mary Hebble Russell is conjecture, I wish I had more. Mary Hebble’s four children went on to have 18 children among them who survived to adulthood. I estimate she may have as many as 1000 descendants alive today, including myself. That is a lasting legacy.

Rose Basket


  1. Profile of Mary Hebble, ‘Osborn‘ tree, Ancestry.com; https://www.ancestry.com/family-tree/person/tree/13493206/person/27558985721/facts
  2. Entry for Peter Hebel, item #4; Lancaster, Pennsylvania, U.S., Mennonite Vital Records, 1750-2014; Database on-line at Ancestry.com. Original data: Genealogical Card File. Lancaster Mennonite Historical Society, Lancaster, Pennsylvania.
  3. Entry for Mary RusselU.S, Federal Census: Year: 1850; Census Place: Martic, Lancaster, Pennsylvania; Roll: 787; Page: 111B; Image: 228; line 21. National Archives Microfilm Publication M432;
  4. Entry for William Russel, U.S, Federal Census: Year: 1850; Census Place: Strasburg, Lancaster, Pennsylvania; Roll: M432_789; Page: 66B; Image: 137; National Archives Microfilm Publication M432;
  5. Entry for Eliza Russel, U.S, Federal Census: Year: 1850; Census Place: Drumore, Lancaster, Pennsylvania; Roll: M432_787; Page: 103A; Image: 211; National Archives Microfilm Publication M432;
  6. Profile of Peter Hebble, ‘Osborn‘ tree, Ancestry.com; https://www.ancestry.com/family-tree/person/tree/13493206/person/27581741019/facts
  7. Entry for Peter Hebble, Probate record, Pennsylvania, U.S., Wills and Probate Records, 1683-1993; Database on-line, Miscellaneous Books 1850-1852, records 295, 296, 309, 310; Original data: Pennsylvania County, District and Probate Courts.
  8. Entry for Eliza Russell, Marriage record, Pennsylvania, U.S., Marriages, 1852-1968; Database on-line at Ancestry.com. Original data: Marriage Records. Pennsylvania Marriages. Various County Register of Wills Offices, Pennsylvania. FHL# 000941246
  9. Blog post, Family Finds: Tombstone; https://barblafara.com/tombstone/


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Remember Me and I Will Live

Frank Takeo Flucawa

Born Takeo Furukawa on 15 March 1883 in Tottori-Ken, Tokyo, Japan, little is documented of his early childhood. Family oral history stories say that the young Takeo experienced hunger, poverty and the loss of his family. Additionally, the stories tell of friendship, spiritual learning and scholarship.

David L. Osborne: His Indianapolis Homes

My great grandfather, David Louis Osborne, lived at over 20 addresses around Indianapolis between 1876 and 1942. I thought it would be interesting to see all the old buildings and homes where he lived in my hometown of Indianapolis.

The Marriage of David and Jennie Osborne

My great grandfather, David Louis Osborne (1848-1942), was a widower with two young sons in 1886 when he married Jennie Warbington (1857-1918) in Minneapolis on the 27th of May. I decided it was time to put sources to the story.

Do You See A Resemblance?

While working on a family photo project I decided it would be fun to compare side-by-side my father and his parents, at similar ages, to try and discover a family resemblance.

Probate of Jesse King 1868

Jesse King was born in Ohio (probably in the vicinity of Chillicothe) in 1805, he was a son of Philip King and Mary Leah Wright, both of Pennsylvania. Philip King was a farmer, he married Leah Wright in 1801 in Somerset, PA, they had six children, of whom Jesse was the third.

Letter from Sarah Tucker Lafary

A handwritten letter from Sarah Tucker Lafary to the then president of the United States, Grover Cleveland. It was her last appeal for a War of 1812 pension, sadly the pension was denied. The letter gives a glimpse of a woman who had no formal education, a poor farmers wife, then widow, mother of nine, she probably just wanted some independence through an income of her own.

Sarah Smith: Challenge

52 Ancestors, in 52 Weeks – Week 2: Challenge
So much about genealogy research is a challenge, perhaps the most common challenge is the ‘brick wall,’ meet Sarah Smith. 18?? – 1846

Laferre to LaFara: Unusual Name

The surnames in my tree are typical of common western European names. However, the name that is unusual among these names is MY surname: LaFara.

Luella Pressell: Surprise!

52 Ancestors, in 52 Weeks – Week 6: Surprise!
Just when you think you know everything about an ancestor, surprise! I thought I knew most everything about my paternal great grandfather David L. Osborne, 1848-1942.

Rumple Family Photo 1895

For all of us who are procrastinating about labeling photos I have one thing to say, “Be considerate of the genealogist of the future!” My maternal grandmother was very good about labeling old family photos, and there is one, in particular, I found very informative.

Conrad Rumple: Bachelor Uncle

52 Ancestors, in 52 Weeks – Week 10: Bachelor Uncle
My uncles are the marrying kind, sometimes more than once!
I had to go back four generations for a bachelor uncle, my great-great-great uncle Conrad Rumple, 1833-1911.
Conrad was an older brother to my great-great grandfather on my matrilineal line, William Rumple, 1839-1912.

George Lafary and Catherine Landon: Large Family

My great-great grandparents, George Lafary and Catherine Landon, had a relatively small family, three of their six children survived to adulthood. However, they both came from large families of nine siblings and nearly all survived to marry and have children.

In The Paper

52 Ancestors, in 52 Weeks – Week 13: In The Paper
It’s fun to find articles in the paper mentioning one of my relatives. Mostly they are birth, marriage, divorce and death events. But, it’s the oddball articles in the papers I like the most.

Genealogy Brick Walls

52 Ancestors, in 52 Weeks – Week 14: Brick Wall
We all have a brick wall, that one ancestor who defies all research. I decided I would work at my brick walls by generation, I broke through the last of my 3rd great grandparent brick walls, now I am working on 4th great grandparents.

Catherine Landon: Out of Place

I realized I did not have a date of death for my great, great grandmother, Catherine Landon Lafary. A fresh search uncovered the date and much more. Out of place, but once discovered, everything fell into place.

Immigrant Ancestors, Fresh Start

52 Ancestors, in 52 Weeks – Week1: Fresh Start.
The varied reasons my European ancestors immigrated to North America for a fresh start.

William and Uva Lafara: Favorite Photo

I have many favorite photos among my collection of family artifacts. Currently, my favorite photo is of two little children from 1916 who were a complete mystery to me until last spring.

Close to Home

My grandparents. Earl and Pearl, met at church, close to home, in 1914,

So Far Away

My great-uncle Frank immigrated to the United States from Japan in 1905 to further his education, so far away

Same Name

I get excited when I discover an ancestor with the same name as a friend, or co-worker, or neighbor. Maybe we are related!