Our responsibility in research is to report what we find and leave the judgements about the personal actions of individuals to others. Records often only tell a part of the story and it can be difficult when we are left with few records to know the “entire” or the “real” story. Even when we think we have the “real” story, there are still likely omissions. We’re often just left with the tip of the proverbial iceberg.
Such is the case with one-time Warsaw, Illinois, resident George Fennan. The man may or may not have been my step-ancestor.
He only appears in one set of records–and only for a short time. And is appearance does not put him in a positive light.
On 12 May 1856 he is appointed administrator of the estate of Peter Bieger and guardian for Bieger’s two children by the Hancock County, Illinois, court.
Four days pass.
On 16 May 1856, Fennan signs a letter in Warsaw, Hancock County, Illinois, indicating that he is leaving the state and wishes to be relieved of his duties as administrator and guardian.
Other documents in the Bieger estate style Bieger’s widow, Barbara, as Fennan’s wife and she is appointed under the name Barbara Fennan as the administrator of Bieger’s estate and guardian of her children in June of 1856. There’s little doubt that she and Fennan were in some sort of relationship.
Fennan is never heard of again after his 16 May 1856 letter.
When Barbara marries in 1859 the marriage license indicated that she “had no lawful husband living.” The reference is not to Peter Bieger, but instead to George Fennan.
Sound genealogy methodology indicates that I need to research George Fennan a little more. It’s possible that some piece of information on him may provide me with a clue on Barbara. And Barbara’s life is essentially undocumented before her 1849 marriage to Peter Bieger in Cincinnati, Ohio. It’s possible that Fennan’s life holds a clue to help me research Barbara’s.
Or it’s possible he was the only unattached German male living in Warsaw, Illinois, after Peter Bieger died in the fall of 1855 leaving Barbara with two small children.
Like most stories the truth probably rests somewhere in between.