2020 is a leap year. So was 1932, the year that my husband’s great-grandmother Jessie (Sturtevant) Galt died in Otranto, Mitchell County, Iowa.[1. Iowa, Department of Health, death certificate C66-26 (1932), Jessie Galt; “Iowa, Death Records, 1920-1940,” database and images, Ancestry (www.ancestry.com : accessed 29 February 2020).]
Jessie was born in Rock County, Wisconsin, on 25 September 1868.[2. Sacred Heart Cemetery (Osage, Mitchell County, Iowa), Jessie Galt marker; personally read, various dates. Her death certificate indicates that she was born one year earlier, in 1867.] The adopted daughter of Joel Sturtevant and his wife Sarah (Chapman) Sturtevant of Cooksville, she married John Isaac Galt 18 July 1886 in Stoughton, Dane County, Wisconsin.[3. Dane County, Wisconsin, Marriages, vol. 4, p. 532, for John Galt and Jessie Sturtevant; copy provided by Wisconsin Historical Society, Madison.]
Jessie Little, age 2, born in Wisconsin, appears in the 1870 census household of Joel and Sarah Sturtevant in Cooksville. The census indicates that both of her parents were of foreign birth.[4. 1870 U.S. census, Rock County, Wisconsin, population schedule, Cooksville, p. 429 (stamped), dwelling 109, family 108, Joel Sturtevant household; “1870 United States Federal Census,” database and images, Ancestry (www.ancestry.com : accessed 29 February 2020), citing NARA microfilm publication M593, roll 1736.] In the 1880 census, Jessie, age 12, is called adopted daughter.[5. 1880 U.S. census, Rock County, Wisconsin, pop. sch., enumeration district (ED) 196, Cooksville, p. 371C (stamped), p. 15 (penned), dw. 122, fam. 126, Joel B. Sturdevant household; “1880 United States Federal Census,” database and images, Ancestry (www.ancestry.com : accessed 29 February 2020), citing NARA microfilm publication T9, roll 1444.]
The first clue to Jessie’s biological parents is the surname Little in the 1870 census. The second is a family record. My husband’s father, Charles Galt Mackin (1917-1998) of Osage, Iowa, kept a little black book in which he recorded information of interest, including some family history. His notion for “Jessie Sturdevant” indicated that her parents were “Lissie Hollingsworth” and “Thomas Little.” “Joe Sturdevant” is noted as “foster.”[6. Charles Galt Mackin (1917-1998), black notebook approx. 3″ by 6”, photographed by Lois Abromitis Mackin, original held by (name and address for private use).]
During a research trip to Rock County in 2010, my husband and I diligently searched for “Lissie Hollingsworth” and “Thomas Little.” We found no record of Lissie or Elizabeth Hollingsworth either online or at the county library, historical society, or courthouse, in a timeframe close to Jessie’s birth. We did find evidence of several men named Thomas Little in the correct timeframe, but nothing tied them to Cooksville or to Joel Sturtevant.
Time passed, and my husband and two of his siblings took DNA tests. In 2017, their second cousin, also descended from John Isaac Galt and Jessie Sturtevant, tested. The results of these DNA tests enabled analysis of shared matches that, I believe, has identified Jessie’s parents. I will be describing these results in future blog posts, articles, and/or presentations.