Who Was George Washington Boyer’s Mother?

One of the open mysteries in the Boyer family is who was George Washington Boyer’s (1848-1926) birth mother?

Wilbur R. Boyer (1923-2011) told me on several occasions that George Washington Boyer (GWB) had only half-brothers and sisters. Bill had an excellent memory for this type of detail passed on to him by his father and which was common knowledge in his family. Bill also remembered meeting GWB’s siblings, Aleah, Ann and John. ”Leah owned a farm in Richboro or Ivyland which was next door to her sister Annie’s farm. She ran the farm with her brother John Boyer.”

It is clear that Jacob Boyer married Margaret Merion and that Margaret raised GWB. Margaret is mentioned in several census records and in the death certificates of her daughters.

1845 Jacob Boyer m. Elizabeth Merion

A good possibility for the name of GWB’s birth mother is Elizabeth Merion. The thesis is that Elizabeth Merion and Margaret Merion were related – possibly sisters.

According to church records at St. James Church in ¬†Kingsesslng, Philadelphia, Jacob Boyer married Elizabeth Marion on 3 July 1845. The key question of course is if this is “our” Jacob Boyer.

If Elizabeth died shortly after George W. Boyer was born, it would not be uncommon to re-marry her sister. The timing of an 1845 marriage fits with GWB’s birth in 1848 and with the 1850 Census showing that GWB is not married, but living in the same house with Margaret Merion.

The published genealogy “American Boyers” also says Elizabeth Merion was Jacob’s wife.

1848 – George Washington Boyer is born

We don’t have a birth or baptism record for GWB but his death certificate says born 21 Feb 1848 and died 16 Jan 1926. The interesting bit is that “Don’t Know” is entered on the certificate for the name of his mother. In contrast, the death certificates found for his siblings Sarah and Annie list Margaret Merion as their mother.

1850 US Census – Bristol Township, Philadelphia, PA

The 1850 census record for Jacob Boyer and his son is interesting for several reasons. It confirms that Jacob has no wife living with him at that time, and that he has a son George two years old.

The 1850 census also shows Margaret Merion is living in the same household. If she was married to Jacob she would be listed as Margaret Boyer as was the convention in the census. Also, Margaret would traditionally be listed second, and before GWB, if she was married to Jacob.

  1. Jacob Boyer, age 34, b. Pennsylvania, Occupation: Sawgrinder
  2. Gorge Boyer, age 2, b. Pennsylvania
  3. Margaret Merion age 21 , b. Pennsylvania. (if she was married to Jacob she would be listed as Margaret Boyer.)
  4. John Butler, age 32, b. Ireland, Occupation: Sawgrinder
  5. Elizabeth Butler, age 30, b. England

Its worth noting that the census data above was taken in Bristol Township which was dissolved in 1854 to become part of Philadelphia. It is today known as the Olney-Oak Lane section of the city, and an area where other Boyer ancestors lived.

Note the location of Bristol Township near Germantown and Oxford Townships.

September 1850 Jacob Boyer m. Margaret Merion

September 1850 is a guess for the marriage date based on the birth of their first child Anna Boyer on 16 April 1851. They were living in the same household but were not married in the 1850 Census which was taken on 28 Aug 1850.

March 1917 – Sarah Boyer and March 1933 – Annie Boyer death certificates

Sarah Boyer Chase’ death certificate lists her mother was Margaret Merion, b. Pennsylvania. Attested by her husband George W. Chase. Annie Boyer’s death certificate lists her mother as Margaret Merion. Attested by Brunner Boyer her brother.

Additional Thoughts

Could George Washington Boyer be adopted? This isn’t supported by the 1850 Census that shows Jacob had no wife but did have a two year old son. It is possible, but unlikely that a single young man, especially in that era, would adopt a child.

Could Margaret and Elizabeth be the same person? Perhaps Jacob’s wife was named Margaret Elizabeth Merion or Elizabeth Margaret Merion? It’s possible but not supported by the 1850 Census that shows Jacob had no wife but did have a two year old son. It may exist somewhere, but so far we have never found a document where her name appears this way.

Could Margaret be a nickname for Elizabeth? This doesn’t seem likely. Liz, Lizzy, Beth, Bets, Betsy, Betty, and Eliza are common nicknames.

Could the verbal family history be wrong? Possibly, but doubtful. Wilbur R. Boyer (1923-2011) on several occasions when I interviewed him was very clear that G.W. Boyer had only half brothers and sisters. He remembered meeting many of them, and going to their farms.

There are many other possibilities as well of course. I have am working with Susan’s cousin, Wendy Smythe to solve this little mystery – we are keeping an open mind so please stay tuned!