#52Ancestors in 52 Weeks: #32 Nancy Tourville (née Head) (~1816-1906)

If Nancy was still alive today, I would have tons of questions to ask her. There is a lot we know about her, but surprisingly, her exact identity still remains a mystery to me so far. Let’s take a look.

Nancy is listed in the 1860 US Census in Jersey County, Illinois with husband Peter Tourville and a young man called Francis (also featured in another post). In a Civil War pension claim filed in 1891, Nancy is said to be Francis’ foster mother. He probably was an orphan who lived with the couple until he enlisted in a Cavalry Regiment in Lebanon, Kentucky during the Civil War. Said census further indicates that Nancy and Francis were born in Alabama, in 1818 and 1844, respectively.

Then, Nancy is listed as Nancy A. in the 1870 US Census, in Jersey County, Illinois with Peter Tourville. She is referred to as being born in Kentucky around 1816. Same details are provided in the 1880 US Census, including additional information in respect of both her parents’ birthplace as being Kentucky as well.

Later on, after her husband’s death in 1891, although Nancy is supposed to be living with her grandson Peter Glassbrenner in Alton, Madison County, Illinois, she is nowhere to be found in the 1900 US Census and where she is indeed supposed to live as I learned by reading two articles about her:

Mrs. Peter Tourville, who was brought to St. Joseph’s hospital from her home on the Grafton road in a very sick condition about five weeks ago, was removed to her home today almost entirely well. She is about 89 years of age. ~ Alton Evening Telegraph (Alton, Illinois), Wednesday, June 29, 1904, page 3

North Alton ~ Funeral of Mrs. Toureville. ~ The funeral of Mrs. Nancy Toureville was held today from St. Michaels church at Belletrees where a Requiem mass was said by Rev. Fr. Marks of Jerseyville. Mrs. Toureville was about 90 years of age and made her home since the death of her husband 10 years ago with her grandson Peter Glassbrenner. Mrs. John Glassbrenner of near Newbern is a step-daughter of deceased. Constable G. L. Glassbrenner of North Alton is a grandson and deceased has many other relatives here and in Alton. ~ Alton Evening Telegraph, Alton, Illinois, Thursday, March 1, 1906, page 8

As you can see, no maiden name is mentioned. At this point, I suppose you might assume that I’ve certainly omitted to look for a marriage record… Well, I didn’t and that’s precisely where the problem begins.

You may remember that Peter Tourville was first married to 16 year-old Aspasie Chaput (later anglicized to Chappee) on July 19, 1831, in Florissant, Missouri (St. Ferdinand Catholic Church). They have had three children who were baptized in St. Ferdinand: Helen, in 1833; Pierre, in 1836; and Marie Aspasie, in 1838; whereafter I had lost their trace. Helen married Daniel Burley in 1852 and supposedly died in 1875 but no death record was ever located for her and Marie Aspasie married George Glassbrenner about 1857 and died in 1919 in Alton, IL.

During my early fall trip to Salt Lake City, I looked at the deed records for St. Charles County, Missouri because of various hints which led me to think that Peter may have settled there; and he did.

st charles land sale

Excerpt from St. Charles County 1848’s Deed Book U, page 141 ~ Family History Library Microfilm 967569

Peter bought for $300 a 40-acre land on November 28, 1840, namely, the west half of the east fractional half of the north east quarter of section number seven (7) in township number forty-eight (48) of Range number six (6) east. That land was located in the township of Portage.

Afterwards, on October 4, 1848, Peter Tourville and his wife Nancy sold said land and it is two months later, on December 18, 1848, that Peter will buy the land he will occupy until his death in Jersey County, Illinois.

We can thus assume that Peter lived in St. Charles County for eight years.


FHL Film 1940845, items 11-12

Let’s take a look at Saint-François du Portage des Sioux Catholic Church Register wherein I have noticed the three following entries concerning the Tourvilles:

nancy peter

Transcription ~ 1843 ~ Peter Tourville et Anne Cosway ~ January the 23 I have received the mutual consent of Peter Tourville and Mad [Madame] Anne Cosway. Madame Anne Cosway not being of our Religion promised that she will not interfere with the exercise of Religious duties of her husband and if the Lord bless them with children, she also promised that they shall be baptised and educated in the Catholic Church in Witnesseth thereof the parties the parties and witnesses have hereunto set their hands. (Signed) Van …. S.J. (Signed) Henry (?) S. Spelling (?) Thierry (?) Head (his mark) Peter Tourville (his mark) Anne Tourville (her mark)

Peter deces

Transcription ~ 1843 ~ Pierre Tourville ~ A été enterré Pierre Tourville le 14 de Mars âgé [left blank] ~ Translation ~ Was buried Pierre Tourville on March 14, age [left blank]

nancy bapteme

Transcription ~ 1848 ~ Nancy Tourville on the 12th day of November 1848, I have baptized under condition Nancy Tourville, about 30 years old, daughter of Herman Head & Emily Head. Sponsors S. croix Durocher & Felicité Petit. (Signed) J. L. Ghizal S.J.

Pierre (1836-1843) is most likely Peter and Aspasie’s son; and if Peter actually married Anne in 1843, Aspasie Tourville would therefore have died between 1838 and 1842.

I know what you may think at this point: “What is she complaining about? She even knows the parents’ names!”

So could Nancy be this Anne Cosway? Maybe a second marriage for her? Her first husband’s surname was Cosway and her father was Herman Head.

What’s bothering me though is this Peter Tourville’s obituary published in 1891:

TOURIVILLE. Uncle Peter Touriville, as he was generally known, was born at Florissant, Mo., December 19, 1809, and forty-five years ago settled on a farm in Jersey County, near Newbern, where he resided continously until his death, which occurred Wednesday, August 12th. In February 1839, deceased was married to Nancy Irwin and together had shared the trials of this life, for nearly fifty-two years. He leaves behind, a loving wife, one daughter, Mrs. Glassbrenner, nineteen grandchildren and twelve great-children. The funeral took place Friday, August 15th, at St. Michaels church, Father Marks officiating. The pallbearers were named Alex Chappee, John Chappee, James Chappee, George Chappee, Chas. Chappee and Joseph Chappee. The deceased was the uncle of the five first mentioned, and great uncle of the last pallbearers. It was the request of the deceased that those mentioned be the pallbearers. ~ Jersey County Democrat, Sept. 5, 1891

OK, so according to the above, they were married in February 1839 but that is simply impossible because Peter married Anne Cosway in 1843. We can assume that Nancy and Anne are the same person as one witness at the wedding is named Head. Her brother maybe? Also, January and February being pretty close, I suppose they missed the count by four years. But why is Nancy’s maiden name now Irwin? I just can’t figure it out!

I anticipate your next question: “Have you looked in the census for Heads and Irwins?” Yes I did, and alas, nothing.

I wondered for years if Nancy and Anne were different persons. At least, I’m glad this issue is now settled. But, Nancy, please tell me, where were you born? When and where did your parents pass away? What was the first name of your first husband? Where does that surname Irwin come from?

I don’t expect any answers from you but I’m sure satisfied that I have found your obituary last Saturday. I live very far from St. Michael’s Cemetery but someone from Jersey County Historical Society did me a favor that I even didn’t ask for (I’m so grateful) and went to the cemetery but didn’t find your name on Peter’s headstone or your own headstone. Your name does not appear in the cemetery’s register.

Wherever you are, rest in peace Nancy.