Sunday, April 3, 2011

All DOLL-ed up

It isn’t just that the surname Doll happens to be a very common noun, or that it's an abbreviation for US currency, that make internet searches daunting.  It’s also that there is a tremendous amount of information online about two specific Doll generations of interest to me; useful, but with one problem—source citation.  There’s a person who has posted volumes of records in Doll genealogy message boards and mail lists over the last decade, but it’s frustrating because the items are in many, many threads in a random, almost stream-of-consciousness, style, with sources implied rather than cited.  I sense there was legitimate research, but it was presented without clear citations and without logical organization, so I don’t know that there was.  It’s been hard for me--someone who is primarily an armchair genealogist—to think the information might be valid, but not usable for anything other than clues.  It stopped me in my tracks for awhile.

Our family lore has it that the Doll family came from Holland or Denmark and that they came to Stroudsburg, PA in Sullivan County and then went to Salt Run, Cameron County.  Well, oops, first problem--Stroudsburg is in Monroe County.  But, regardless, all is yet to be proven.  I’ve got a lot of work cut out for me.  But I know enough to get started.

One of my paternal great-grandmothers was Catharine Doll.  Or Katharine.  Or Katherine.  Sigh.  In 1882, her marriage certificate has Katharine, but it also misspelled my grandfather’s last name.  I looked at census records to see if there was a consistent spelling.   It looked like Catharine was the most common, so, for now, that’s what I’m using for my records.  That difficulty is just the tip of the iceberg for the Doll line.

Catharine died in 1928 and is buried in Newton Cemetery in Emporium, PA.  She shares a headstone with her husband, Albert Murray, who died in 1909.  I went to the 1920 census, but couldn’t find her.  I finally searched for all Murrays in Emporium, PA.  Still no luck, but I spotted several of her younger children so I went to the original image.  And there was Catharine with a second husband, Albert Neil, along with the Murray children listed as Albert’s step-children.  Huh?   I’ve never heard a word ever about a second marriage.  They always referred to her as Mother Murray.  I even asked my mom and she was as surprised as me--my dad never mentioned it.  And I couldn’t find a definitive census record for Albert Neil in 1910 or 1930, so I’ll just have to let that part of the story go…for now. 

Catharine was born in 1868 in Cameron County.  Wait a minute…let me pull out that marriage certificate again.  Married in 1882?  Phew, 14 years old when she married Albert Murray.  They had 13 children (plus a miscarriage of twins).  Catharine was almost 16 when her first child was born, 37 when her last was born, and 39 when her husband died. Yikes, what a life. I have a photo of her that appears to be from the 1920s.  That would mean she was in her fifties.  She looks like she’s about 80.  Now I know why.

For a wedding gift, Catharine's father, Samuel, gave his daughter a solid wooden rolling pin carved from a tree in their backyard in Cameron County.  (I inherited it and last year I gave it to a niece.)  The census reveals that the Dolls moved to Cameron County from Monroe County sometime between 1870 and 1880 (maybe with a stop in Sullivan County along the way??).  Samuel Doll was born in 1821 in Monroe County, PA.  He and his wife Sophie Boyer, married in Monroe County, and had a large family.  Catharine had at least 12 siblings, maybe as many as 13.

In 1840, Samuel was living with his father Jacob Doll, who was born in 1781.  A brief biographical sketch of Jacob can be found in the Commemorative Biographical Record of Northeastern Pennsylvania, published by J.H. Beers & Co., but I sure would like to uncover some church records, wills or something to provide confirmation.  At any rate, the information states that Jacob was born in Monroe County, formerly part of Northampton County, grew up there, and became a shoemaker.  He married Catherine  Ruthstine of Monroe and daughter of Frederick Ruthstine (Ruchstein).

There are many family researchers out there working on the puzzle of Jacob’s parents, but nothing has been found.  There were many older Dolls in the area, but none have known links to Jacob.  I believe I’ve tracked him in the census back to 1810.  Over the years he lived in Jackson Township, and Chestnuthill, both in Monroe County and Pocono and Hamilton in Northampton County.  I’ve just sent research request letters to the county historical organizations to see if I can get any of the documents I would so like to see.  Meanwhile, I’ll pause to take a breather on the Dolls.  For me, it seems to help to take breaks and come back with fresh eyes.


  1. Greetings distant cousin...I like yourself am linked back to the Jacob Doll - Catherine Ruchstein way of Charles Doll (my g-g-grandfather). I haven't gotten back any further than you have and have run into the same road blocks...Montgomery vs Northampton/Monroe...even a notation that Jacob's parents were Frederick Doll and Mary Miller (Jacob's son Frederick was married to a Mary Miller...but than one never knows). Keep digging...let me know if you want any of the bits and pieces that I have uncovered.

    Take care,

  2. Hi, thanks for stopping by to comment and for your offer of info.
    I'm pretty sure Frederick Doll/Mary Miller as Jacob's parents is an error. I've seen that generational mix-up a lot in my research, especially when the names repeat in each generation. I haven't found a Frederick Doll that would be the right age, location, etc to be Jacob's father. The lack of evidence of any kind indicates a researcher's error to me.

    That said, any info you have, I'd love to get. Anything new that turns up may be the clue that gets me to the answers. electrisoil(at)