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Who Do You Covet, Mr. Covey?

The Many Wives of Mr. Covey

Most of my ancestors rarely moved. Most of the time, they died in the same town where they were born. However, there are moments when new discoveries open the doors to new mysteries. In those fun moments, when nuggets of new information are discovered curiosity takes over, in not only trying to digest the validity of that information, but also, how to solve the new mystery.

Take Samuel Covey, for example.

For most of his life, records showed him as Samuel Covey or Samuel J. Covey. Sometimes, he was recorded as Samuel Joseph Covey.

The 1900 census is the last document I had for many years of Samuel Covey and his wife, Mary. They appeared living in Grafton, New York, married for 23 years.[1] Samuel was born December 1843 in NY, 56 years old. Mary A. was born in August 1855 in NY, 44 years old and she had one child, listed as Hattie M., born September 1885. Hattie, was my great-great maternal grandmother. By 1905, Hattie was living on her own, a servant for another family in a nearby town.

I often wondered what happened to Samuel and Mary. A search in local cemeteries and other published records was a disappointment, as nowhere could I place them dead or buried – even with other local family members. They were buried somewhere! I assumed that they had died and were buried on a family farm in a private lot, location unknown. With Samuel and Mary having been married for 23 years, living in the same town for all those years, what could possibly have happened to them to just disappear? Isn’t there a saying about one who assumes? Hmm.

For years, I didn’t think I would ever find them. I didn’t think to look for them outside of New York State. I didn’t think to look for a man to change his identity. I didn’t think to look for a Joseph Covey.

A Revisit of Mr. Samuel Covey

Sometimes it is good to go back and take another look to try and update records or try searching again for the same family a few years later. A revisit of Samuel Covey leads to a discovery of a marriage license filed in Bradford County, Pennsylvania:[2]

My, my, isn’t this interesting? This is Samuel’s third marriage.

While the marriage record is a great surprise, the location is not. The Coveys were part of the Burdick/Covey families of Rhode Island who migrated West spreading the Baptist faith. Several various records can be found in Albany, Pennsylvania of the extended Covey family since the late 1700s. However, Samuel’s family always returned to Grafton. That is, until 1905.

There is lots of new information in this one marriage record:

  1. Samuel was 61 years and born in Grafton, his parents were Samuel and Mary Covey – yes, all that was known and now confirmed, so this was the right man.

  2. First wife died 20 October 1904 (that is presumed to be Mary.)

  3. Samuel’s second marriage must have been between October 1904 (Mary’s death) and prior to August 1905, as reported on line 16 above. Apparently, a brief encounter.

  4. Samuel’s above application is for his third marriage to Eliza Darby and since her parents are listed as Robert and Julia Eddy, this is least Eliza’s 2nd marriage.

In researching Samuel and his third wife, discoveries become very surprising. By 1910, Joseph and Eliza Covey were then living in Albany, Pennsylvania with two sons from Eliza’s previous marriage, John and Reuben Derby.[3] Although Joseph dropped the “Samuel”, he reported he was born in Pennsylvania instead of New York, but the census record reveals no other new information.

A few years later, Eliza died 12 October 1910.[4] “Joe” Covey was the informant listed on the death certificate. If Eliza and Joe had children, they are not known.

The next discovery is a bit more to digest. Joseph, a few years later married a fourth time. By 1920, Joseph S., now 76 years old appeared married to a new young wife, Pauline, all of 17 years, with two very young daughters:[5]

Let’s calculate this: If Pauline is 17 years in 1920 with a daughter over two years old…let’s see, she married a man about 60 years her senior and was pregnant when she was just 14 years old?

Regardless of age, overall, more questions open the paths for more research. For starters:

  1. Why did Samuel/Joseph relocate from Grafton, where he spent all of, or at least a large majority of time to Albany in Pennsylvania in the early 1900s?

  2. Who was Samuel’s 2nd wife? She remains a mystery. Were they married in New York or was he already in Pennsylvania?

  3. Why did mystery wife #2 leave him within less than a year of marriage? (Or…did he just leave her instead?)

  4. When did Joseph and Pauline marry…his fourth marriage? A hunt for another marriage record!

  5. What happened to the Pauline, the 4th wife, and two daughters? There is family somewhere in Pennsylvania to find…

Samuel Joseph Covey died 11 January 1922 in Albany, Pennsylvania and was buried there.[6]

With the new information of Mary’s death date (first wife) her death certificate was obtained.[7] Mary Abigail Covey was 50 years old when she died on 5 November 1904 in Grafton.

Reviewing her death certificate information, it is not clear that Mary and Samuel were still living together at that time. Samuel stated she died October 1904. Did he leave her too? Her certificate is one completed by an official, not a family member, and not by her husband. In fact, it shows that she was unmarried, with no mention of Samuel Joseph at all, but her parents were listed as Frederick and Elizabeth Brimmer.

With Samuel’s third marriage came more questions and mysteries, yes, but also closure. The destiny of Samuel and Mary was answered. And, after all that, there are certainly lots of new people and many more records to search for…let the fun begin!


[1] 1900 census, population schedule, Rensselaer County, New York, Samuel Covey, Grafton, ED#34, Sheet 6, dwelling 149, family 164,

[2] Pennsylvania, County Marriages, 1885-1950, p. 162, N. 6109, Samuel Joseph Covey and Eliza Darby, 1905, database with images, (

[3] 1910 census, population schedule, Bradford County, Pennsylvania; Joseph Covey, Albany, ED #1, p. 4B, dwelling 89, family 93,

[4] Pennsylvania Death Certificates, Bureau of Vital Certificates, (1910) cert. No. 102294, Eliza June Covey.

[5] 1920 census, population schedule, Bradford County, Pennsylvania; Joseph S. Covey, Albany, ED# 4, p. 3B; dwelling 72, family 74,

[6] Pennsylvania Death Certificates, Bureau of Vital Certificates, (1922) cert. No. 8089, Samuel Jospeh Covey.

[7] New York State, Bureau of Vital Statistics, Death Certificate, (1904), cert. No. 46853, Mary Abigail Covey.

#Covey #Grafton

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