When I was in my early teens and starting to get interested in family history (thanks, Roots!), my grandfather Bill Prettyman told me what he knew about his ancestors. He told me that his grandfather was Alfred Minus Prettyman and that his grandmother was Mary Ann Horan. With those words, I learned of my great-great-grandparents for the first time.
Since then, I’ve learned much about Alfred Minus/Minos Prettyman and his ancestry, tracing the Prettyman line back to my 18th-great-grandfather John Prettyman, who lived in Bacton, Suffolk County, England in 1361, the location of the Prettyman ancestral home, Bacton Manor (the most recent iteration of the Manor House dates to the late 1500s).
Mary Ann Horan and her ancestry have proven quite a bit more difficult. I could find information about Mary once she had married Alfred Prettyman (for instance, the 1885 census—see image below—that was taken almost 6 months after their December 1, 1884, wedding), but information about her before she was married proved very difficult to come by.
I eventually found a couple of census entries (1875 and 1880) for a Mary A Horan before she was married:
These two census entries listed Mary’s parents as William and Margaret Horan, and showed that Mary was the eldest sibling in a family of at least seven children:
- Mary (b. ca. 1865)
- Michael (b. ca. 1867)
- Bridget (b. ca. 1869, presumably died before 1880)
- John (b. ca. 1870)
- Margaret (“Maggie”) (b. ca. 1871)
- William (“Willie”) (b. ca. 1874)
- Lisa (b. ca. 1876)
Then, exactly one month ago today, I received a comment on one of my blog posts:
Working on the Arthur Horan (my grandfather) side of the ancestry. Apparently, Mary Ann Horan Prettyman was his sister. Could you scan and send me any pertinent information. I believe their father was William and their Mother Anora. However, if Mary Ann was born in 1861 there would have been a twenty year span in their births. I only know of three other sisters to Arthur. Thank you.lorraine
Interesting—I knew of no brother named Arthur, and I (thought I) knew that Mary Ann’s mother’s name was Margaret, not Anora. Was Lorraine’s grandfather Arthur unrelated, or did I have more to learn about Mary Ann’s family? Given how little I knew about Mary Ann Horan’s past, I hoped that this new clue would shed new light on Mary Ann’s ancestry.
Lorraine wrote again with a couple of additional tidbits:
Grandpa was born march 29, 1881. His mother Anora died in 1891, I believe. His father was William. Per his obit. After his mother’s death, he lived with a sister and brother-in-law. The family stories are a little more colorful. I believe William may have moved to logging areas out west. Do you have anything to add to my lack of information about William or Anora? Lorraine
I asked for a copy of Arthur’s obituary, and she sent me an image of his obituary:
This caused me to throw my ideas about Mary Ann’s birth family out the window. The person I thought was her father, William W. Horan, died in Minneapolis in 1917. The person I thought was her mother, Margaret Patterson Horan, died in New Richland in 1907. According to Arthur’s obituary, however, both of his parents died in 1891, and he went to live with his sister and brother-in-law, Mary Ann and Alfred Minos Prettyman. Additionally, the three sisters listed as surviving Arthur—Katherine, Frances and Laura—are not among the sisters listed in the 1875 and 1880 censuses I showed above.
As has happened at least one other time in my search for my ancestors, there appears to have been two people who had the same name, who were born around the same time, and who were living in the same area, and I had conflated the two individuals. Sure enough, with a bit of searching, I found the obituary for Mary Horan #2 (not an ancestor), indicating that she had married a Mr. Donahue and had died unexpectedly in 1893.
I’ll have to go back and reexamine all of my evidence for Mary Ann Horan to see which pertains to Mary A. Horan #1 (my ancestor) and which pertains to Mary A. Horan #2 (who married Mr. Donahue and died in 1893).
I’ll spare you the details and will jump straight to my conclusions:
|Fact||Mary A. Horan #1||Mary A. Horan #2|
|name||Mary Ann Horan||Mary Agnes Horan|
(b. 1844, Ireland)
(b. 1842, Ireland)
|mother||Anna or Annie (or Anora)
(b. 1847/49, Indiana)
(b. 1842, Ireland)
|siblings||Catherine (b. 1870)
John Bernard (b. 1873)
Martin (b. 1876)
Peter F. (b. 1879)
Arthur Wallace (b. 1881)
Frances (b. ____)
Laura (b. ____)
|Michael (b. 1867)
Bridget (b. 1869)
John (b. 1870)
Margaret (b. 1871)
William (b. 1873)
Elizabeth (b. 1876)
|sibling order||first-born child||first-born child|
|1870 US census||?||?|
|1875 MN census||Belle River
Douglas Co., MN
Waseca Co., MN
|1880 US census||Belle River
Douglas Co., MN
**father was absent**
Waseca Co., MN
|1885 MN census||Spruce Hill
Douglas Co., MN
**siblings living with Frank
and Anora Lee Prettyman**
|1895 MN census||Woodside
Otter Tail Co., MN
**siblings living with Mary
Ann and Alfred Prettyman**
|husband||Alfred Minos Prettyman||Cornelius Donahue|
|married||Dec 1, 1884||?|
|children||Roy Alfred (b. 1885)
George Irvin (b. 1887)
Charles Austin (b. 1889)
Gracie (b. 1891)
Clarence Marion (b. 1894)
Mary Agnes Horan (b. 1893)
So it appears that Mary Ann Horan was born in Belle River township, Douglas County, Minnesota, to William and Anna (“Annie”) Horan. They stayed in Belle River until at least 1880. In 1880, her father was not living at home at the time of the census, and her mother (“Annie Horn”) was listed as the married, non-widowed head of household. Perhaps this was when her father William Horan went west to logging areas in California, Oregon, or Washington, as Lorraine hinted at in her email to me?
By the time of the 1885 U.S. census, Mary Ann Horan has been married to Alfred Minos Prettyman for seven months, and she’s seven months pregnant with her first-born child, Roy A. Prettyman (quite the effective honeymoon!). Her siblings are all living next door to her and Alfred, with the family of Alfred’s older brother Francis (“Frank”) Prettyman and his wife Anora Lee Prettyman (see below; perhaps this is why Lorraine called Anora Arthur’s mother—Arthur had moved in with Anora and Frank by the time he was four years old).
Where were her parents? Had Annie Horan joined her husband on the west coast? I only found one William Horan in 1885 on the west coast—a dairyman who was living in Seaside, Santa Cruz County, California (at the time a big redwood logging area). He was listed as the head of household (see image below) and had three nieces and a nephew staying with him (Annie Horan, 15; Katie Horan, 13; Mary Jane Horan, 11; and Charles Horan, 9). I have no reason to think this is Mary Ann’s father, but I also can’t rule him out.
It seems unusual that both of Mary Ann’s parents would have died in 1891 (if Arthur’s obituary is correct on this point), and I’d expect there’d be an interesting story behind that event as well. I haven’t yet been able to learn anything about the deaths of Mary Ann’s parents.
One thing I did notice, however, was that Anora Lee Prettyman died in 1892, and that she shares a headstone (see photo below) with her father-in-law, Alfred Wharton Prettyman, who also died in 1892, and one of the Horan children who was living with her—Martin Horen (1876–1890). I think it’s possible that the history got a little garbled over time, and that it was the woman serving as the mother of the Horan children who died in 1892, right after the male head of the same family died in 1892, and that these two deaths got misremembered as the deaths of the Horan children’s parents.
The death of Anora Lee Prettyman, would have left Frank Prettyman alone with a handful of Horan children, and so it makes sense that the children would have left Frank and Anora Prettyman’s home (what Arthur would have considered his parents’ home) at that time and moved in with my great-great-grandparents (and their eldest sister), Alfred Minos Prettyman and Mary Ann Horan. And sure enough, at least some of the Horan children are still shown as living with Alfred and Mary Ann at the time of the 1895 Minnesota state census:
So I think I’ve straightened out the two previously conflated Mary A. Horans, and I’ve learned a bit about who her siblings were and where they went when their birth parents were no longer in the picture. But what happened to her birth parents? The circumstances of their deaths and/or departures still need to be determined.