genealogy, Mary Davis Skeen, Skeen

Wednesday’s Child: the mystery of Benjamin Skeen

In the process of understanding the Skeen family’s story, I’ve had to do a bit of digging into the Skeen family’s genealogy.  William Skeen and his wife were Mormon pioneers sharing in the responsibility of settling the town of Plain City Utah, so there is plenty to be found on Ancestry.com and FamilySearch. Unfortunately, though, there is not much to be found about little “Benny” (Benjamin Davis) Skeen who died at just three years-old.

I originally found little Benny in a graveyard. I have absolutely no blood relation to Benny and his family, so I had no clue that he had been forgotten by current generations. But as I began researching the family to tell their story, I discovered that little Benny had been forgotten in his family group. There are several family trees on Ancestry.com that don’t have Benny listed as a family member; but FamilySearch does not have him added at all to his family group sheet. It’s not that Benny needs a piece of paper to prove that he existed, or that his family deeply mourned his death, but I feel a deep urge to have him remembered–especially by his family.  This is why I need to tell his story.

I had to do some adjusting on this photo in order to see the names and dates clearly.
I had to do some adjusting on this photo in order to see the names and dates clearly.

I had taken several pictures of the family’s memorial a couple of months ago, but some of them were not saved to my file.  I had to go back to the cemetery to take more pictures of  Benny’s side of the memorial. I arrived on a sunny afternoon, and realized that the side of the memorial with Benny’s name was in full shadow.  I took several pictures, just to make sure that I had at least one good one.  It turned out that I didn’t have any good ones, but if you look closely at the photo above, you can make out “Benjamin David Skeen” along with his birth and death dates in between the names of  his two brothers who also died of  smallpox.

I honestly think that the problem came after someone had already published a family group sheet with Mary and her children on it. Someone else came along later and saw that there were two little boys with the same middle name (Davis), very close together in birth, who died on the same day. Logic must have kicked in and whispered to this family member that this could not have happened.  So Benny’s name was removed.  Well, that’s my guess.

Good family search practices could have eliminated the problem instead of eliminating Benny. That’s another reason that I had to go back and take this picture.  I want to see that Benny gets put back with his family. Genealogy is a painstaking process.  First, you need to know your parents and grandparents.  Then you need to hope that your grandparents knew who their parents and grandparents were, and left some sort of record. Then these records need to be copied and added to the family files along with any other supporting documents proving the existence of that individual in that day and time.  For little Benny, this family memorial  and the memories of a handful of living family are all he has.

I have met just one family member with a memory of Benny.  More specifically, her memory is of  Benny’s story.  Little Benny would have been her great-uncle.  Their paths did not pass in their separate lifetimes, Benny’s sister, born after Benny died, was this relatives grandmother . Memory serves Benny’s niece to remember that Davy (Elisha), Benny, and Tommy (Thomas) died on the same day. The tombstone proves this true for only two of the boys, with Tommy following only a few days later. So this tombstone is the absolute most important document that this family has proving the lives and deaths of these children.

photo 3
No adjustments needed for this photo of the opposite side of the tombstone. You can see all names clearly.
I had to do some adjusting on this photo in order to see the names and dates clearly.
I had to do some adjusting on this photo in order to see the names and dates clearly.

I now have proof, but I’m not satisfied that it’s good proof. After looking at these two photos of the same memorial (taken within minutes of each other),  I realized that I needed to have good light to take pictures in.  I’m no photographer, and I’m pretty sure that most genealogists aren’t either. To be good proof, the photo needs to be clearly readable, and the one on the left is not.

So I will go back one more time and take a photo in the morning when the sun is shining on Benny’s side of the stone.  Then I can solve Benny’s problem, adding the photo to his family group sheet so there is proof of his existence.  I’ll feel better about this poor little lost boy once that happens.

Oh, and in case you were wondering about the nicknames of Benny and his brothers, I learned that they were called Davy, Benny and Tommy from their great-niece. And this great-niece is looking forward to having her great-grandmother’s story told.

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