By Deanna Schiavone
This past week, I was asked to research a portrait of an unknown woman related to the Dubois family. I really wanted to find out who this woman was; however, all that was known was the donor’s name, Nathaniel Dubois Clark; who had it before him, Louise Clark Wygant; and that the girl lived in Marlboro, NY. Our curatorial department at Historic Huguenot Street dated the painting to circa 1830s. So, I was left with the face of a young woman from the early 19th century. All the time that had passed since this painting was made was lost to archives and genealogical records, which are very frustrating after one gets no results after three hours of research.
I began my research with a simple Google search to try to figure out which Dubois family line donor Nathaniel and/or Louise was related to. All I knew were their names and that Louise Clark Wygant was married to a Foster Wygant of Marlboro. Using context clues I could tell that Nathaniel and Louise were related in some way so I repeatedly tried to look up various versions and combinations of their names. Yet, the surname Clark and Dubois are very common in the Hudson Valley. I could not specifically tie them to anyone I was researching. I then thought to give Louise’s husband’s name a shot since it was my last hope. After about 30 minutes of researching Foster Wygant I finally found something promising. A link to a Google book mentioned his marriage to Louise on April 10, 1888, which automatically registered as an encouraging link. “Foster Wygant” brought me to a genealogical record of Samuel Clark: an original settler of the Hudson and an ancestor to Louise Clark Wygant.1 The short mention of Foster relayed information about his wife Louise, which finally tied the donor to a family line!
The blurb on Louise and her immediate family informed me of her parent’s names, her two siblings and where she resided after her marriage; her parent’s names were Augustus Clark and Elizabeth Dubois!2 Finally, I could start to look at the genealogical records we have in our library and any census information about these people. Historic Huguenot Street’s Archivist & Librarian, Carrie Allmendinger, helped me to piece together the puzzle of how all these names were related. At first, we looked into the genealogical records; however, there were too many similar names and sometimes things can be transcribed incorrectly. Therefore, Carrie did not want to only rely on our record to officially understand how all the names related and who the young woman was since it is a primary resource. So, we turned to census records where Carrie was interested in firstly and foremost relating Nathaniel D. Clark to this family. We found out that Augustus’s only son, Franklyn, was the father of Nathaniel.3 Therefore, Louise was the aunt of Nathaniel! Now, we could have a definite understanding of which family line to tract in the records.
At first I thought our unknown woman might be Elizabeth Dubois, the mother of Franklyn and Louise. But she was born in the year 1830, so she was way too young to be painted to fit the time period. Thus, we went further into the records to look into Elizabeth’s background.4 Her parents were Nathanial Dubois and Deborah Ann Bloomer. Deborah was born in 1800 and fit into the time period very nicely. Of course, we can never definitely know who this portrait is of; however, through the research that has been done on the portrait we have concluded that the woman depicted is Deborah Ann Bloomer.
We narrowed down the possibilities of how Deborah’s portrait fell into the hands of Nathanial Clark to two possibilities. One, the portrait was passed down from Deborah to her first child Elizabeth. Elizabeth then gave the portrait to her daughter Louise since she still lived in the area who then gave the portrait to her nephew for safe keeping. Or, the possibility that I believe, Deborah had the painting hung in her house where it remained for decades. When Louise and Foster Wygant married, they moved into their grandparent’s house: the home of Nathanial Dubois and Deborah Bloomer.5 Regardless, now we can finally put a name to this lovely face and will be able to do further research on this woman and her family.
1 Clark, Rev. Edward W. History and Genealogy of Samuel Clark Sr. and his Descendants from 1636-1891 – 255 years. Nixon Jones Printing: Missouri, 1891: 51.
3 “1880 United States Federal Census.” Ancestry.com. Operations Inc.: Utah, 2010. Web. 1 Mar. 2016.
4 Heidgerd, William. The American Descendants of Chretien Du Bois of Wicres, France. Dubois Family Association: New York, 1998.
5 Clark, 51.