A Note to My Readers: Family lore often assists in uncovering mysteries. Breaking brick walls. On the other hand, it can also be the cause of those brick walls as well. Or the very least throw a cloud over the real lives of the people you are researching and removing an important aspect of the times in which they live. For years I was under the impression that one family’s deafness was due to so many first cousins marrying. It was perpetuated by other Tyler researchers like the proverbial ‘whisper down the lane’. The more it was repeated, the more it became fact. That is, until I began to find out more about my second cousins, the Doty Family of Cayuga County, New York. I looked for the ‘signs’.
Researching my maternal 4th great grandfather, William Tyler (1773 – 1860) and his wife, Abelina Bartlett (1772 – 1855) also involved the extended family – the Dotys. My second cousins. William and his wife, Abelina Bartlett Tyler, were feeble in their final years. William suffered from senility and so the pair were separated by 1850. Abilena spent her remaining days with her two daughters, Marietta Roberts and Almyra Swain in Aurelius. William went to live with his daughter, Anna Tyler Doty in Sennett. Anna married her first cousin Jason Martin Doty. Jason’s mother, Deborah, was William Tyler’s sister and she was married to Timothy Doty.
It wasn’t uncommon in the Tyler line for first cousins to marry. Kin was a big deal…family wealth was kept close and family loyalty was paramount. It wreaked havoc on the gene pool back then among many families that practiced the tradition. At first I thought that was borne out by the number of individuals that are recorded as ‘deaf and dumb’ in the family of William B. Doty…John Mason Doty’s brother. Will and his wife, Lucretia Pierce, had eleven children. Three of them were deaf and dumb and were sent off to New York City to the New York Institution for the Deaf and Dumb to learn to read and write, but more importantly to learn to sign to stay connected to the greater world. After their education, the children returned and married fellow students of the institution.
Several poignant records came to my attention regarding the Dotys. The first was the 1850 Federal Census that shows sisters Phebe Doty Cuddeback (1833-1930) and Rebecca Doty Gilbert Cross (1829-1915) living at the NYC school as students and enumerated as ‘inmates’ and ‘deaf and dumb’. Inmate is a term frequently used for students and patients in institutions when enumerating in the censuses.
I also came across Phebe’s marriage announcement in a local newspaper – the Auburn, NY Weekly Journal from November of 1852.
“At Weedsport on Tuesday, November 9th, by the Rev. S. R. Brown, Mr. CORNELIUS CUDDEBACK, of Phelps, Ontario County, to Miss PHEBE DOTY, of Weedsport. Both were graduates of the New York Institution for the Deaf and Dumb. The ceremony was performed in the language of signs.”
For Rebecca Doty, I found her first husband, Gustavus O. Gilbert and his sister, Lucy, each listed as an ‘inmate’ at the New York Institution for the Deaf and Dumb in the 1850 census. Rebecca and Gustavus were students there at the same time. When Gustavus died in 1865, Rebecca married George M. Cross, another young man who was profoundly deaf. Their marriage record in the U.S. Census on Deaf Family Marriages tells the real story about why the three Doty siblings were afflicted. The cause was attributed to WHOOPING COUGH. The Dotys were not ill at the same time as their ages ran a span of decades. Rebecca and Phebe most likely were ill at the same time as they were just four years apart, but the youngest, who was also deaf, was not born until 1846. All lost their hearing at a young age which in turn affected their speech.
As I read through Auburn area newspapers from the 1840’s and 1850’s, it became apparent that whooping cough was a widespread problem during that time. Along with whooping cough, scarletina, diphtheria and consumption (phthsis), the area residents had suffered for several decades prior to the 40’s and 50’s as well. It was a constant threat and institutions had been established to manage the long-term effects. The New York Institute for the Instruction of the Deaf and Dumb was established in 1817. The U.S. Census on Deaf Family Marriages (1888-1895) read more like a medical report defining the cause of the deafness and details on the parents and other siblings. This was a society looking desperately to manage infectious diseases that clearly impacted large segments of the population and remained unchecked.
I mentioned three siblings…the last was Adelmor Doty (1846-1864) who died at the New York Institution for the Deaf and Dumb of typhoid when he was just 18 years old. Adelmor is buried among his Doty family members in Throop’s Community Cemetery. His monument is particularly touching. It features three signs that spell out G. O. D. and the inscription:
“The ears of the deaf shall be unstopped”. Isaiah 35 Chap 5 Vse. Selected by his teacher.” ADELMORE. SON OF WM. & L. DOTY. DIED AT WASHINGTON HEIGHTS, N.Y. CITY
In my initial research of this Doty family, I found Adelmor’s monument first as I did Tyler work in the old Throopsville Cemetery. Walking cemeteries in the process of documenting my family’s old pioneer burials, I happen upon monuments that capture my attention. They have a character that tells you that there is a bigger story to tell. The unusual engraving and the inscription on the stele of Adelmor Doty was the beginning of that deeper research.
Author, Historian, Genealogical Researcher
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