Jennie Dundon: An Enigmatic Life

Dundon, Jennie E. - Headstone
Jennie’s Headstone from

Jennie Dundon was my paternal grandfather’s maternal grandmother (if you follow that), making her my great great grandmother. According to her headstone, she was born September 22, 1872 and died February 8, 1905, a young mother in the prime of her life. The parents listed on her death certificate are “John Trembal” and “Martha Dondon”. The earliest record I can find for Jennie is the 1880 census for Clinton County, Michigan, where she is listed as “Jennie Mccrae” with her grandparents James and Elzada Dundon, and presumably her mother “Martha Mccrae”. Looking into Clinton County marriage records we find that Martha Dundon had been married, first to Simeon TenEyck in 1876, and then to John McRae in 1878. But neither of these men match the father of Jennie on her death certificate, and she was already 4 years old by the time of thefirst marriage. So who is Jennie’s father?

Jennie “Mcrae” in the 1880 census

Jumping back in time to the 1870 census (2 years before Jennie was born) we find Martha’s parents (Jennie’s grandparents) James and Elzada in Clinton County. In the next house Ferdinand Trombly, age 38, is enumerated, with Martha Trombly, age 19. Also in the household are Eliza (16), Mary (14), Joseph (13), and Louisa (11). It’s perfectly reasonable to assume that Martha could, in fact, be a child of Ferdinand (who would have been 19 when she was born), but to lend evidence to the theory that 1870 Martha Trombly was actually Martha Dundon we have to jump back even further. One “Ferdinand Trombley” is found in the 1860 census in Detroit, Michigan. He is 28 years old. Enumerated with him are Mary (23, presumably his wife), Eliza (5), Mary (4), Jeremiah (3), and Louisa (1). The ages for Ferdinand, Eliza, Mary, and Louisa all match perfectly. Presumably Jeremiah is the same person as Joseph, with either the census taker mistaking the name, or possibly being listed one of those times as his first name and one as his middle name (this happens fairly often in census records). This leaves Mary.  It’s doubtful that Mary and Martha are the same person due to the large age difference. My theory is that Mary dies sometime between 1870 and 1880, and Ferdinand and his children move to Clinton County where Martha Dundon takes up with him. I have yet to find any marriage record for Ferdinand and Martha, the only evidence of marriage is her last name in the 1880 census. Martha’s children variously go by Dundon, TenEyck, or McRae throughout their lives, but never Trombly, even though both Jennie and at least one other sibling (Frances) were born before Martha’s first recorded marriage to Simeon TenEyck. I believe that Martha and Ferdinand had, at the very least, some sort of common-law type marriage, even if they were never officially married. I also believe that Ferdinand Trombly is the “John Trembal”  listed as father on Jennie’s birth certificate.

Martha “Trombly” in the 1870 Census

Jennie got married at 15 or 16, early even for those days, perhaps because of her unstable childhood. She married my great great grandfather, George Conklin on April 22, 1888. According to the birth date on her headstone she would have been 15, but the marriage record says 16. She may have lied about her age so she could get married (or her headstone could be wrong). Jennie and George had 2 boys and 3 girls, one of whom was my great grandmother Cora Conklin. By 1900 the family had moved to Lansing, and in another 5 years Jennie has died of Pneumonia at (as her death certificate records) “about 30 years” old. George would later remarry, and unfortunately the only picture I have of him is with his second wife, as the woman in the picture is listed as “Grandma Conklin”, but is much too old to have been Jennie.

conklin, george & jennie dundon - marriage record
George A. Conklin & Jennie “Dundy” Marriage Record

It’s slightly strange that the period in her life that seems most stable is the time I know the least a about. Her childhood is a confusing mess of information, while her married life seems placid in contrast. I hope that she found some happiness in her marriage and children before she left this world so young.

dundon, jennie - death certificate
Jennie Dundon Conklin’s Death Certificate

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