The photo is of my great, great, great grandmother Hilton and, I presume, her daughter Mary or Martha Hilton.  I want to give their faces their place in history but I’m not sure I even know their names.

I have always loved looking at old photos and hearing stories of my family.  One day, when I was a young teenager, my paternal grandmother Ottie and I were looking at her old photos and she gave me this 2.5″ x 4″ photo.  It is a photo that has been placed onto a thick, firm card stock and has no photographer name or location.  It seems to fit the description of the carte-de-visite type card mounted photo and the serrated or scalloped edges suggest the photo was taken between 1880-1890.

Thankfully, my grandmother told me the relationship these woman have with me and wrote their surname and a few other pieces of information on the photo  It seems that the younger woman’s name is Mary with the ‘y’ written stronger as though to overwrite the ‘tha’ of Martha and their last name is Hilton.  I believe Jesse Hilton of North Carolina was the son of the older woman in the photo, and was my great, great grandfather.

One of my first steps in tying to learn more about these ladies was to determine how far back in time my “3rd great grandmother Hilton” would be.  The fan chart below starts with my paternal grandmother, Ottie and based on Jesse Hilton’s birth year, my 3rd great grandmother was born between 1814 & 1848 (assuming a childbearing age range of 15-49).

I began hunting in the census for Jesse Hilton (Helton, Hylton, Melton, etc) born in 1863 in North Carolina since that was information my grandmother provided.  Then I added the information from the photo that Jesse had a sister named Martha or Mary.  I did find in 1880 Thomasville, Davidson county, North Carolina census a Jesse A. (born ca 1862 and 18 years old).  He and his parents were born in North Carolina and he had one sister named Mary and another named Martha.  That family’s mother was Jane Hilton (born ca 1824) and their father was deceased.

As I continued to trace this Jane and her family in older census records, I found them in Thomasville, Davidson county, North Carolina in 1850 & 1860 but haven’t found them anywhere in 1870.  Jane’s husband was Jesse Hilton (born ca 1821 in NC) and their children were:

  1. Cynthia M (born ca 1845)
  2. John E (born ca 1847)
  3. Martha (born ca 1849)
  4. Mary (born ca 1852)
  5. Francis (male born ca 1854)
  6. Nancy (born ca 1856)
  7. Roxana (born ca 1858)
  8. Jesse (born ca 1863)

This information seems a good match to what my Grandma told me.  If it is my line then my 3rd great grandmother was Jane Hilton and since she had daughters named Martha and Mary I’m not sure which daughter is in the photo.  In one person’s unverified family tree it suggests that this Jane’s maiden name was Mendenhall, which gives me another clue to search.

My guess of the ages of the women in the photo matches the ages of the Jane Hilton and her daughters, which also coincides with the suggested date of the photo.  Between 1885 & 1890 Jane was 61-66 years old and her daughters were 36-41.

Perhaps Jane Hilton is my 3rd great grandmother’s name.  The image of her face and her name will surely help me as I continue in search of her place in history.

This is my submission for the 21st Edition of Smile For The Camera, which is ‘Give Their Face A Place.’
“March is Women’s History month and you are asked to picture women back into history. The unknown, known and unsung women who are often the foundation of our family history. Give their face a place. The interpretation is yours. Admission is free with every photograph!”