I’ve Got Fenicals and Ensmingers in My Hair

…My Hair family that is.

One of the most interesting approaches to genealogical research in my opinion is to dive into second-degree relatives (SDR) of your ancestors. These include siblings, cousins, aunts or uncles of your direct ancestors. This type of research can give you a broader spectrum of your family tree and also enhances your knowledge of your family history, which may also include a few surprises. It can also hone your skills as the family historian. Practice, practice, practice…

This is what happened to me, somewhat by accident. A few weeks ago, I was just lazily looking at some newspaper articles involving my 3x great-grandfather, Carson Hair (right? I love that name). Anyway, my Hair family lived in Perry County, PA and the one article that took me by surprise is this one:

Courtesy of Newspapers.com© – 14 Dec. 1870, The Perry County Democrat (Bloomfield, PA)

This was a rule from the Orphans’ Court of Perry County, where a group of the heirs of Peter Hair, deceased, to show cause of why the real estate of Peter Hair shouldn’t be sold and the proceeds go to Peter Hair’s widow.

What struck a chord in me was the name of Ensminger. One of my earlier posts, Forest of the Dead…Reimagined, dealt with my wife’s Ensminger family. The book I referenced in that post, “Ensmingers from Pennsylvania and Alsace” written by Raymond Martin Bell, covers a vast number of Ensminger ancestors and descendants from Pennsylvania, to Ohio, West Virginia and Illinois and states further west and south. In looking into the names in the above newspaper article, I discovered that the William Ensminger mentioned was married to Mary Hair, sister to my 3x great-grandfather, Carson Hair.

According to the Ensminger book on page 213, Joseph Ensminger and Elizabeth Fenical’s son William H. Ensminger (1840-1909) was married to my 3x great-aunt, Mary Hair (1846-1879). There are some things mentioned here that need some correction.

There are three marriages mentioned for William Ensminger. There were only two marriages based on what I will be showing. Also, the Susan and Sarah Ensminger mentioned above were the daughters of Catherine (Ritter) Ensminger and Madison Ensminger (here is Madison Ensminger’s Find a Grave page link).

When you begin new searches on ancestors, give yourself a game plan on how you are going to search. I like to keep my searches relagated to each ancestor (one at a time) so I can find out everything I can about that one ancestor before I move on to the next ancestor. This helps me untangle the truth from any wrongly associated information. Keep in mind, there are times that you might hit a wall, or there is a lead that you might not want to wait on. Just try to keep everything as organized as you can so you don’t get lost or you go barking up the wrong tree.

I first went to Ancestry© and FamilySearch© to search for any records for Mary (Hair) Ensminger and one of the first things I ran across was Mary’s Find a Grave link.

What I found on the Find a Grave memorial page is that William’s 2nd wife, Martha, is the person memorialized and linked to Peter and Sarah Hair as her parents and Martha has also been given the maiden name of Hair, which is not correct.

Now, that has given me a two-pronged mission to prove that Mary Hair, William’s first wife is the daughter of Peter and Sarah Hair and that William Ensminger was married only twice, first to Mary and then secondly to Martha.

The first thing I wanted to do was find Peter Hair’s will. Here it is:

Courtesy of FamilySearch©, Wills, 1820-1911; Perry County (Pennsylvania). Register of Wills; Wills, Vol C-D, 1854-1880

The six children of Peter Hair are mentioned, which includes Carson Hair and his sister Mary.

I then found Mary in the 1850 Census in Carroll Township, Perry County, PA:

Courtesy of Ancestry©

I think that’s pretty conclusive.

With that done, I knew I may not find a whole lot more on Mary Hair, since she passed away in 1879, so I decided to move onto William Ensminger as I figured I might get more conclusive information using him as my main search target.

I found William Ensminger in the following census. Here he is with his family in the 1860 Census, Rye Township, Perry County, PA.:

Courtesy of Ancestry©

I just happened to look to see who was living next door in the same census and I saw a very familiar name, Fenical (spelled many different ways):

Courtesy of Ancestry©

According to the Ensminger book, Joseph had two Elizabeths in his life. His sister Elizabeth (Ensminger) Fenical, listed above in the 1860 census and the Elizabeth Fenical he married who was the daughter of Solomon Fenical and Elizabeth Shade.

I next found the 1870 census in Carroll Twp., Perry County, PA of William Ensminger with his wife Mary (Hair) Ensminger and their children of that time:

Courtesy of Ancestry©

Listed is Wm. H. Ensminger, his wife Mary, son Harry E. and Sarah Hair, Mary’s mother.

Let’s take a look at the 1880 census in Carroll Twp., Perry County, PA for William Ensminger with his 2nd wife Martha (Bennett) Ensminger with William’s daughter Sallie and step-son, Charley Bennett:

Courtesy of Ancestry©

I looked for the next census, the 1900 census and here it is for Steelton, Dauphin Co., PA:

Courtesy of Ancestry©

You’ll notice that Martha is listed as having no children with William and they have been married 18 years. Also, note the last name of the servant and the boarders. The Fyler name will be significant a little later.

I couldn’t let go of the big question mark that was Martha Bennet and how she fits into all of this, so I then decided to go back to the censuses prior to 1880 to see if I could find a Bennett family in Perry County, PA.

My search did not disappoint…here is the 1870 census in Tyrone Twp., Perry Co., PA:

Courtesy of Ancestry©

Now, there is no guarantee that this is the right Bennett family, but I ran with it to see what else I could find since there were no other Bennett families that were likely candidates. The Basil Bennett listed as the husband of Martha is an enigma. I only found a Basil Bennett in the 1860 census in Frederick County, MD and staying with a “Furk” family. After that, I couldn’t find anything prior to the 1860 census or after the 1870 census shown above, but it was enough to get me across the finish line so to speak. The reason I say that is I had two other people; the children listed in the above census I could do searches on as well as Charley Bennett to see if I could find out if this is the right Martha Bennett that married William Ensminger, but that would have to wait as I wanted to get back to William.

Based on the 1900 census for William and Martha, they had been married 18 years, so that would mean they were married about 1882.

I turned to Newspapers.com to see what I could find. I was not disappointed:

Courtesy of Newspapers©, The Valley Sentinel (Carlisle, PA), 29 Dec. 1881

Now, even though the announcement gives the bride’s given name as Bertha, mistakes did happen and I honestly believe this is the marriage announcement for William Ensminger and Martha Bennett.

I then went back to Ancestry and found an interesting tidbit on Martha in a city directory for Carlisle, PA in 1882:

Courtesy of Ancestry©

Bingo…this is obviously the wife of the Basil Bennett mentioned above. I decided to go through the same city directory to the listed individuals with the surname that began with the letter “E” and I found William:

Courtesy of Ancestry©

Notice the same address for both William and Martha…why Martha still has her previously married name is that the city directory was probably compiled previous to when William and Martha got married and then published in 1882.

I decided to keep on looking in the newspapers and I was then dumbfounded by what I found (the Charles Bennett mentioned is the son of Martha Ensminger):

Courtesy of Newspapers©, The Sentinel (Carlisle, PA), Tues., 22 Jul 1902

As I had pointed out in the 1900 census, there was a Filer (Fyler) family boarding with the Ensmingers and William Filer came with his new bride, Clara (Derr) Filer to stay with William Filer’s family earlier in 1902 just after William Fyler and Clara Derr had gotten married. Also, in the 1880 census I had pointed out the Charley Bennett that was listed as the step-son of William Ensminger. The above Charles Bennett mentioned in the headline is the same person.

Other portions of articles now follow. This article explains what happened, who was involved and that it happened at William Ensminger’s house:

Courtesy of Newspapers©, The Sentinel (Carlisle, PA), Tues., 22 Jul 1902

These two articles explain who Charles Bennett was, who his brother was and his relationship to William Ensminger and Martha Ensminger.

Here are portraits and a photograph of the Filers and Charles Bennett.

Courtesy of Newspapers©, The Harrisburg Independent (Harrisburg, PA), Tues., 22 Jul 1902 and The Philadelphia Inquirer (Philadelphia, PA), Sun., 27 Jul 1902

Although, initially it was thought that the jealousy on William Filer’s part was attributed towards Charles Bennett’s attentions to Clara Filer, it was in fact Clara’s attentions towards Charles that fueled the actions of William Filer. In making searches throughout newspapers across the country, from later months in 1902 through 1920, William Filer was never captured.

I did more searching on James Bennett and his sister Elizabeth Bennett to further confirm that Martha Ensminger was the mother of Charles, James and Elizabeth.

Female children are more difficult to research after they get married and I encountered much difficulty with Elizabeth Bennett, but I had better luck with James Bennett.

I found his marriage record. There’s Martha Ensminger stated as James’ mother:

Courtesy of Ancestry©, Marriage date, 22 Oct. 1888

Now I believe I have successfully proven that Mary Hair was the daughter of Peter Hair and Sarah Smeigh and the first wife of William Ensminger. Also that Martha (Bennett) Ensminger was the second wife of William Ensminger and she was not the daughter of Peter and Sarah Hair, even though at this time I have not discovered what her maiden name was. William Ensminger died on 27 Dec 1909 and Martha J. Ensminger died 10 Apr 1911.

I was genuinely excited about finding the Fenicals and Ensmingers in my Hair family. The Fenicals of Perry County, PA go back to my Miller family and now I know that William H. Ensminger, although a distant cousin, he is related through that Fenical-Miller connection.

Remember, second-degree genealogical research can be very fruitful and can uncover things you may have never thought of or imagined. Practicing and honing your research skills are key to making successful discoveries and uncovering or unraveling the truth, especially when the tasks at hand seem difficult at best.

I want to wish all of my reeders the very best of the new year. Happy New Year!






Ensmingers from Pennsylvania and Alsace” by Dr. Raymond Martin Bell – 1994/2018 – Courtesy of the Library of Congress 


John Kurt Ensminger

Cheryl, my wife who is a constant beam of sunlight in my life and whose love and support keeps me going.

One thought on “I’ve Got Fenicals and Ensmingers in My Hair

  1. I’m so glad when I started out that I searched & collected the collateral lines. I ended up up finding siblings born between 1880-1900 on other sibling’s censuses & mothers that remarried that otherwise may not know about, since I was searching under the previous surname. I have knocked down walls that way.


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