In the 1850 U.S. Census, she was listed as 8 year old Serfenda Nickerson, living in Mercer, Maine with her parents and siblings. I have never heard of that name, have you? I just checked one of those name calculators, and there are fewer than 1,589 Serfendas in the U.S. right now.
|From the 1850 U.S. Census|
The census information at that time was handwritten, of course, which always gives lots of room for error. I think that a case could be made for that name actually being "Perfenda"--you'll see why in a moment.
According to the census transcription, her parents, the plainly-named Jonathan and Hannah, also had children named Alien, Orin, Manncea, Alvine, and Tilestio. You might agree with me, however, that a case could be made for a different interpretation--they might just as well have been called Ablein, Orion, Minnesota, Merino, and Filester!
Tracing our mystery woman through the years, we see that:
In the 1860 U.S. Census, she was called Prophenda Nickerson.
In the 1870 U.S. Census, now married to my Great Grand-Uncle Edward, she was called Fenda Ellis.
In the 1875 Rhode Island State Census, she was called Brofenda Ellis.
In the 1880 U.S. Census, she was called Profenda Ellis.
In the 1900 U.S. Census, her name was variously transcribed as Rorofenia/Profenda/Rofenia Ellis.
In the 1910 U.S. Census, she was called Profante/Profenda/Profant Ellis.
|From the 1910 U.S. Census|
When she died in 1918, she was buried next to Edward in a grave in Rhode Island that was unmarked,* but the cemetery records called her Profinder Ellis. Now, that's a version that makes me smile. If you think about it, this is exactly the way a New Englander would pronounce "Profenda." (As you know, they tend to carelessly drop the letter "r" where you would expect to hear it, then they pop it into places where it was never intended to go).
So, for the moment, I think that I will call her Great Grand-Aunt Profenda-pronounced-Profinder, although I'm pretty sure she would prefer to be called plain old Auntie Fenda (probably pronounced "Fender").
What do you think?
*I wondered why the Ellises were buried near the Huntoons, but research showed that one of Profenda's younger sisters, not born in time for the 1850 Census listing above, was named Callista Nickerson, and was married to a Huntoon.