Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Cora Bell: My Ancestral Doppelgänger

Doppelgänger: an apparition or double of a living person.

Cora Bell Ellis 
Image from

When I first "met" my great great Aunt Cora Bell Ellis, she was living on a farm in Willow Township,  Cherokee, Iowa, being counted in the 1870 U.S. Federal Census. She was there with her father Robert; mother  Eleanor; older sister Helen; older brother Henry; and her two little brothers, Elsworth and Robert. (1,2)

When I had done a lot more research, I learned that Cora had been born in Maine, and that some time after her baby brother Robert was born the Ellises moved with their extended family members to Cherokee, probably by covered wagon. The same page of the 1870 census shows that their neighbors next door were the ones who had also come with them from Maine: Two Rankins families, and a Rankins daughter, Lydia, married to Obed Wells. Everyone was related, as Cora Bell's mother Eleanor was also a Rankin, daughter of Joseph and Joanna.

Cora's mother, Eleanor Rankins Ellis, with Eleanor's three sisters: 
Cora's Aunt Lydia, Aunt Mary, and Aunt Adah.
They all had moved to Cherokee, Iowa from Maine.
Image from

The more I looked at Cora's blurry old photo, the more I recognized someone. It was me! Neither of us is a great beauty, but we share the same facial structure, the same weak eye muscles (mine corrected in early childhood by a stern ophthalmologist threatening surgery if I didn't do my eye exercises), and--now that I've been thinking about Cora so much--the same hairstyle, more or less. Cora just looks a little more stern than I do, but her life was much harder than mine, of course. 

There are more things that we have in common. Cora was born in Rome, Maine in 1862. Just 90 miles away and 82 years later, I was born in Biddeford, Maine in 1944--five years after Cora died.

When Cora was around seven years old, she was walking beside a covered wagon, heading west to Iowa. When I was a seven year-old living in San Francisco, I was playing covered wagon, my favorite "let's pretend" game. It's true!

I've thought about Cora a lot since I am reminded of her every time I look in a mirror. I wonder what she was like, and wish that I could find someone's personal memories of her. In the meantime, the documents available to a family history researcher do tell the outline of Cora's story. 

Next time: Silas enters the picture...

Sources and Notes

1. 1870 U.S. Federal Census. Census Place: Willow, Cherokee, Iowa; Roll: M593_381; Page: 478B; Image: 182; Family History Library Film: 545880

2. How I am related to Cora Bell:

Cora Bell Ellis (1862 - 1939)
2nd great-aunt

Robert Winslow Ellis (1821 - 1876)
father of Cora Bell Ellis

Oscar J. Ellis (1852 - 1907)
son of Robert Winslow Ellis

Eva Josephine Ellis (1888 - 1943)
daughter of Oscar J. Ellis

Daniel Lawrence Harris (1907 - 1972)
son of Eva Josephine Ellis

Clair Marie Harris
I am the daughter of Daniel Lawrence Harris

1 comment:

  1. Especially the covered wagon parallel!!! I was there in San Francisco, I can testify!!!


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