Quinlan Notes
Last Updated - April, 2003

Our Quinlan family are the ancestors of Richard Jackson Quinlan and Lucy Orvis. Lucy Orvis and her ancestors are well documented in two books, "A History of the Orvis Family in America", Francis Wayland Lewis, 1922, and , "John Parker of Lexington and his Descendants," Theodore Parker, 1893. Both were prominent early families of the Connecticut and Maryland areas and have been extensively studied and documented. Unfortunately, this was not the case with Richard Jackson Quinlan, Lucy's husband.

I originally suspected that Richard Jackson Quinlan (RJQ) was an immigrant from Ireland who came to Canada about 1844, and then across the border into up-state New York. There were a number of Quinlan families in Montreal in the mid 1850's. Marion Lenz, my cohort in Quinlan research, hypothesized that he came from an old New England family, as there is a record of a Thomas Quinlan arriving in Boston in 1776, and Lucy's ancestors came from there also.

The debate went unresolved until just a few days ago. Marion decided to recheck the Chenango County GenWeb website, and discovered that a number of cemetery records had been added. In the Sherburne Quarter Cemetary are listed:

(Quinlan) Mariah, wife of Thomas Quinlan died Jan 18, 1846 age 45
Quinlan, Thomas died Nov 6, 1850 age 62
(Quinlan), Infant child dau of R.J. & L.A. Quinlan, died August 8, 1844

It appears almost certain that Thomas and Mariah Quinlan were the parents of RJQ, and the infant daughter was the first child of R.J. Quinlan and Lucy A. Quinlan.

Given the name Thomas Quinlan, and the ages of he and his wife, we were able to find the family in 1830 and 1840 in Chenango County (Smyrna and Sherburne townships respectively). They had four chilren, one of whom fits nicely in age with RJQ. Further searching in the 1850 census found Philo Quinlan and Ellen Quinlan, both the correct age for Richard's brother and younger sister and both listing their father's birthplace as Connecticut, living with separate families in the Smyrna area. Philo is a shoemaker, which was also Richard's trade. After much searching, Thomas was located living with the Jonathon Willcox family in Cherburne Village, mis-indexed as Thomas Gumlin. Jonathon's wife Julie is the correct age to be Thomas' eldest daughter, and lists her father's birthplace as Connecticut. Thomas is also the correct age and lists his birthplace as Connecticut. A page by page search of Smyrna and Sherburne townships in the 1850 census finds no other Quinlan families or individuals there.

While the relationship of the other Quinlans in Chenango County to RJQ is not proven, the circumstantial evidence of this family is overwhelming. It now remains to attempt trace their ancestry further back, and also attempt to find the descendants of Richard's brother and sisters.

Richard is listed as a shoemaker in the Parker book, and met and married Lucy in about 1845 in Smyrna, New York. They, along with their children, migrated west and settled in Schoolcraft, Michigan. Somewhere around 1858, Richard mysteriously disappeared. The original family story was that Richard went to fight in the Civil War, and died in a southern prison camp.

A second family story was told to a living granddaughter of one of RJQ's sons, Frank, who was about eight years old at the time of RJQ's disappearance. The story goes...one day, on his way home from work, Richard simply disappeared, and nobody knew what happened to him. He may have been killed by bandits or drowned in a river, or he may have simply taken off (there was much gold fever about that time), but he was never seen again, and none of the townspeople had any idea what happened to him.

A third and independent family story came down through the Newfarmer family (Ella Quinlan, Richard and Lucy's youngest child, married Joseph Heaton, and Joseph's daughter Nelle married Roy Newfarmer). The essence of this family story is that when Lucy decided to remarry Joseph Mertz, she felt so guilty about remarrying without knowing whether Richard was alive or dead, she invented the Civil War story to clear her conscience.

There are extensive records of Civil War soldiers kept by the U.S. Government, and there was no Richard Quinlan who enlisted in that war from Illinois, so the Civil War story is probably not true. However, we have no further information on what might have happened to him.

Whatever the case, as was the custom in those days, Lucy gave up her children to friends in the neighborhood and went to live with her father in Iowa. Lucy was my first encounter with the practice of parceling out children if a mother or father died. Most of our ancestors were farmers, and a widowed farmer had no time to take care of young children. If the father died, the mother had no means of support, and often remarried fairly immediately. Her new husband usually didn't want to take on the children, so they were sent to live with friends and relatives. A year or so ago, I did a "chronology of Lucy", which I will reprint here. This does not include the recently found information, but I will update it when we've reached a new plateau in our Quinlan research.

Lucy’s Chronology:




Mar 19, 1825

Lucy A. Orvis born in Smyrna, New York to William Riley Orvis and Lydia Lucretia Parker

Parker Genealogy


Lucy living with family in Otselic, New York

US Census

1844 approx

Lucy marries Richard Jackson Quinlan

age of 1st child

Apr 4, 1845

Lucy’s first child (Thomas B. Quinlan) born in Sherburne, New York

Parker Genealogy

May 10, 1847

Lucy’s second child (Frank B. Quinlan) born in Sherburne, New York

Parker Genealogy

Dec 29, 1849

Lucy’s third child (James R. Quinlan) born in Schoolcraft, Michigan

Parker Genealogy

Aug 18, 1850

Richard J. Quinlan, Lucy, Thomas and Franklin living in Schoolcraft, Michigan - James is not reported.

US Census

Dec 20, 1850

William R. Orvis, Lydia, Alvertus, John A., Charlotte A., Chas W., and Jane A, living in Belvidere, Illinois

US Census

May 2, 1851

Lucy’s fourth and fifth children (Miriam L. and Frederick D. Quinlan) born in Schoolcraft, Michigan

Parker Genealogy

Nov 10, 1855

Lucy’s sixth child (Ellen Quinlan) born in Schoolcraft, Michigan

Parker Genealogy

Jun 27, 1860

Frederick (8) and Myriam (8) Quinlan living with The Alexander Wood family in Prairie Bonds, Michigan

US Census

Jul 12, 1860

James Quinlan (9) living with the Gilbert Stuart Family in Schoolcraft, Michigan

US Census

Jul 30, 1860

Thomas B. Quinlan (14) living with the Richard Purdy family in Portage, Michigan

US Census

Jul 13, 1860

Ella Purdy, probably Ella Quinlan, 4 years old, living with Elijah Purdy family in Schoolcraft, Michigan

US Census


Lucy, Richard J., children Frank and Ellen, and all of the William R. Orvis family not found

US Census


William R. Orvis and family move from Illinois To Fayette County, Iowa

WRO Obit


William R. Orvis, Lydia, Alvertus, Lotte, and Samuel living in Fayette County, Iowa

US Census

Nov 9, 1875

Lucy marries Joseph W. Mertz in Linn County, Iowa

Mertz Obit

Dec 3, 1879

Charlotte marries William Wade in Fayette County, Iowa

Parker Genealogy

Jun 15, 1880

Andrew Orvis (44) is head of household in Fayette County, Iowa. With him is William R. (77), Lydia L. (71), John A. (47), and Samuel P. (29). Next door is Lottie A.(43) with husband William Wade.

US Census

Nov 20, 1883

Lydia L. Orvis dies in Sumner, Iowa

Heaton Genealogy

Sep 12, 1892

William R. Orvis dies in Sumner, Iowa

WRO Obit

Aug 10, 1895

Charlotte dies in Sumner, Iowa

Charlotte Obit

Jun 9, 1900

Lucy and Joseph Mertz living in Linn County, Iowa

US Census

Sep 22, 1903

Joseph Mertz dies in Odebolt, Iowa

Mertz Obit

Jan 25, 1907

Lucy dies in Canon City, Colorado (daughter Ellen (Ella) Quinlan Heaton is living there at the time

Heaton Genealogy

The other mystery of the Quinlan family is where Lucy and her parents were in 1860. One should remember that the mid 1860's were a time of great turmoil, particularly in the midwest, where sentiments on the Civil War issues ran high, and families often moved temporarily to other locations to avoid conflict. Richard J. Quinlan probably disappeared in about 1858, and most of Lucy's children can be found living with other families in the 1860 census. But she, her father and her mother are nowhere to be found. Perhaps they were in transit, but more likely were just mis-indexed in the census. Several researchers have spent a lot of time searching the census pages of suspected counties for them, with no success.

There are some interesting historical documents on the remainder of the family, and it will be fun to include them in this section, as time permits.