Yep. A genealogical brick wall. Hattie Josephine Finney (1869-1931) was my paternal great grandmother, and Catherine Florence Finney (Kate, 1863-1922) was her sister. Until two or three years ago, I knew nothing about Hattie except that my father called her Mama Gangie, she was married to Papa Gangie (Henry Brown), she lived in Pensacola, Florida, and she was the mother of my grandmother Helen Brown.
When I started working on this branch of my tree, I contacted one of my first cousins to see what he knew. As we started working though this branch, he made contact with a descendent of Kate Finney who has done a phenomenal about of research into the parentage of these two sisters. He shared his research with us, and we have all continued to look for and share information about this elusive family.
I just want to kick myself for not getting interested in this branch before my father died! What did he know about this family? I don’t think he knew a whole lot about who came before Hattie and Henry or he would have told me. A couple of years ago, I was looking for clues in the infamous paper piles in his office during one of my annual visits home. I found a 1986 note that his sister Frances and written to their sister Clyde that included some names of possible fathers of Hattie. This note told me that my dad and his sisters were looking for clues themselves two decades ago. They were going on the assumption that Finney was the father’s name. However, it appears that Finney is the maiden of their mother who was one of several sisters. But which one? It’s also interesting that other children of some of these sisters also went by the name Finney. And that’s not the only crazy-making feature of this family. Just delving even a little into the Finneys makes my head hurt.
We know that the maternal grandparents of Kate and Hattie were Harriet B. Jones and John Finney from Laurens County Georgia (Harriet was probably born in Jones County Georgia but moved to Laurens as a child). They had five daughters and one son: Irene (b. 1841), Sarah (b. 1843), Eliza or Elizabeth (b. 1845), William (b. 1848), Rebecca (b. 1850), and Virginia (b. 1853). Sometime before 1850, the Finneys moved to Washington County Florida. The 1850 census lists all of the children except for Virginia who was born after the census was taken . This census also includes Harriett’s stepmother Sarah Jones and her half sister, also named Sarah Jones.
John died, and Harriett married Ira Shine Williams sometime before 1857. They had son George Williams before 1860. This marriage was brief as Ira isn’t listed with Harriett in the 1860 Washington County census (See image below. Notice son George with last name of Finney; maybe a mistake by the census enumerator) . Ira Williams is in Texas by 1860 with his children by his first wife . Also, Harriett’s children Eliza and William disappear after the 1850 census. Irene is in Thomas County in 1860 with the Thomas S. Jones family. She is listed as Irene Huson with Isaiah Huson and son Jasper .
In the 1870 Walton County Florida census, Kate and Hattie appear on the scene. They are with their grandmother Harriett and her son George Williams and daughters Sarah, Rebecca, and Virginia Finney (misspelled as Frunetz) . Kate is six years old and Hattie is only eight months old . Their last name is listed as Williams. This may have been an assumption made by the enumerator, or maybe that’s what he was told, or maybe that was really their last name. Next door is Harriett’s daughter Irene (Finney) Huson and Irene’s son Jasper Finney (see what I mean about the maiden name). Below are pages from the 1870 Walton County Florida census. Harriett, Sarah, Rebecca, and Virginia are at the bottom of page 57, and George, Kate, Hattie, and Irene and Jasper are at the top of the following page 58.
Below is the 1880 Santa Rosa County census listing Kate and Hattie as granddaughters of Harriett and with the last name of Finney .
Kate married Orin Martin Merritt in 1882, and Hattie married Henry Washington Brown in 1886 [8, 9]. Both the Merritts and the Browns ended up in Escambia County Florida where they lived out their lives [10, 11].
There is way more to the Finney story than what I’ve written here and way more research that has been done (using both direct and indirect evidence) by my Finney cousin than just the census records that I present above. From what I understand in reading my Finney cousin’s research, he’s narrowed down the mother of Kate and Hattie to possibly Sarah, but so far he hasn’t been able to confirm this. I don’t even want to get started discussing the possible fathers (I’ve mentioned one here).
I’m sending this into cyberspace in the hope that information about the parentage of Kate and Hattie is out there somewhere in someone’s family history…Please get in touch!
 Ancestry.com. 1850 United States Federal Census. Division 3, Washington, Florida; Roll: M432_59; Page: 302B; Image: 582, for John and Harriett Finney.
 Ancestry.com. 1860 United States Federal Census. Washington, Florida; Roll: M653_109; Page: 1033; Image: 505; Family History Library Film: 803109, for Harriett Finney.
 Ancestry.com. 1860 United States Federal Census. Seven Leagues, Smith, Texas; Roll: M653_1305; Page: 65; Image: 133; Family History Library Film: 805305, for Ira S. Williams.
 Ancestry.com. 1860 United States Federal Census. Thomas, Georgia; Roll: M653_138; Page: 71; Image: 71; Family History Library Film: 803138.
 Ancestry.com. 1870 United States Federal Census. Uchee Anna, Walton, Florida; Roll: M593_133; Page: 814A; Image: 765; Family History Library Film: 545632, for Harriet Williams.
 Ancestry.com. 1870 United States Federal Census. Uchee Anna, Walton, Florida; Roll: M593_133; Page: 814B; Image: 766; Family History Library Film: 545632, for Kate and Hattie.
 Ancestry.com and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. 1880 United States Federal Census. Precinct 1, Santa Rosa, Florida; Roll: 132; Family History Film: 1254132; Page: 190D; Enumeration District: 136; Image: 0076, for Harriett, Kate, and Hattie.
 Ancestry.com. 1900 United States Federal Census. Muscopel, Escambia, Florida; Roll: T623_168; Page: 27A; Enumeration District: 15., for marriage year of Kate Merritt.
 Ancestry.com. Alabama Marriage Collection, 1800-1969. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2006, for Hattie Finney and Henry Brown.
 Ancestry.com. Florida State Census, 1867-1945. Florida State Census of 1885; (National Archives Microfilm Publication M845, 13 Rolls); Record Group 29, for Kate Merritt.
 Ancestry.com. Florida State Census, 1885. (National Archives Microfilm Publication M845, 13 Rolls); Records of the Bureau of the Census, Record Group 29, for Hattie Brown.