Seeking Parmelia Hall Church, Wife of Benjamin F. Church

Research about Parmelia, the wife of Milwaukee pioneer carpenter Benjamin F. Church, has yielded many details about her life, some contradictory. For example, her given name is spelled Parmelia H., Permelia C., Permilia, Pamelia, and even Emilie. She is recorded as Elizabeth Church, married, in Forest Home Cemetery records for the Benjamin F. Church lot, the only time that given name appears for her. Episcopal Church records and her mortuary notice in the Milwaukee Daily Sentinel make it clear Elizabeth is Parmelia.

Then, she is Parmelia Hall Church in the baptism records for two sons at St. James Episcopal Church in Milwaukee, but her oldest daughter’s death record lists her as P. Clemens.

Taken together, the details do not help us find her parents, ancestors or specific place of birth. While she likely was born 2 Nov 1815 in New Hampshire, she seems to be missing from databases at,, and from online books.

Here we provide links to several blog posts we’ve done about her, with what we have discovered. We hope someone might know what New England or New York family she came from to the Wisconsin frontier by about 1838 to marry Benjamin. Their first daughter, Hannah Maria Church, was born 21 Sep 1840 in Milwaukee, her baptism record shows.

A pair of blog posts share what I learned, thanks to a query published in the New England Historical Genealogical Society magazine, American Ancestors, and then follow-up research.

First, Power of Published Genealogy Queries, Part I – blog post describing discovery of Parmelia / Permelia Church in Milwaukee Episcopal Church records, thanks to a query reply from a generous genealogist with knowledge of Milwaukee records.

Second, Parmelia Hall Church: Power of Published Genealogy Queries, Part II – blog post with further discovery about Parmelia Hall Church in Milwaukee Episcopal Church records, and a Benjamin Church Family listing, thanks to St. James Episcopal Church records held at the Milwaukee County Historical Society archives.

About five years ago, I wrote when I knew then about this elusive ancestor as Permilia, wife of Benjamin Church – in a query style posting. At that point, it seemed her maiden name was Clemens or Clement or other variation.

Her husband was the topic of another blog post – Benjamin F. Church, Milwaukee public service – and still another described where Benjamin and Parmelia lived with their 6 children – the Benjamin Church House, today a pioneer museum in Estabrook Park north of Milwaukee.

Perhaps someone will recall a young woman, maiden name Hall or Clemens / Clement, who traveled to the Wisconsin frontier all those years ago. Drop us a note via Twitter if you do. Thank you! And big thanks again to the Milwaukee genealogist and the Milwaukee County Historical Society for your exceptional help!

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Published in: on February 12, 2018 at 12:38 am  Leave a Comment  
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Permilia, wife of Benjamin Church

52 Weeks, 52 Ancestors: Number One
QUERY for the wife of Benjamin F. Church, her name perhaps Elizabeth Permilia Clemens Church

I am seeking the parents, birth date and birth place for the wife of Benjamin F. Church, a pioneer builder who arrived in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, in 1835 from Ulster County, New York. He spent time in Chicago in 1834 before coming on to Milwaukee. I would also like to know when and where she married Benjamin. Here is what is known about her from various records:

Given names: She is Permelia Church in the 1850 Census, Permilia Church in her first daughter’s marriage record [1859] and Parmelia Church in her 2nd daughter’s marriage record [1875]. In deeds in 1840 with husband Benjamin she is recorded as Parmelia H., Pamelia or Purmelia. She is recorded as Elizabeth Church, a married woman, in the 1856 burial records at Forest Home Cemetery where she is buried in the Benjamin Church Lot with infant Benjamin F. Church Jr. who died 1850. She may have been Elizabeth Permilia or Permilia Elizabeth.

Surname: Her surname of Clemens is given in just one place, her first daughter’s death record [1891] where she is listed as P. Clemens. This is unconfirmed, and could be Clements or other name.

Birth: She was born in New Hampshire in 1815 or 1816, as per the 1850 Census where she is shown as 34 years old.

Marriage: An 1838 or 1839 marriage date is estimated based on the apparent 1840 birth of her oldest known child, Ann Maria Church, recorded as 10 in the 1850 Census. No marriage record has been found for Benjamin and Permilia, either in Milwaukee [Early Milwaukee Marriages booklet] or in Chicago [Fink Index].

Meeting: We can only wonder where they met, whether in Buffalo, New York, the port where ships sailed to Chicago and Milwaukee, or in Chicago where Benjamin first settled in 1834 or Milwaukee. She would have been with parents or other relatives. Ulster County, New York, is on the Hudson River, so it is likely Benjamin went west to Chicago via the river, the Erie Canal and then a Great Lakes ship. He came overland to Milwaukee in the fall of 1835, and returned to Chicago to settle his affairs before settling in Milwaukee, according to his obituary [1887].

Children: Benjamin and Permilia had 6 known children: Ann Maria Church [1840-1891], Ann Augusta Church [1843-1876],  Charles B. Church [1847-1885], Benjamin Church Jr [1850-1850],  John Benjamin Church [1851-1911] and Susan Church [1855-1870]

Death: Benjamin’s wife died 21 Feb 1856, in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, according to Forest Home Cemetery records for the Benjamin Church plot. Recorded as Elizabeth Church. No Church in the death index, Milwaukee Register of Deeds, 1852-1875.

I have found Clemens families in New Hampshire in census records of the right period, even some with females of the right age in their household. But I have not found a published genealogy or other source that puts Elizabeth Permilia into a family. This is a tough brickwall and any help would be appreciated.

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Published in: on December 28, 2013 at 7:17 pm  Comments (6)  
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