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    The Jubilee Singers. (1875). Image courtesy of the New York Public Library.

Merrys, Merrys, Everywhere

Why are Merry’s coming out of the woodwork this week? Again tonight, I decided to do some more searching on Nelson Merry and found another relative for my friend. I came across this site that is in dedication to Sylvia Olden Lee, apparently, a great-granddaughter of Nelson Merry.

Sylvia Olden Lee was a classical musician and teacher, and the first black vocal coach at the Metropolitan Opera in New York, even playing at the inauguration ceremony of President Franklin D. Roosevelt. She even has a Wikipedia entry.

On the dedication page, there is a section devoted to her family history and it states that Nelson Merry was her great-grandfather. It also provides some further history on her family, but some of it incorrect. This particular story attributes the Olden plantation to Nelson Merry, but an interview of Sylvia, that is provided as a link from this page, is more clear. Also, it states that Nelson had a sister, Elizabeth Merry, that was a Fisk Jubilee Singer.

After reading this, I went off to GenealogyBank to see if I could locate her obituary, and I did. There were two obits, one in the April 16, 2004 Philadelphia Enquirer, and one in the April 18th edition. She died April 10th of pancreatic cancer, and was 86 years old, thus born around 1918.

Off I go with more Google searching and I have just brought up a great amount of information! I cannot wait to add this to my Nelson Merry lineage; including, this book from Google Books that has information about Sylvia’s brother, Georg Elliot Olden.

Update  45 minutes later: I’ve found the exact connection! From the personal interview above, Sylvia stated that it was her father’s mother that was the daughter of Nelson Merry.  A search of the 1880 census revealed only one Olden couple that seemed to match for age, a G.D. and a Lizzie Olden. Well, I already know that Nelson had a daughter named Elizabeth, who is enumerated as “Lizzie” in their 1870 census record, and she is not in their house by 1880.  So, I suspected this was her as the age was right. Then, I decided to do a search of the Nashville Public Library’s marriage database from 1864 to 1905. Lo and behold, what do I find?   An entry for a Lizzie J. Merry united to George D. Olden on 27 May 1878! I am off to the Metro Archives this weekend to look at the actual marriage license.  This is wonderful!

Now, the sad part is, why didn’t I search the marriage database before? I found marriage records for another two girls who could be Merry’s daughters.

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