Thursday, September 27, 2012

Miss Serena Libby - identified

Miss Serena Libby was, according to records of the Home for Aged Women, 50 at the time of admission, although she was actually a couple of years younger. She was blind and despite the home's age limit which at the time was 60 or older, the board unanimously agreed to admit her due to her disability, general frailty, and her not having family who could provide for her.

In 1850 she was enumerated with Hannah Thompson, 60, probably a widow, with twin sons. There is no known relationship between her and the Thompson family.

Serena or Cyrene Libby or Libbey was born in Scarborough, Cumberland, Maine 27 Mar 1809, the first of four children of Sewall and Sarah (Libby) Libby. Her father was born in Scarborough 6 Mar 1779, the son of Daniel and Dorothy (Hasty) Libby. He was a sea captain involved in the West Indies trade, sailing out of Portland where the family moved while she was young. Capt. Sewall died 29 Apr 1830 and his widow, Sally, was found living on Danforth Street in the 1831 Portland City Directory.

In 1834 the city directory lists Sewall Libby, mariner, with a home on Danforth, and widow Sarah at Sewall Libby's. This Sewall was the oldest of Serena's brothers who died in about 1833 of smallpox. The next available city directory, 1837, does not list widow Sarah, although she lived until 1842, but does list the middle brother, Cornelius M., mariner, home on Pleasant, but boarding at Park and High. The next directory, 1841, has widow Sally, home on York but boarding at Fore and High, and Cornelius M and Alvin B., mariner, both at Sally Libby's. Alvin was Serena's youngest brother. In 1844 Alvin B, mariner, has a home on Danforth; the others are not mentioned.

According to the Libby genealogy, Cornelius was injured "by a blow from a falling spar" and lost his hearing; he became a house painter and moved to California where he died. Alvin B. was last heard from in New York. None of the family is found in any subsequent Portland city directories until 1858 when Miss S. Libby is at 15 Elm Street (the Home for Aged Women).

Sarah "Sally" Libby, Serena's mother, was born in 1774 in Scarborough, the daughter of Phineas and Sarah (Libby) Libby. She died in September 1842 although her death is not recorded in Portland.

Serena had a cousin who was blind and who had a son also born blind, suggesting that the condition was congenital within part of the family, although the Libby genealogy stated she was blind for many years, not that she was blind from birth, it may still have been a related genetic disorder.

Source for information on her family: Charles T. Libby,  The Libby Family in America, 1602-1881 (Portland: Charles T Libby; Printed by B Thurston & Co, 1882), 195.

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