Researching Mrs. Dr. Wheeler

Researching Mrs. Dr. Wheeler

Researching Mrs. Dr. Wheeler

By: Nancy Massey

Goodness! February is fast coming to a close!  Next month is Women’s History month.  What better way to celebrate than to honor your female ancestor by researching her lifestory.  Discover resources and search techniques when you attend Researching Your Female Ancestoron March 2 at the Noblesville Library starting at 9:30 am.  You may register online for this class.

So let’s “visit” with two female physicians who practiced in Noblesville. Joyce F. (Richards) Hobson is credited with being the first female physician in Noblesville.  She mentored another female physician named Miranda Malvina (Sample) Wheeler.  Using genealogy research skills to find more information on these women, we can search for a death certificate and/or an obituary.  Our Ancestry Library Editionshould have both death certificates and Newspapers.comshould have their obituaries.

Let’s see what we can find on Miranda. In searching Ancestry, I found Miranda’s death certificate but not without some difficulty.  I was searching under her first and last names when the index included her middle name.  That inclusion threw off my search. So remember to search under all the names or be creative and try a search using just her surname.

Her death certificate had her death date as May 25, 1922.  I should be able to find her obituary in Newspapers.com. Her parents are listed as John Sample and Elizabeth Drake. Her birth date is given as February 6, 1848. I won’t be able to find a birth certificate to verify the date because Indiana didn’t mandate birth certificates until 1882.  However, I should be able to find her on the 1850 census as a two-year-old with her parents. All this needs to be verified. That information was provided by the informant who was Mrs. Dr. Hook of Noblesville. What relation was Mrs. Dr. Hook to Miranda? Why was “Mrs. Dr.” used? The certificate further says she was buried in Crownland Cemetery on May 27, 1922. The prompted me to visit Findagrave.comto see what I could find.

Photo by Patty Thompson Garcia, Findagrave.com

I searched Newspapers.com first to find her obituary. First, I found an article listing her as one of the physicians in Noblesville that received their license to practice in 1897 from the state board.

Hamilton County Ledger, Tuesday, July 20, 1897, p. 2

Searching under Miranda Wheeler yielded nothing.  Searching under Wheeler with the year 1922 yielded 591 hits! Yikes! I changed the search range to May 1922 since she died in May. That reduced the hits to 46, a more manageable search. I found an article dated May 13 telling about the illness of Mrs. Dr. Wheeler.  Again, there is that term “Mrs. Dr.”  When researching that, I learned that female doctors at that time were called Mrs. Dr. instead of just Dr. or just Mrs.

Miranda’s obituary revealed she was married to James Wheeler who predeceased her. They had no children but step-children were mentioned by name. She was described as “a woman of unusual intellectual development.”  She died at the home of Dr. and Mrs. Samuel Hook.  Hmmm… could Mrs. Samuel Hook be the informant for Miranda’s death certificate? Miranda was born in Hancock County, Indiana and graduated in the mid-1880s from Indiana Electric Medical College in Indianapolis. (This prompted a Google search for that college which I found. However, I also discovered that the Electric was actually a misspelling!)

Brevier Legislative Directory compiled by W. H. Drapier, Vol. 1, p. 15, Indianapolis, 1885.

Upon further research, I discovered the name of the college was actually Indiana Eclectic Medical College. Miranda’s obituary misspelled the name as did the above source. Misspellings can really complicate your searches.

Myers, Burton D. The History of Medical Education in Indiana. Indiana University Press, 1956.

She began her practice in Noblesville under the direction of Mrs. Dr. Joyce Hobson, who was the first and only female doctor in Noblesville up to that time. Miranda was married in 1886 but continued to practice as a doctor for many years after the marriage. Her obituary is full of details providing clues to search in other resources and that doesn’t always happen (at least, not in my female ancestor’s obituary!).

I mentioned census research earlier to verify her age.  After Miranda married in 1886, you need to search census records under her married name. I found her in the 1900 census age 52, born February 1848, living with husband James W. Wheeler and three step-children, married 14 years, and her occupation is listed as physician. Whew!

1900 Federal Census, Noblesville, Hamilton, Indiana p. 10, ED 88.

This is just start of tracing a female ancestor.  Won’t you join me on March 2, 2019 to learn more about how to trace your female ancestors?



Both libraries will be closed on Monday, May 27 in honor of Memorial Day.