Margaret O’Donnell



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Margaret A. O’Donnell (1836-~1865)

Margaret A. O’Donnell was born in 1836 in Kentucky as the fourth child of Thomas C. O’Donnell and Martha Canterbury. She had eight siblings, namely: Rebecca, Martha Ann, Matilda Ann, Isabella, Thomas Jefferson, William H., George C., and Jane.

We don’t know exactly when or where Margaret was born, so this is just a random day for celebrating her life.

Margaret’s parents are said to have married in Lawrence County, Kentucky. When she was a child, she moved with her family from Kentucky to Missouri. Her mother died young, and on 15 Nov 1849, her father remarried to Nancy McPherson. Nancy was a widow of George Canterbury and brought children with her to the marriage, giving Margaret step-siblings. The family relationship got confusing because the step-siblings were also first cousins. George Canterbury, the new wife’s deceased husband, had been one of Margaret’s maternal uncles. He was a brother of Martha Canterbury O’Donnell, Margaret’s mother. After their marriage, Thomas and Nancy O’Donnell had several children, namely: John Wesley, Samuel Owen, Sarah, and Emma. So, Margaret eventually had half-siblings as well.

To put this into context… Think about your mother’s brother (your uncle). Now think about his wife. Now imagine if that aunt-by-marriage became your step-mother. It was a much more common family scenario in the past than it is today. Widowers needed new wives to take care of the home and children. Widows needed new husbands for financial support. It was sometimes convenient to look within the family for a new spouse.

At the time of the 1850 Federal Census, the merged O’Donnell family lived in Audrain County, Missouri.

1850 Federal Census, Thomas O’Donnell family.
Audrain and Callaway Counties, Missouri. [ Adapted from: I, Ruhrfisch [GFDL (, CC-BY-SA-3.0 (, CC BY-SA 2.5 ( or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons]

When she was 19, Margaret O’Donnell married William Riley Estes, son of Jane and John Estes, on 26 Aug 1855 in Callaway, Missouri.

William Riley Estes and Margaret A. O’Donnell, marriage record.

William Riley Estes and Margaret A. O’Donnell had the following children:

  1. John Thomas Estes was born on 07 May 1856 in Steedman, Callaway, Missouri. He married Zelpha Lou McCall on 27 Dec 1883 in Portland, Callaway, Missouri. He died on 28 Jul 1947 in Callaway, Missouri.
  2. James H.B. Estes was born in 1858 in Callaway, Missouri. He died between 1870–1876 in Missouri.
  3. Anna Eliza Estes was born in Oct 1859 in Callaway, Missouri. She married Joseph Andrew Wright on 23 Mar 1882 in Linn, Osage, Missouri.  She died on 08 May 1937 in Centralia, Lewis, Washington (Age: 76).
  4. Moses Patton Barnett Estes was born on 27 Nov 1862 in Portland, Callaway, Missouri. He married Mary Emeline Estill on 12 Sep 1899 in Reform, Callaway, Missouri, He died on 18 Dec 1917 in Steedman, Callaway, Missouri.
  5. Laura Alice Estes was born on 26 May 1864 in Callaway, Missouri, USA.  She married William Berry on 26 May 1881 in Callaway, Missouri. She married James Emmett Newsom on 23 Aug 1890 in Hams Prairie, Callaway, Missouri. She died on 26 May 1946 in Fulton, Callaway, Missouri.

John and Margaret lived in Callaway County, near his family in the area where he had grown up.

1860 Federal Census, William Riley Estes.

Sometime after the birth of their last child, Margaret O’Donnell Estes died. The exact date of her death is not known. Her last daughter was born 26 May 1864 and her husband William had remarried and had a child with his new wife by late 1868. It is quite possible that Margaret died as a result of childbirth because that was common in those times. But, there were also a lot of other reasons that people died young back then, so something else could have caused her death. She no doubt died in Callaway County, Missouri sometime between 1864 and 1868. Her grave has not been located. Record keeping was not a priority back in those days, especially in rural Missouri during the time of the Civil War and its aftermath. They didn’t keep death records in Callaway County until 1883, decades after Margaret’s death.

Margaret’s 29-or-so years of life were probably full of hard work and economic struggle. During her short life time, there was progress with the invention of Morse code, the gridiron (metal grate) to cook upon, the circuit breaker, the corn sheller, the grain elevator, the hand-cranked ice cream maker, and the rotary printing press, so it may have felt like life was getting easier than it had been for her ancestors. Having a husband and five children, and living near relatives, there was likely laughter and joy to fill her days too.

Where is she in the tree?

Relationship chart, Thomas Leland Estes to Margaret A. O’Donnell.
Pedigree chart, Margaret A. O’Donnell.

Where can I learn more?

The Estes Family

  • Publication date: January 2019
  • Pages: 740
  • Formats:
  • This book traces our Estes family from our earliest known Estes ancestor, Nicholas Estes, who was born about 1495 in England. His descendants, beginning with our immigrant ancestor, Abraham Estes, lived through all the major events in American history. Detailed biographies are included for twelve generations of ancestors from Nicholas through the family of his 9th great-grandson, Thomas Leland Estes. Thousands of descendants have been identified and are listed.

Selected Sources:

I, Ruhrfisch [GFDL (, CC-BY-SA-3.0 (, CC BY-SA 2.5 ( or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons. ( : accessed 29 Apr 2018)

“Timeline of United States inventions (before 1890),” Wikipedia ( : accessed 29 Apr 2018).

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