There is a HUGE difference between fact and theory. This is one truth I've faced when tackling a case in genealogy. Some details we might suspect, but may never be able to prove. This happens quite often when records are scarce, especially when it involves persons who passed away prior to death certificates being issued.
Census records are a great tool when it comes to genealogical research, however, no one but heads of household were listed by name until the 1850 census, ages were nonspecific, and relationships were not given until the 1880 census.
Children listed in a home were not necessarily those of the head of household. Sometimes they were grandchildren, or nieces and nephews, or neighbors taken in, or orphans who had been bound to the family. In those instances, occasionally the child is listed under their own surname, or the surname not listed and the child wrongly identified as having the same surname as the head of household. At times, they were even hired help. Children were labor in the early years. There was no choice. By past standards, today's children are very spoiled. Not to say child labor was a good thing, but it seems a balance was a beneficial element in creating a productive and altruistic society.
That in mind, sometimes the analysis of a neighborhood over a scan of years could possibly enlighten a course of what might have happened.
Take for instance the following design of a neighborhood through the course of a decade.
House 42: House 43 House 44 House 45
Jessee Heathcock 42 L. Green 24 Wlm Streeter 51 Angeline Brum 28
Mary 36 Amy 18 Martha 30 James 7
Catherine 17 Mary A 2 Henry 21 Joseph 5
George 15 Lawson 0 Amos 19 Abigail 3
Lunda 13 Rutha 17 Cordelia 1
Jonathan 12 Eliza 15
Maggie 11 Sophia 13
Henry 10 Hosea 10
Mattie 9 Polly 9
Benj. 7 Evans 8
Jesse 6 James 6
Ziphia 5 Thomas 4
Kizzy 4 Beadie 3
Jincy 3 Leticia 2
Ephraim 2 Narcissy 1
Barbary 3/12 Arthur 9/12
From appearances, the above 4 families show an intact, large farm family in the Heathcock household, a young family in the Green household, a large family in the Streeter household, with a mother who could not have been the mother of all the children, and a young widow in the female headed Brum household.
Ten years later, in the 1860 census, the households have became very different.
House 145 House 146 House 147 House 148 House 149 House 150
Heathcock's Heathcock's Cullen Green Streeter Collins
Jesse 51 George 26 Robt 33 John L. 34 William A 65 Martha 40
Polly 48 Sophia 22 Sallie 25 Lina 37 Amos 28 Obedience 13
Lunda 23 William 3 Allen 8 Jim 17 Hosea 20 Tishie 12
Jonathan 22 Lucy 8/12 Rhody 6 Abbie 12 Mary 18 Narcissa 11
Henry 20 Willie 5 Mary Ann 11 Even 17 Arthur 10
Jesse 16 Hiram 3 Delia 10 Thomas 15
Zilphia 14 Joshua 1 Lawson 10
Kesiah 13 Lucretia 7
Jane 12 Magdaline 6
Barbara 10 Johnny 3
Lydia 8 Fred 2
Theo 7 Faitha 1
Then in House 151, in relation to this grouping we find Henry Streeater 30, with Katie 27, Sarah 5, Jesse 4, Adam 3, Mary 2, and William 1.
You have to be somewhat familiar with "nicknames" or alternatives to the standard, of the 19th century, to know that Jesse and Polly in 1860 are probably the same Jessee and Mary in 1850. Ages were not always exact and could sway back and forth horribly. Catherine is missing from the household, but George has stayed close by, perhaps building a home on the same property, or on an adjoining lot. He has a wife, Sophia, and two young children. Could Sophia be the same Sophia who is now missing from the household of William Streeter? They've named their firstborn son William. This is a lead, but not proof of anything. The name is the same. The families lived in close proximity, and Sophia is 9 years older than the Sophia of 10 years prior. Censuses were not taken using the one day method that is used now, so depending on what month a child's birthday came in and what month the census was taken in, it could vary. It fact, it was more common for an age to vary than for it not to, or rather, to see someones age as 10, 21, 33, 42, through the censuses than 10, 20, 30, 40.
|Montgomery County Farmhouse discovered by loggers. Photograph by Cindi Mullis Poole.|
Also missing from the Heathcock household are Maggie, who should be about 21, Mattie who would be about 19 and Benjamin, who would be about 17. Jesse is there. Ziphia has become Zilphia, Kizzy and Kesiah are likely the same, Jincy and Jane are likely the same and Barbary and Barbara are likely the same, but there no longer is an Ephraim, who would have been around 12. In addition, 5 more children have joined the household, Lydia, Theo, Edmund, Wilson and Arenna. It is quite possible that the older girls, Maggie and Mattie, have married. But what about Benjamin and Ephraim? In fact, a search of the entire area would later reveal a Benjamin Heathcock listed as "farm labor" in the household of a Latham Smith in a neighboring township. Other researchers have noted that in the 1864 will of Latham Smith, he mentions a daughter, Mary Hathcock. Therefore, it appears that Benjamin had went to work helping his grandfather. The name of Ephraim, however, is never seen again, so it can only be assumed he died as a child. There were many illnesses and dangers that could have been encountered by a young boy. In this case, a later interview with Wilson B Heathcock by his grandson Earnest Taylor, he declared that he was born on the day that one of his older brothers drowned in the creek. As the other older brothers are all accounted for in the 1860 census, this brother would have had to have been Ephraim.
A new family, the Cullen's, have joined the neighborhood. They appear to have had no connections to the existing neighbors. John L. Green is most likely the same L. Green in 1850. His wife is no longer "Amy", who was several years his junior, but "Lina", who is a few years older. His household is now full of children, several who would have existed 10 years prior. Ten year old Lawson is apparently the newborn Lawson of 1850, and 11 year old Mary Ann, the toddler, Mary A. All of the children younger than Lawson were obviously born during the decade, but Jim, 17, Abbie, 12, and Delia 10, seem in excess. Lina is obviously a different wife than Amy. Could Jim, Abbie and Delia be her children?
The household of William Streeter has gotten noticeably smaller. Gone is Martha, Henry, Rutha, Eliza, Sophia, Beady, Latisha, Narcissy and Arthur. Looking next door, at house 150, we see a 40 year old Martha Owens, with children Obedience, Tishie, Narcissa and Arthur with ages appropriate to a ten year differential. So, apparently Martha was an Owens, not a Streeter, and not the wife of William Streeter, and the 4 children were hers, and not Streeters as well. She could have been his daughter, or younger sister, or no relation at all. The son Henry appears nearby with a family of his own. Sophia, we have assumed, could possibly have married neighbor George Heathcock. Rutha and Eliza have either passed away, or married off as well.
Also noticeably missing in the neighborhood is the family of Angelina Brum. The extra children in the household of John L. Green, with the exception of Joseph, age 5 in 1860, have similar names to 3 of Angelina Brum's children. Could Lina be Angelina, and Jim, James and Abigail, Abbie and Cordelia, Delia?
A search of marriage records could possibly prove or disprove some of these assumptions, but looking at the whole picture, instead of just one particular household, can open up the door to a bevy of leads in research. I've discovered that genealogy takes a great deal of detective work. Be open to all possibilities and following any and all possible leads, and the brickwalls that we all encounter might just come down. While for organizations that show descendancy, and for any professional work, there must be "proof". Some things will never be proven, but will remain forever possibilities and assumptions. But with a handful of clues and a knack for the hunt, you might be able to discover enough to feel comfortable that you are on the right path. Especially if gifted with an inane sense of intuition.
The main thing to remember, that I find a large percentage of people forgetting, is that our ancestors were infallible human beings as we are. They were curious. They had dreams. They fell in love. They had talents. They had weaknesses. Some were rowdy while young and saintly when old. Some were both or either for a lifetime. We want to put them all on pedestals as if they were somehow far superior to we humans today. But they were not any different at the core. They went about the daily business of surviving, just as we do, but with possibly more difficult situations and at a slower pace. They did not have technology, but the did have ingenuity and all they've done has led to where we are now.