The 1840 census often exasperates genealogists. I find the information presented to be challenging and able to provide new questions as well as details.
I was getting to know my 3rd great-grandmother, Mary Electa Parsons. In 1840 Mary Electa was 13 years old and living with her family in Saline, Michigan. Of course, the 1840 Census only lists heads of households, so seeing Mary in the census is impossible. What I like to do is that the census record and determine who all of the individuals are that are listed suggested in the census.
In the case of Mary Electa’s father, Chester Parsons the details, transcribed are:
Chester Parsons | – 1 – 1 – – 1 1 – – – – – // – 2 2 – 1 1
Then using my other records and sources I try to explain each of the individuals listed. In this case they are:
- 1 – 5 to under 10 Presumed to be Alfred (age 10)
- 1 – 15 to under 20 Unknown
- 1 – 40 to 50 Presumed to be Chester Parsons (Age 41)
- 1 – 50 to 60 Unknown – Possibly brother of Chester or Deborah but most likely Deborah’s father Robert Maben (Age 59).
- 2 – 5 & under 10 Presumed to be Harriet (age 8) and unknown.
- 2 – 10 & under 15 Presumed to be Lucinda (age 15) and Mary Electa (age 12)
- 1 – 20 to 30 Probably Sarah Jane – Inconsistent Age.
- 1 – 30 to 40 Presumed to be Deborah Buel Maben Parsons
I am quite sure that Chester and his wife Deborah Buel Maben have one child that died in 1881. That individual could be the unknown male 15 to 20 or could be the female age 5 to under 10. That means there is another child living in the family that is completely unknown. All of the other children known to Chester and Deborah are accounted for.
Chester and Deborah were married in 1824, if they had a child in 1825 that child would have been 15 in 1840 and is a likely candidate to be the first unknown male. Likewise, the second unknown girls between 5 and 10 is a likely child. As such, I’m adding two tentative children of Chester and Deborah:
Unknown Parsons – Male – born 1819-1825. Living 1840 – Saline, Washtenaw County, Michigan.
Unknown Parsons – Female – Born 1829-1835. Living 1840 – Saline, Washtenaw County, Michigan.
I will also update my Unknown Parsons, who died 1881, to suggest it could be one of the above two or an entirely different child.
Finally, there is an unidentified male listed, age 50 to 60. Chester’s father was dead before 1840, however, Deborah’s father, Robert Maben, was still living. Her father would have been 59 in 1840. Additionally, Robert died in 1843 in Saline. He does not show as the head of a household in Saline during the 1840 Census. As such, I postulate that Robert Maben was living with his daughter, her husband, and her children. Do I know this to be true? No, but I think it is a strong likelihood. As such I’ll add it as a tentative fact until I see facts suggesting otherwise.
Robert Maben – Residence: 1840 – Saline, Washtenaw County, Michigan (Probable) – Probably Living with daughter Deborah and son-in-law Chester Parsons.
Taking an 1840 census, applying all know relationships to the census and then attempting to reconcile any unknowns can lead to new insight into the family and family relationships.
Source: Family Search; 1840 Census; Chester Parsons – Saline Township, Washtenaw County, Michigan, Page 141; https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:XHYX-65H