Mercy (Gay) Sanford & the Early Censuses

Mercy Sanford and the 1840, 1830, and 1820 Census records.

Brown-Sanford-Gay
Census Sunday
By Don Taylor

Following widows in early America can often be difficult, Mercy (Gay) Sanford was widowed when her husband, Ezra Clugston Sanford, died 22 June 1813 in Pownal, Bennington County, Vermont.[i] Mercy died in Byron, Genesee, New York sometime in 1841.[ii] So, the question arises, what happened to Mercy between 1813 and 1841? When did she locate to Byron?

Typically, you start with what you know, and go back in time. However, in the case of Mercy, I needed to start with what I knew and go forward in time. First, I looked at the three census records in question.  Miraculously, I found Mercy in the 1830 Census.

Censuses

1830 – Byron, Genesee County, New York

The Mercy Sanford household consists of 1 Female, 60 to 70 years old and 1 male from 10 to 15 years old.

Mercy was born in 1761, so she would have been 69 in 1830. Living with her is a young male; my suspicion a grandson, or even a great-grandson.[iii]

1820 – Not with Lucy. 

After Ezra died in 1813, Mercy was given guardianship of her daughter Lucy.[iv] Lucy married Levi Case in 1817. My first thought was that Mercy might have been living with her daughter Lucy and her husband Levi during the 1820 Census. No Such Luck.

The 1820 Census record for Levi Case is:

Levi Cass 1 – – 1 – – 1 – 1 – – – 

Males
1 Male  Under 10   Apparently Levi A. (Jr.)
2 Males 16 to 26   One must be Levi. The other is unknown.

Females
1 female under 10 apparently is Mercy G.
1 female from 16 to 26 years of age must be Lucy.

So, it is apparent that Mercy didn’t locate to New York with Lucy and Levi.

1820 – Not with Electa. 

Mercy’s daughter, Electa, died in 1819, so Mercy couldn’t be living with her in 1920.

1820 – Bergen, Genesee County, New York. 

After Electa died, her husband, Dewey Miller, married Electa’s sister Sally. Could Mercy be living with them during the 1820 Census? Yes.[v] The 1820 Census entry for Dewey Miller is:

Dewey Miller  3 – – – 1 – 1 – – 2 1  

Males
3 males under age 10. One is likely Aaron, one is likely Albert, the third one is unclear.
1 male between 26 and 45 is clearly Dewey.

Females:

1 female under age 10 appears to be daughter Lucy.
2 females 26 to 45. One must be Sally and the other is an unknown female.
1 female over 45 appears to be Mercy.

Dewey was born in 1787, so he’d be 33 during the 1820 Census.
Sally was born in 1790, so she’d be 30 during the 1820 Census.
Mercy was born in 1861, so she’d be 59 during the 1820 Census.

The marriage of Dewey to Electa, her death, the marriage of Dewey to Sally, and the 1820 census lend themselves to a speculative narrative that Electa got sick. Mercy located to help take care of Electa. Upon Electa’s death, Dewey married Sally, and Mercy was still with the household during the 1820 Census.

1840 – Byron, Genesee County, New York

There doesn’t appear to be a Mercy Sanford in the 1840 Census. However there is a Mary Sanford of the correct age whose neighbors are many of the same people as were neighbors to Mercy during the 1830 Census.[vi] The neighbors include David Shed, Erastus Hamond, and Stephen Clark.  The entry for Mary (Mercy) is:

Mary Sanford – – 1 – – – – – – – – – – –  |  – – – – – – – – 1 – – –

1 Male 10 to 15 – Unknown male.
1 Female 70 to 80 – Mercy (Gay) Sanford

Conclusion

Mercy and Ezra Sanford were married on 11 Oct 1876. His records for the 1790, 1800, and 1810 censuses are the records for Mercy. These three additional census records follow Mercy for the years after Ezra’s death until Mercy’s death.

Endnotes:

[i] Find a Grave, Find a Grave, Ezra Sanford (1763-1813) – Memorial# 43640146. Died 22 Jun 1813. https://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=43640146.

[ii] “Thomas Sanford, the emigrant to New England; ancestry, life,and descendants, 1632-4,” Carlton E.  Sanford, Charles Arthur Hoppin (1911), Page 226 – Sketch 711 – Ezra Sanford. https://archive.org/details/thomassanfordemi01sanf/page/n3.; PDF, Archive.Org (https://archive.org/details/thomassanfordemi001sanf).

[iii] 1830 Census (FS), Family Search, 1830 Census – Byron, Genesee, New York – Page 368 – Mercy Sanford. “United States Census, 1830,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:XHPN-YDQ: 29 July 2017), Mercy Sanford, Byron, Genesee, New York, United States; citing 368, NARA microfilm publication M19, (Washington D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.), roll 90; FHL microfilm 17,150.

[iv] Vermont; Wills and Probate Records, 1749-1999, Ancestry.Com, Probate – Ezra Sanford (1753-1813) – Page 03 (00390). Guardianship Papers – Assigning Mercy Sanford as guardian for Lucy Sanford, 5 July 1813. https://search.ancestry.com/collections/9084/records/325523/.

[v] 1820 Census (FS), Family Search, 1820 Census – Bergan, Genesee, New York – Page 43 – Dewey Miller. “United States Census, 1820,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:XHLV-7N5 : accessed 15 February 2020), Dewey Miller, Bergen, Genesee, New York, United States; citing p. 43, NARA microfilm publication M33, (Washington D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.), roll 72; FHL microfilm 193,727.

[vi] 1840 Census (NARA), 1840 Census – Bergan, Genesee, New York, Page 267 – Mary [Mercy] Sanford. “United States Census, 1840,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:XHT7-SWK : 15 August 2017), Mary Sanford, Byron, Genesee, New York, United States; citing p. 267, NARA microfilm publication M704, (Washington D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.), roll 286; FHL microfilm 17,188.

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