John Parsons, AGBI, and the 1790 Census

Census Sunday
By Don Taylor

Photo of Don Taylor with cat Nasi.Sometimes you encounter sources that don’t make sense. Recently, I encounter several trees that identified John Parsons being in the American Genealogical-Biographical Index (AGBI), Volume 131, Page 462, and that the AGBI was the source. The AGBI isn’t really a source, rather, it is a finding aid. It is an index that points to actual sources. In this case, it directed the researcher to “Heads of fams. at the first U.S. census. Ms. By U.s. Bureau of the Census. Washington, 1908. (363p.): 34.”

Heads of Families – 1790 Census – Massachusetts:

Page 34, Column 1, Persons 3 & 4 show John Parsons, Jr. & John Parsons (Sr.) in Sandisfield Town, Berkshire County, Massachusetts.[i]

Parsons, John, Jr. 1 1 1

1 Male 16 & Older        John Jr. (Head of Household)
1 Male < 16                   Appears to be Samuel born 1789
1 Female                       Apparently Mary, John’s wife.


Parsons, John [Sr.] 2 2 5

2 Males 16 & Older

  • John (Head of Household)
  • Possibly Simon (17), Timothy (21), or Ashbel (24)

(Note: Frederick died before 1790)
(Note: John, Jr., was enumerated above.)

2 Males < 16

  • Apparently Gibson (age 8)
  • Apparently, Frederick (age 6)

5 Females

  • Clearly John’s 2nd wife, Mercy
  • Apparently daughter Sally (age 2)
  • Apparently daughter Mercy (age 12)
  • Apparently daughter Martha (age 15)
  • Possibly Roxey (age 23), or Mary (age 29)

(Note: John’s daughter, Hanna, died before 1790.)

Analysis

John Junior’s household exactly fits expectations for his household in 1790.

John (Senior’s) household fits expectations for John with his second wife (Mercy) and their children. Plus, there are several individuals in the household The only household individuals of question are several of his children from his first marriage. Which were still at home and which had either moved out or had died.

Neither Simon, Timothy, nor Ashbel appear to be enumerated elsewhere. So, the second male over 16 could be any of them.

Likewise, I haven’t found any records for marriages or deaths for John’s daughters, Roxey or Mary, so the fifth female could be either of them. 

Follow-up:

  1. Search for Simon, Timothy, and Ashbell in other records for 1790 to eliminate them from being in the household of John Parsons, Senior.
  2. Search for marriage records for Roxey and Mary. If married before 1790, verify if they might be in the census record of their husband(s).
  3. Search for evidence of death for Roxey, Mary, Simon, Timothy, or Ashbell prior to 1790. Eliminate them as being in John Parsons Senior’s household in 1790.

 Endnotes:

[i] 1790 Census – John Parsons, Jr. & John Parsons (Sr.) – Sandisfield Town, Berkshire County, Massachusetts. “Heads of Families – 1790 Census – Massachusetts – Page 34, Column 1, Persons 3 & 4. – Accessed 2 August 2020. https://www.census.gov/library/publications/1907/dec/heads-of-families.html.

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