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.
I saw that my Great-Grandfather’s, Arthur Durwood Brown, birthday was coming up. Then I realized that I have a quite a range of birth years for him. I know that markers are often wrong about birth years, but they seem so right, they are cast in stone after all. When I encounter inconsistencies, I often find the best course of action is to do a table and look closely at all of the sources I have which relate and analyze how they fit in.
From various documents, I have birth years for him of 1863, 1866, 1868, 1869, and 1870. Below is a table of documents with the year implied and various notes.
1870 Census [i] – indicates he is 7/12 and born in December.
Closest record to the event and proof birth year cannot be 1870.
As far as census records are concerned, I typically accept the 1900 Census as the most likely correct. It is the only census which routinely identifies the month and year of a person’s birth as well as the individual’s age. In this case, the 1900 Census is in direct conflict with the 1870 Census. If Arthur were born in December of 1870, he couldn’t have been enumerated on the 2nd day of August 1870.
The 1910 and 1920 censuses appear just to be wrong. No clear reason for the error. I have no conjecture as to why Arthur aged 27 years during the 20 years between 1900 and 1920.
I might have thought that Arthur’s daughter, Victoria Brown Quelland, would have gotten his age correct, however, she was incorrect about her mother’s birthdate as well. (See: Mary Elizabeth Manning [Brown] (1878-1983)). In both cases, she indicated her parents as being older than they actually were.
The 1868 birthdate on the grave marker would seem likely, except that his death certificate, done at the same time, indicates 1869 and the informant of his death certificate was his wife Mary, who should know the date that Arthur thought his birth was.
All the records that indicate a month or day are consistent with his being born on December 5th. I believe his birth year to be 1869 as indicated by the 1870 and 1880 Censuses and his death certificate and not 1868 as indicated by his grave marker and the family minister or any other year as identified by other sources.
Census records are the mainstay of genealogical research. One of my favorite census records is the 1895 Minnesota State Census. Not only does it provide much of the information you would expect in a Census – Name, Age, Sex, Race, Place of Birth, and Occupation – it provides information about how long males over 21 have been in the state, how long they have been in the Enumeration District, and if they were a soldier or sailor in the War of Rebellion (Civil War).
When I learned my new cousin (See: Keep Trees Wide, Not Deep) was a descendant of Jessie M. and Nancy A (Mannin) Barnett, I wanted to add a bit more about them and their children into my tree information.
Sure enough. I learned Jessie (and presumably the entire family) moved to Minnesota about March 1883 (12 years and 2 Months before the 1 June 1895 Census) and moved to May Township (Township 134, Range 31) about March 1886 (9 years and 2 months before the Census.) Sarah being born in Minnesota and Albert being born in Kentucky confirms the arrival in Minnesota date. I also learned that Jessie was a soldier in the War of Rebellion. I also received confirmation about several of the children’s dates and places of birth. Finally, the census showed one child, John M. Barnett, whom I had no record of before. The 1895 Census does not provide relationships; however, it is a fairly safe bet that John M was the son of Jesse and Nancy. I tentatively added him to my listing of children and will work to confirm the relationship later.
My transcription notes:
1895 Minnesota Census – Jessie Barnett, Cass County[i]
Enumeration Date was 1 June 1895.
Township 134, Range 31 (May Township)
Name Age Born Res. St/ED Occ. Mos. War
Barnett, Jessie M. 46 KY 12, 2; 9, 2, Farmer 12, Soldier
Barnett, Nancy A. 46 KY
Barnett, Albert M 14 KY
Barnett, Sarah M. 12 MN
Barnett, Martin W 9 MN
Barnett, John M. 7 MN
Barnett, Jessie W 4 MN
[i] “Minnesota State Census, 1895,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:MQ6T-52G : 26 November 2014), Jessie M Barnett, Township 134N, Range 31W, Cass, Minnesota; citing p. 3, line 21, State Library and Records Service, St.Paul; FHL microfilm 565,765.
During the last meeting of the Maine Genealogical DNA Interest Group, someone asked if it is better to have a tree that is deep or a tree that is wide. I mentioned that, for autosomal DNA test matches, a wide tree is best. The sheer number of potential 5th and 6th cousins is daunting. But, more importantly, the likelihood of your sharing DNA with a 4th cousin is only 69% and the likelihood of sharing DNA with a 5th cousin is only 30%.[i] Consequently, knowing your 10th great grandparents is of little use in matching DNA cousins. (Consequently, knowing your 10th great grandparents is of little use in matching DNA cousins. There are two exceptions to this, Y-DNA tree (paternal only) is useful for connecting trees on a Y-DNA match. Also, X-DNA can provide a similar usefulness.)
The importance of having a wide tree was exemplified recently. I was contacted through 23 and Me by a, potentially, 2nd to 4th cousin (I’ll call B.J.) I took a look at the match using 23 & Me‘s new She and my aunt Barbara shared 88cM across five segments. My mother shared 50cM across two segments; interestingly enough, I also shared 50cM across two segments. Looking at what segments all four of us share is an excellent example of how sticky DNA segments are. All three of us shared the same sticky chunk of DNA.
We exchanged basic tree information, she mentioned her ancestors were a Mannin and a Barnett. When she said that, I knew we were related and I was pretty sure I knew exactly how. Nancy Ann Mannin married Jessie Monroe Barnett about 1867 in Kentucky. They later moved to Minnesota and settled May Township in Cass County, Minnesota.
A couple more email exchanges and I learned that B.J. and my Aunt Barbara were third cousins their common ancestor was Enoch Mannin. Enoch was one of those pivotal people in my genealogical research and I knew a lot about him and his descendants. I even had B.J.’s mother (but not her father nor her) in my family tree records.
Thanks to 23 and Me for providing the tools to connect with another cousin.
My third great-grandfather, William M. Sanford was a pioneer. He is the first ancestor that I have encountered that was identified as a pioneer in two different books relating the history of two very different places. He came with his father and brother from New York to near Saline, Washtenaw County, Michigan, in the 1830s to settle that area. Following his father’s model, he helped settle Wells County, North Dakota with two of his sons. Much like when his father settled Washtenaw County other family members also settled in North Dakota when he relocated there. He was a successful farmer in both locations and was known to have both cattle and sheep when he settled North Dakota.
Roberts-Brown 2016 – Ancestor #50
List of Grandparents
6 – Grandfather: Richard Earl Brown (aka Clifford Durwood Brown, Richard Earl Durand)
12 – 1st Great-grandfather: Arthur Durwood Brown
25 – 2nd Great-grandmother: Marian Sanford
50 – 3rd Great-grandfather: William M. Sanford
If you are descended from William M. Sanford or any of my other grandparents, please contact me. I’d love to how you fit into the family and I’d love to share notes, documents, photos, etc. Please use the contact form below.
Biography – William M. Sanford (1823-1915)
William M. Sanford was born on 30 March 1823 in Genesee County, New York, the second of nine children of Ezra and Almira (Chamberlin) Sanford.
The year of William’s birth is somewhat in question. Assuming his birth was 30 March the following sources give the following ages and assumed year of birth:
From all of these possible dates, none of them are compelling sources. Because the earliest record I have, the 1850 Census, suggests an 1823 birth year, I am going with that. That year is also confirmed by the History of Washtenaw County.
In 1836, when William was about 13 years old, William’s father, Ezra, his brother, Ezra, and he emigrated from and left his two New York to Michigan. They looked at several different counties, stopping in Calhoun County, but did not remain there long. They moved on to Noble County, Indiana, where Mr. Sanford bought lots near Rome City, Indiana (not to be confused with Rome, Indiana). The two boys (Ezra was about 19 old at the time) stayed in Indiana while Ezra senior returned to New York. The following spring, Ezra (senior) purchased 200 acres on Section 21 in Washtenaw County, Michigan.
Marriage and Children
On 18 June 1844, William married Mary Electa Parsons in Benton, Washtenaw County, Michigan. William and Mary had seven children.
Marion Sanford – born c. 1846. Marion married William Henry Brown about 1866; her death occurred sometime after 1885.
Unknown Sanford – born April 1850 and died before 1860.
Elva P Sanford – born c. 1852. She married William Wright on 27 April 1871; her death was sometime after 1929.
Almon C. Sanford – born in October 1855; he died 3 April 1922.
William A. Sanford – born c. 1858; his death was after 1880.
George P. Sanford – born 7 October 1865; died 5 October 1932.
Unknown Sanford – birth unknown; he or she died before 1881.
The 1850 Census shows the young couple with two children, one unnamed infant. Living with them is J. W. Sanford, a 79-year-old farmer whose relationship is not known (by me). Also living with them is 11-year-old Charles Sanford. Again, I do not have a clear idea who these two individuals are.
From the 1860 Census, the family located to Aurora, Indiana. Their fourth child Almon was born in Michigan in 1855, but their fifth child, William A, was born in Indiana about 1859. So, it appears that the family located to Indiana sometime between 1855 and 1959. In any event, the 1860 Census indicates the family consisted of William and Mary with four children, Mary (Marion), Elva, Elmon (Almon), and Willee (William). (The unknown second child is not mentioned in the census.)
By 1863 the family had returned to Saline, Michigan, where William registered for the Civil War Draft. He was in “Class II,” which was everyone not in Class I. (Class I were those aged 20-35 and those 36-45 and unmarried.) William indicated he was 41 and married making him Class II.
By 1870, Marion had married William Henry Brown and was out of the house leaving Elva, Alma (Almon), Willie (William) and George. Also living with William and Mary were four-day laborers. James Roach, George Coats, Gabriel Reeves, and Wilson Hoag.
According to the 1880 Census, living with William and Mary in Saline, Michigan are three of their boys. Uhnond (Almon), William, and George. Also living with them are two “Servants,” Henry Morris and Joseph Evans.
In 1883, the family relocated again and moved west. William Sanford with his sons A.C. (Almon C) and George located to Section 6, in northwestern Sykeston Township. We know that other of his family members located to North Dakota about that time, including his daughters, Marion and Eva and his brother, C. A. Sanford who was the donor of the Sanford Dormitory at Jamestown College. William had a successful farm, which included the first herd of cattle in the county, a thrashing machine, pedigreed stallions, and a large flock of sheep.
Area of Sanford Homestead, Section 6, Sykeston Twnsp, Wells Co., ND
Dakota Territory held a census in 1885. That census showed William and Mary living with their two sons, A.C. (Almon) and George. Also, living with them were two servants, George Huber and John Sager. It is interesting to note that William’s daughter, Elva, and her husband William Wright, show on the same Census page.
In 1888, after 43 years of marriage, William’s wife, Mary, died.
Five years later, in 1893, married Harriet Kent a 59-year-old widow. It appears that she died before 1900, because in the 1900 Census, the widower William is living with his son George (and George’s wife and son) in Township 146, Wells County, North Dakota.
William married once again, on 26 February 1901, this time to Phila Geer Frisby.
William died on 5 June 1915 in Charlotte, Michigan, at the age of 92. His death was preceded by a fall where he broke his hip. He was then removed to Cathay, Wells County, North Dakota for burial. William was buried with his first wife, Mary Electa (Parsons) Sanford at Lake View Cemetery, in Cathay, ND.
Further Actions / Follow-up
Follow-up on lives of all of William’s children.
Continue research on William.
Once again, if you are descended from William M. Sanford please let me know how you are connected. I’d love to hear from you.
 Family Search; 1850 Census; (William Sanford) Michigan, Washtenaw, Saline, Sheet 737, Line 41 and following sheet.
 Family Search; 1860 Census; (William Sanford) Indiana, Dearborn, Aurora Center, Image 424.
Ancestry.Com; U.S., Civil War Draft Registrations Records, 1863-1865; William Sanford.
 Family Search; 1870 Census; (William Sanford) Michigan, Washtenaw County, Saline, Page 17, Line 22.
 Family Search; 1880 Census; (William Sanford) Michigan, Washtenaw, Saline, ED 237, Page 22 B, Line 16
 Spokesfield, Walter E.; The History of WELLS COUNTY NORTH DAKOTA AND ITS PIONEERS: With a Sketch of North Dakota History and the Origin [sic] of the place names. Valley City, N. D.: Publisher: Not Identified, Published in 1929.