Searching for Almira Chamberlain’s Parents

By Don Taylor

Photo of Don Taylor with cat Nasi.Finding the parents of early 19th century women is always a challenge. So, I knew that determining the parents or my 4th great-grandmother, Almira (Chamberlain) Sanford was going to be difficult. Almira married Ezra Sanford in 1819 when she was only 15 years-old. She had nine children and died quite young, at only 41 years of age.

All the information I have about her life is from secondary sources. First, The History of Washtenaw County, Michigan states:

William Sanford, Farmer, was born in Genesee Co., N. Y., March 30, 1823. His parents were Ezra and Almira Sanford, the former born in Bennington Co., VT, Aug 19, 1792, and the latter born in the same place, Aug. 21, 1804. They were married in 1819, and were blessed with 9 children, 5 of whom are living.[i]

The other source I have is the death record for William Sanford, which provides his parents names as Ezra Sanford and Almira Chamberlin (or Chamberlain).[ii]

If I believe that these two records are accurate, then I can hypothesize three scenarios.

  1. Her family was in Bennington County, Vermont in 1810 when she was five-years-old and there will be evidence of her in the 1910 Census records.
  2. Her family was in Bennington Co. in 1800, four years before she was born.
  3. In 1820 her family was either in Bergen, Genese, New York where she and Ezra were in 1820 or they are still in Bennington Co. Vermont.
  4. Finally, it is possible that her family came and left Bennington County after 1800 and before 1810 making it impossible to determine the family from these census records.

1810 Census

The 1810 Census is clear. There is only one Chamberlain household in Bennington County, Vermont.

The Benj. Chamberlain household consists of three males and three females. Excluding the oldest male (clearly Benjamin) and the oldest female (most likely his wife) who are both over 45 year of age that leaves:

  • Two males, from 10 to 16 years of age,
  • One female under 10 and
  • One female from 16 to 16.

In 1810, Almira would have been five years old and fits into the one female under ten.

1800 Census

With the 1810 census findings kept in mind, Benj. Chamberlain should be found in the 1800 census.  His age could be either 26 to 45 or over 45. His wife would be the same. But there should be at least two males under 10 and one female under 10 in the household.

The only Chamberlin in Bennington County in 1800 is a Calvin Chamberlin. He appears to be 26 to 45 but the children in the household are all older than 10. So, there is no way this can be the same household with a different first name being used.

Next, I looked for a Benjamin Chamberlain in the 1800 Census anywhere. The search yielded 14 results on Ancestry.

Location Children Under 10 Status 1810 Status
Brattleboro, Windham, VT 3 boys, 1 girl Possible Still in Brattleboro.
Chelmsford, Middlesex, MA None
Dalton, Berkshire, MA 2 boys & 1 girl Possible Likely
Glastonbury, Hartford, CT 2 boys, 3 girls
Greenfield, Hillsborough, NH None
Newbury, Orange, VT 1 boy, no girls.
Philadelphia, PA 2 boys & 2 girls Unlikely
Plymouth, Windsor, VT None
Schenectady, Albany, NY 3 boys & 1 girl Possible Still in Schenectady.
Standish, Cumberland, ME None
Thetford, Orange, VT None
Thetford, Orange, VT 1 boy & 1 girl
Turner, Cumberland, ME 2 boys & 1 girl
Windham, Greene, NY 1 boy, 1 girl

Of those 14 Benjamin Chamberlains, only four had a combination of at least two boys and one girl, however, one of those seems unlikely due to location.

Back to the 1810 Census

Then, I look at the 1810 Census again. Two of the Benjamin Chamberlains were still in their 1800 location during the 1810 Census. Only the Benjamin Chamberlain living in Dalton, Berkshire, MA was no longer found in Dalton. Dalton is only about 20 miles south of Bennington County, so that move seems possible, even likely. Certainly, much more likely than moving 250 miles northeast from Philadelphia to Bennington County.

Conclusion

Armed with these census facts, I feel comfortable enough to hypnotize that Benjamin Chamberlain, who lived in Dalton, Massachusetts during 1800, is likely the father of Almira Chamberlain and lived in Bennington County, Vermont in 1810. As such, I’ll create a tentative relationship and continue researching this as a possible family unit.

Endnotes

[i] History of Washtenaw County, Michigan, William Sanford – Pages 1408 and 1409. Chas. C. Chapman & Co. (1881). History of Washtenaw County, Michigan: Together with sketches of its cities, villages, and townships … and biographies of representative citizens: history of Michigan. Chicago: Chas. C. Chapman & Co. https://archive.org/details/cu31924028870520.

[ii] Michigan Death Certificates, William Sanford (Birth 30 Mar 1823 – Death 05 Jul 1915)- Charlotte, Eaton, Michigan.