William M Sanford – Pioneer

Roberts-Brown-2016 Research
Brown/Sanford Line

By Don Taylor

Map of places where William Sanford lived.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:

Source Age Year of Birth
1850 Census[1] 27 1823
1860 Census 36 1824
1863 Civil War Registration 41 1822
1870 Census 46 1824
1880 Census 57 1823
1881 – History of Washtenaw Co…[2] 1823 (30 Mar)
1885 – No. Dak. Census 63 1822
1900 Census 76 1824 (Mar)
1910 Census
1915 – Death Certificate 92 1823 (30 Mar)

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.

Rome City, Indiana CC BY-SA 3.0
Rome City, Indiana CC BY-SA 3.0

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.[3]

Marriage and Children

On 18 June 1844, William married Mary Electa Parsons in Benton, Washtenaw County, Michigan.  William and Mary had seven children.[4]

  • 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.[5]

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).[6] (The unknown second child is not mentioned in the census.)

Map of Saline Village showing Sanford farm, 1874
Map of Saline Village showing Sanford farm, 1874

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.[7]

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.[8]

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.[9]

North Dakota

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.[10]

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.[11]

In 1888, after 43 years of marriage, William’s wife, Mary, died.[12]

Five years later, in 1893, married Harriet Kent a 59-year-old widow.[13] 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.[14]

William married once again, on 26 February 1901, this time to Phila Geer Frisby.[15]


Sanford Marker at Lake View Cemetery, Cathay, North Dakota
Sanford Marker – Photo by Cemetery Scavenger via Find a Grave; used by permission.

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.[16]  William was buried with his first wife, Mary Electa (Parsons) Sanford at Lake View Cemetery, in Cathay, ND.[17]

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.

———– DISCLAIMER ———–



  • [1] Family Search; 1850 Census; (William Sanford) Michigan, Washtenaw, Saline, Sheet 737, Line 41 & following sheet.
  • [2] Google Books; History of Washtenaw County.  Michigan:  Together with Sketches of Its Cities, Villages, and Townships…. 1881. http://books.google.com/books?id=2z0XAQAAMAAJ.
  • [3] Google Books; History of Washtenaw County.  Michigan:  Together with Sketches of Its Cities, Villages, and Townships…. 1881. http://books.google.com/books?id=2z0XAQAAMAAJ. Page 1409.
  • [4] Ibid.
  • [5] Family Search; 1850 Census; (William Sanford) Michigan, Washtenaw, Saline, Sheet 737, Line 41 and following sheet.
  • [6] Family Search; 1860 Census; (William Sanford) Indiana, Dearborn, Aurora Center, Image 424.
  • [7] Ancestry.Com; U.S., Civil War Draft Registrations Records, 1863-1865; William Sanford.
  • [8] Family Search; 1870 Census; (William Sanford) Michigan, Washtenaw County, Saline, Page 17, Line 22.
  • [9] Family Search; 1880 Census; (William Sanford) Michigan, Washtenaw, Saline, ED 237, Page 22 B, Line 16
  • [10] 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.
  • [11]  North Dakota State University; 1885 Census Index – Dakota Territory – (Wm Sanford) Page 35W-005; https://library.ndsu.edu/db/census/family?ed=35W-005-27
  • [12] Find a Grave – Mary E Sanford – Memorial# 142980426.
  • [13] Family Search; Michigan Marriages, 1868-1925; William Sanford – Harriet Kent.
  • [14] Family Search; 1900 Census; (George Sanford) – North Dakota, Wells, Township 146, Range 69, ED 212, Sheet 12A
  • [15] Family Search; Michigan Marriages, 1868-1925; William Sanford & Phila Geer Frisby
  • [16] Seeking Michigan; Michigan Death Certificate – William Sanford – Michigan, Eaton County, Charlotte.
  • [17] Find a Grave – William Sanford – Memorial# 142980536

William Henry Brown’s parents were not who most researchers indicate they were.

When a conflict arises regarding an individual’s parents, it is important for me to reset all my assumptions and start afresh. Such is the case with one my more frustrating areas of research, the Browns of Saline, Washtenaw County, Michigan. In a previous post, Henry Brown (c. 1843-c. 1888), I mentioned was not convinced that the Henry Brown that married Marion Sanford was the child of Benjamin Brown as most researchers have found.
In my continuing Brown research, my next research subject was going to be William Henry Brown’s father.  I began researching Benjamin Brown. I did a thorough look at his facts and determined that although Benjamin Brown did have a son named Henry, this Henry could not be the Henry Brown who married Marion Sanford, had 11+ children (Including my great-grandfather, Arthur Durwood Brown), and located to Dakota Territory about 1883.
To recap, I am certain of the information regarding William Henry Brown back to the 1870 Census. I then found William Henry Brown in the 1860 and 1850 Censuses always in Saline, Michigan.   
Henry Brown, son of Barney & Mary C. Brown
Est Birth Yr.
Dakota Territory
1885 Census[i] – W. H. Brown with wife Marion, and 11 children (Including Arthur).
Dakota Territory
Youngest son, Edward, born in Dakota Territory.
Saline, Michigan
Youngest daughter, Adia born in Michigan.
Saline, Michigan
1880 Census[ii] – Henry Brown (Age 37) with wife Marian & 8 children including Arthur
Saline, Michigan
1870 Census[iii] – Henry Brown (Age 25) with wife Marion & 2 children including Arthur.
Saline, Michigan
1860 Census[iv] – Henry W Brown, (Age 17) in the household of Daney & Mary C. Brown with three siblings including Myron O Brown.
Saline, Michigan
1850 Census[v] – William H Brown, (Age 8) in the household of Barney & Mary C Brown with 1 sibling, Myron O. Brown.
Saline, Michigan
(* Red indicates an outlier.)
Although William Henry Brown usually went by Henry, 1885, 1860, and 1850 Censuses, taken together, indicate why I believe his name to be William Henry Brown.
As I mentioned, many researchers have Henry Brown the son of Benjamin Brown and Eliza Fowler as the Henry who married Marion Sanford, etc. Following that Henry Brown, we see him in the 1850 and 1860 Census with Benj & Eliza, but in the 1870 Census, we find in living with William Brown (an apparent brother).
Henry Brown, Son of Benjamin & Eliza Fowler Brown
Est Birth Yr.
Vernon, Mich.
1850 Census[vi] – Henry Brown, (Age 7) in the household with Benj. & Eliza Brown. Including William Brown (Age 10)
Vernon, Mich.
1860 Census[vii] – Henry Brown, (Age 16) in the household with Benjamin & Eliza Brown.
Vernon, Mich.
1870 Census[viii] – Henry Brown, (Age 28) living with William Brown (age 30)
Clearly the [William] Henry Brown, who married Marion Sanford, and was the father of Arthur Durwood Brown, cannot be the same person as Henry Brown of Vernon.
I was pretty sure I needed to make this correction two years ago when I last looked at William Henry Brown’s life. Now, after reanalyzing the information I am certain.
In my research and records, I have corrected William Henry Brown’s parents to be Barney (Daney) and Mary C. Brown. I’ve also corrected my Brown/Montran Tree on Ancestry.com appropriately.


[i] 1885 Census Index – Dakota Territory; W. H. Brown – Census Records: page 44-018; NDSU Archives; http://library.ndsu.edu/db/census/family?ed=44-018-09.
[ii] 1880 Census; Henry Brown – Saline, Washtenaw, Michigan, ED 237, Page 21, Line 50; Ancestry.com.
[iii] 1870 Census; Henry Brown – Saline, Washtenaw, Michigan, Page 17, Line 18, Family 115; Ancestry.com.
[iv] 1860 Census; Daney (Barney) Brown – Saline, Washtenaw, Michigan, Line 34, Family 643; Family Search; https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:MWDZ-DLM.
[v] 1850 Census; Barney Brown – Saline, Washtenaw, Michigan, citing family 185; Family Search; https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:MF8P-F8S.
[vi] 1850 Census; Benjamin Brown – Michigan, Shiawassee, Vernon, (Image 14 of 16) Lines 29-38; Family Search; https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:MF8G-92K.
[vii] 1860 Census; Benjamin Brown – Michigan, Shiawassee, Vernon Township, Page 55, Line 11; Family Search; https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:MWDR-XSL.
[viii] 1870 Census; Ancestry.com.;  Census Place: Vernon, Shiawassee, Michigan; Roll: M593_704; Page: 459A; Image: 512; Family History Library Film: 552203
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Cousin Dawn & the Appleton Ancestors

In the presentation I am giving next Wednesday evening at the Scarborough Museum on “Social Networking for Genealogy,” I emphasize the importance of connections. Connections with people and connecting with cousins are among the best. A cousin, who is into genealogy, cares about the accuracy of your family tree, particularly at your shared ancestor and beyond. They may also have researched areas that you haven’t and can provide great insight into potential sources and facts. I tentatively accept a lot of information from cousins; however, I flag the source and know that I need to try to find original documents to replace my tentative source as having come through someone else’s research.
An example of this is my cousin Dawn M. Through Ancestry.Com’s DNA test I had a match with a 4th to 6th cousin, Dawn M. (Not to be confused with my 1st cousin, Dawn M.) First, through Ancestry’s “Send Message,” then through direct emails, we quickly learned that our first common ancestors are Henry and Marion (Sanford) Brown. They are 2nd great-grandparents to both of us, thus making us 3rd cousins. According to Ancestry.Com, Dawn M. and I share 29.9 centimorgans across 4 DNA segments. It is really interesting to note that my half-sister, Glennis, and Dawn M. share more than double the DNA, 77 centimorgans across 5 DNA segments and is predicted by Ancestry to be 3rd cousins. Seeing that difference in shared DNA between Dawn M. and Glennis compared to between Dawn M. and me reinforces the importance of testing siblings as well to better identify DNA connections and improve the odds of finding the best possible matches. In this case, I almost didn’t pursue contacting with Dawn M because the suggested match was so distant (4th to 6th cousins).
I shared my tree on Ancestry.Com with Dawn and she shared a genealogy file she works with. It was 276 pages of information. Nearly overwhelming – No it was overwhelming. I decided to analyze her material based upon surnames. The first surname we matched alphabetically was “Appleton.” Samuel Appleton, Esq. and his wife Hannah are our 10th great-grandparents.
I had a lot of information she didn’t have, much of it from Chandler Wolcott’s book, The Family of HENRY WOLCOTT published in 1912. What is really good about that source is that it is available through the Internet Archive (a key genealogical research tool). Anyway, I sent her a link to the book and sent her an extract of the appropriate pages. Her information included the names and relationships for four 11th, four 12th, and two 13th great-grandparents. Just learning the names and potential sources for the information is huge and is a great beginning. Learning the probable names of 10 new ancestors is always a good day.
8 new ancestors thanks to 3rd cousin Dawn.
Altogether, just the Appleton section (15 of 276 pages) provided details, which I didn’t have before, on 25 individuals. As slow as I am, (I like to think of myself as thorough instead of slow) this is several days of verification and validation research, thirteen of which are direct ancestors.
2 new ancestor names
thanks to 3rd cousin Dawn
In all the Appleton material, there were only two minor items that were in conflict with what I have. Both these conflicts give me additional research areas so I can double or triple verify my interpretations of other sources. If I still disagree with Dawn M.’s assessment, then I’ll let her know my thoughts and why.
Thanks to DNA Testing, I found a third cousin, Dawn M. Thanks to communications with her I was able to assess that her unpublished tree. Thanks to that assessment, I have tentatively added twenty-five new ancestors. Yes, social networking can provide amazing results.  Five percent done, only 95% to go.

BM-25 – Marion Sanford (1846-c.1893)

BM-25 – Marion Sanford (1846-c.1893)

52 Ancestors – Week 92
My second great grandmother, Marion Sanford, was born between 02 Jun 1846 and 01 Apr 1847 in Michigan[i],[ii]. The 1850, 1860, 1870, 1880 and 1885 Dakota Territory census records are all consistent with those dates. She was the first child of William M Sanford and Mary E Parsons[iii]. She had six siblings: Elva P, Almon C, William A, George P, and two whose names are Unknown.

“Winter Scene on Saline Area Farm.”
“Winter Scene on Saline Area Farm.”Photo Courtesy:  University of
Michigan Library Digital Collections

In the 1850 Census she was living in Saline, Washtenaw, Michigan with her parents and a one-month-old “infant” who is most likely a sibling whose name is unknown. Also living with them were J. W. Sanford, age 19, and Charlie Sanford, age 11[iv]. Their relationship is unknown but I suspect they were siblings of William.

It appears that the family moved to Indiana about 1857-58, because her siblings Elva and Elmon (Almon) were born in Michigan; but, her youngest sibling, Willie, whose age was one during the 1860 Census was born in Indiana. The infant from the 1850 census appears to be missing. Interestingly enough, the 1860 Census shows her name as Mary, living in Aurora, Dearborn County, Indiana and she was attending school. She was counted in the census on 01 Jun 1860 in Aurora, Dearborn, Indiana (Attending School)[v].
When she was 19, she married W Henry Brown, son of Benjamin Brown and Eliza Fowler, about 1866 in Michigan[vi].
1. Nettie May Brown was born about 1867 in Michigan[vii].
2. Arthur Durwood Brown was born on 05 Dec 1869 in Saline, Washtenaw, Michigan[viii].
Saline RR Depot Opened c. 1870
Photo Courtesy: Saline Area Historical Society
She lived in Saline, Washtenaw, Michigan, on 01 Jun 1870 (Keeping House)[ix].
3. Charles D Brown was born about 1871 in Michigan[x].
4. Mary Brown was born about 1872 in Michigan[xi].
5. Ahnond Brown was born on 01 Apr 1873 in Saline, Washtenaw, Michigan[xii].
6. Clifford Gerome Brown was born in 25 Nov 1875 in Michigan[xiii].
7. William Henry Brown was born about 1876 in Michigan[xiv].
8. Clyde Hewett Brown was born in Apr 1877 in Michigan[xv].
9. Frederick Brown was born on 25 Jan 1878 in Saline, Washtenaw, Michigan[xvi].
She lived in Saline, Washtenaw, Michigan, on 01 Jun 1880 (Keeping House)[xvii].

10. Adia Brown was born on 01 May 1882 in Saline, Washtenaw, Michigan


Photo Courtesy Saline Area Historical Society
A large fire burned much of downtown Saline May 21st 1881. I wonder if the fire, and it causing the loss of business and customers in Saline contributed to the Browns leaving Saline and moving west, to Dakota Territory sometime between 1882 and 1883[xix].
11. Marion and Henry’s youngest child, Edward Warberton Brown, was born on 31 Jan 1884 in Robinson, Kidder County, North Dakota[xx].
The 1885 Dakota Territory Census indicated that the W. H. Brown family lived in Jamestown, Stutzman County, Dakota Territory[xxi]. Jamestown was founded in 1872 and was a river crossing for the Northern Pacific Railroad. In 1873, Stutzman County became the first county in Dakota Territory. In 1883, Jamestown incorporated as a city and in 1889, North Dakota became a state. So, the Brown family were settlers in the Dakota Territory and many of them were still in North Dakota when it became a state.
I have been unable to find either Marion or her husband W Henry Brown in any records after 1885, so I have no death or burial information regarding Marion. By 1900, the children of Henry and Marion appear to have disbursed. Their youngest, 16 year-old Ed, was staying with Charlotte Sanford, the widow of his first cousin, once removed, so I suspect that both Marion and Henry had died by then.


[i] 1860 United States Federal Census (A), Ancestry, http://www.Ancestry.com, 1860 – Indiana, Dearborn, Aurora, Page 420, Dwelling 220 – Wm Sanford.
[ii] 1885 Census – Dakota Territory, NDSU Archives, Page 44-018. http://library.ndsu.edu/db/census/family?ed=44-018-10.
[iii] History of Washtenaw County, Michigan:  Together with Sketches of Its Cities, Villages and Townships… (1881), Pg 1409. Imgage, Google Books (http://books.google.com/books?id=2z0XAQAAMAAJ).
[iv] 1850 United States Federal Census (A), Ancestry, http://www.Ancestry.com, 1850; Michigan, Washtenaw, Michigan, Page 737 & 738, Dwelling 214 – Wm Sanford. http://search.ancestry.com/cgi-bin/sse.dll?indiv=try&dbid=8054&h=3267880.
[v] 1860 United States Federal Census (A), Ancestry, http://www.Ancestry.com, 1860 – Indiana, Dearborn, Aurora, Page 420, Dwelling 220 – Wm Sanford.
[vi] Speculation. Marian’s first child was born in 1867 when she was 20. I guess-timate she and Henry were married about a year earlier when she was 19.
[vii] 1870 Census, Ancestry, http://www.Ancestry.com, 1870; Census Place: Saline, Washtenaw, Michigan; Roll: M593_708; Page: 316A; Image: 86; Family History Library Film: 552207. http://search.ancestry.com/cgi-bin/sse.dll?db=1870usfedcen&h=27532996&indiv=try.
[viii] Minnesota, Division of Vital Statistics, Certificate of Death, Arthur D Brown.; Minnesota Historical Society.
[ix] 1870 Census, Ancestry, http://www.Ancestry.com, 1870; Census Place: Saline, Washtenaw, Michigan; Roll: M593_708; Page: 316A; Image: 86; Family History Library Film: 552207.
[x] 1880 Census, Ancestry, http://www.Ancestry.com, 1880; Census Place: Saline, Washtenaw, Michigan; Roll: 609; Family History Film: 1254609; Page: 276B; Enumeration District: 237; Image: 0033 AND Image: 0034.
[xi] Ibid.
[xii] Department of Vital Records, Michigan, Births, 1867-1902 (Lansing, MI, ), Family Search, Almond Brown, 01 Apr 1873. https://familysearch.org/pal:/mm9.1.1/nqn7-56v.
[xiii] World War I Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918, Ancestry, http://www.Ancestry.com, Registration State: North Dakota; Registration County: Kidder; Roll: 1819445, Page 113 of 141.
[xiv] 1880 Census, Ancestry, http://www.Ancestry.com, Year: 1880; Census Place: Saline, Washtenaw, Michigan; Roll: 609; Family History Film: 1254609; Page: 276B; Enumeration District: 237; Image: 0034.
[xv] 1900 Census (A) (National Archives and Records Administration), Ancestry, http://www.Ancestry.com, Year: 1900; Census Place: Wells, Wells, North Dakota; Roll: T623_1234; Page: 10A; Enumeration District: 214.
[xvi] Department of Vital Records, Michigan, Births, 1867-1902 (Lansing, MI, ), Family Search, Fred Brown, 25 Jan 1878.       .
[xvii] 1880 Census, Ancestry, http://www.Ancestry.com, 1880; Census Place: Saline, Washtenaw, Michigan; Roll: 609; Family History Film: 1254609; Page: 276B; Enumeration District: 237; Image: 0033 AND Image: 0034.
[xviii] Department of Vital Records, Michigan, Births, 1867-1902 (Lansing, MI, ), Family Search, Adia Brown, 01 May 1882.
[xix] Speculation: Adia was born in 1882 in Michigan and Edward was born in North Dakota in January 1884.
[xx] California, Death Index, 1940-1997 (Ancestry.com. California, Death Index, 1940-1997 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2000.), Date: 1964-03-31.
[xxi] 1885 Census – Dakota Territory, NDSU Archives, Page 44-018.
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It is not all on Ancestry.Com – The Browns in North Dakota

It is not all on Ancestry.Com – The Browns in North Dakota
Because of the chasm caused by the missing 1890 census, I had lost track of Henry & Marion (Sanford) Brown (my 2nd great grandparents).  Henry and Marion lived in Selene, Michigan in 1882, when Ada was born but nothing else.  Certainly Marion was alive in 1884 when she gave birth to their youngest child, Edward in Dakota Territory. But I couldn’t find any direct evidence of Henry after the 1880 census, although I sort of assumed that Edward was his child.  If Henry made it to Dakota Territory or if Marion was there alone with some of her other family members, Sanfords, in the Dakota Territory was still a question. 
Ancestry.Com has a database, North Dakota, Compiled Census Index, 1870-1890, which I thought would help.  The index should be just the thing I needed to figure out what happened to Henry and Marion.  It is a “collection contains the following indexes: 1870 Federal Census Index; 1885 Federal Census Index; 1890 Veterans Schedules.”  Nothing.  Lots of other Browns but nothing showing my Henry, Marion, or their kids and particularly Edward who was born there.  Being an index, there is nothing to browse, so I figured maybe the index pages exist elsewhere. 
One of my favorite sites for information is the Family Search wiki.  A quick search there for “North Dakota Census” brings up a list of “Online North Dakota indexes and images.”
Which told me that besides Ancestry.Com there is somewhere else (Misc.) that has an index. Click that link and I was at the Library, North Dakota State University and their Search the Dakota Territory 1885 Census Index page. A search for Henry Brown, yielded 17 Henry’s but not a one from Michigan.  Next, a search for Marion Brown.  There she was, right name, right age, right place of birth. It sure looked like her. Clicking on her name brings you to the Census Records Page she is on.  Sure enough there she is apparently with her husband “W. H. Brown”, and her 11 children. Henry was a laborer and the family lived in Jamestown, Dakota Territory, in 1885.  So the whole family did make it to North Dakota. 
Screen shot of Dakota Territory 1885 Census Index with W. H. Brown family
I went back to the Ancestry.Com and searched again.  No Browns in Stutsman county; none in Wells County nor Kidder County either. I think that there is a problem with the database on Ancestry.  It should either have all the counties or identify that database is incomplete. I submitted feedback to Ancestry that the database was incomplete.  I’ll report here if I hear anything back.   
The 1885 Territorial census gave me new information.  Henry Brown was also known as “W. H. Brown” – a clue that may help me find him in other places.  The whole family did move to Dakota Territory sometime between 1880 and 1884. In 1885 they lived in Jamestown, Stutsman County, North Dakota. I know the family is spread out over North Dakota, Minnesota, and Montana in 1900.