Ancestry indicates Parsons is an occupational name for the servant of a parish priest or parson, or possibly, the parson’s son. I ignored other meanings for Parsons, from Irish and Scottish origins, because my Parsons immigrant ancestor came from Dorset in the 1600s. According to Forebears, the surname is most common in Wiltshire, while it is also numerous in counties around Wiltshire, including Dorset.
In World: Today, Parsons has the greatest incident in the United States, with over 86,000 people having the surname.
In Dorset, England, where my earliest ancestors lived, there are 881 people with the surname.
In the US, there is a greater incidence of Parsons living in California and Texas. In the 1880 Census, the most incidences of Parsons were in New York and Massachusetts. My Parson ancestors left New York in the 1820s and were in Michigan during the 1880 Census.
Direct Parsons Ancestors
51 – Mary Electa Parsons(1828-1888) – 3rd Great Grandmother
102 – Chester Parsons(1799-1887) – 4th Great-Grandfather
204 – John Parsons(1764-1813) – 5th Great-Grandfather
408 – John Parsons Sr. (1737/38-1821) – 6th Great-Grandfather
816 – Timothy Parsons (1695-1772) – 7th Great-Grandfather*
1632 – Samuel Parsons (1653-1734) – 8th Great-Grandfather*
3264 – Joseph Parsons (1620-1683) – 9th Great-Grandfather*
6528 – William Parsons (___-___) – 10th Great-Grandfather*
* Note: I have not fully reviewed or recearched ancestors #816 or higher.
In 1840, Chester Parsons was living in Saline, Washtenaw County, Michigan. His household included himself, his wife Deborah, and six children. There were eight Parsons families in Washtenaw County during the census. Chester and his brother lived in Saline.
In 1880, Chester’s father, John Parsons Jr, was the head of the household in Sandisfield, Berkshire County, Massachusetts. His household included a wife and one child. Chester’s Grandfather, John Parsons Sr., was also the head of a household. John’s household consisted of himself, five females and three males. They were two of the nine Parsons households in the county.
My earliest known Parsons immigrant ancestor is Joseph Parsons. He came to the colonies between 1629 and 1646. It isn’t clear whether he first came to Massachusetts (where he died) or Connecticut (where he married Mary Bliss in 1646).
A drawing of Chester Parsons was printed in the History of Washtenaw County, Michigan. His is one of the earliest ancestor images I have.
There are photos of the Parsons family marker and Chester’s individual marker via Find-a-Grave.
Likewise, there is a photo of the marker of John Parsons, Jr., on Find-a-Grave.
Direct Parsons Descendants
My earliest known ancestor, William Parsons, married Margaret Hoskins sometime before 1620, probably in Beaminster, Dorset, England. My records have identified 868 direct-line descendants of William and Margaret.
My most recent, known Parsons cousins are children of Alfred David Parsons (1830-1908) and Percia Tallmage (___-___). They had five children between 1861 and 1873, all were born in Saline, Washtenaw, Michigan. They are 1st cousins, 4x removed.
I have long believed that Arthur Durwood Brown, my great-grandfather was the son of William Henry Brown and not the son of Henry Mack Brown. I think that the 1870 and 1880 Census records contribute greatly to that belief.
Other records have long identified that Arthur Durwood Brown was born in December 1869 and the Census Record for Arthur confirms that. It shows the Henry Brown family as consisting of any apparent husband and wife with two children.[i] Henry is a farm laborer and Marian is keeping house. Children Nittie and Arthur are 3 years and 7/12 years old respectively. Because Arthur was born during the previous year, his month of birth, “Dec,” was also enumerated. Twenty-five-year-old Henry is a farm laborer and 23-year-old Marian is keeping house. There is no entry for Henry owning property.
Immediately following Henry and family are William Sanford, his wife Mary and four apparent children. William’s farm is the most valuable farm on the page, valued at $10,000. So, it appears to me that Henry, who is married to William’s daughter, is most likely a farm hand on William’s farm.
The 1880 Census is the first census which shows the relationship between individuals. Henry Brown is the head of the family, Marian is his wife, and 10-year-old Arthur is enumerated with his younger siblings, Charles, Mary, Almond, Clifford, William, Clyde, and Addison. Nittie, who should be 13 during the 1880 Census, isn’t enumerated.
William Sanford’s family is enumerated on the same page as Marian as in the 1870 Census.
The 1900 Census finds Arthur D. Brown married with children living in Township 136, Ranges 25-29, Crow Wing County Minnesota. The census reports that he was born in December, 1870, and was 29-years-old—A minor error. He had been married for seven years and had three children. His 21-year-old wife, Mary, had had four children, one who had died.[ii] The three children enumerated were.
Clyde Born Feb 1894
Victoria Born June 1896
Clarence Born Dec 1897
The 1910 Census finds the Arthur Brown household had moved west to North Dakota and lived near Merkle, Kidder County. With him are his wife, daughter Victoria and his three youngest (at the time) children, Cora, Clifford (my grandfather), and Edward. There is an eight year gap between Clifford and Edward, suggesting a lost child.[iii]
The 1920 Census finds the Arthur Brown household had moved back to Minnesota and were renting a home in Sylvan Township, Cass County. With him are his wife, Mary, and five children, Clifford (my grandfather), Edward, Arthur, Charles, and Delores.
Arthur Durwood Brown died on 27 August 1928 in Walker, Cass County, Minnesota. He is buried in Gull River Cemetery, Pillager, Cass County, Minnesota.
1870 Census (NARA), 1870 – Henry Brown – Saline, Washtenaw, Michigan. “United States Census, 1870”, database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:MHC NMT : 19 March 2020), Arthur Brown in entry for Henry Brown, 1870.
1880 Census, 1880 – Henry Brown – Saline, Washtenaw, Michigan. “United States Census, 1880,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:MW3 CST : 26 August 2017), Arthur Brown in household of Henry Brown, Saline, Washtenaw, Michigan, United States; citing enumeration district ED 237, sheet 276B, NARA microfilm publication T9 (Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.), FHL microfilm 1,254,609.
1900 Census, 1900 Census – Arthur D Brown – Twnp 136, Crow Wing, Minnesota. Family Search.
1910 Census, 1910 – Arthur D Brown – Merkel, Kidder, North Dakota. “United States Census, 1910,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:MLGT-WDB : accessed 10 March 2019), Arthur D Brown, Merkel, Kidder, North Dakota, United States; citing enumeration district (ED) ED 225, sheet 4A, family 67, NARA microfilm publication T624 (Washington D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, 1982), roll 1142; FHL microfilm 1,375,155.
1920 Census, 1920 Census – Arthur Brown – Sylvan Township 133, Range 30, Cass County, Minnesota. “United States Census, 1920,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:M4MW-7MK : accessed 24 September 2020), Arthur Brown, Sylvan, Cass, Minnesota, United States; citing ED 109, sheet 4B, line 67, family 71, NARA microfilm publication T625 (Washington D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, 1992), roll 824; FHL microfilm 1,820,824.
Find a Grave, Internet, Arthur Durwood Brown (1868-1928) – Memorial 87334615. Find a Grave, database and images (https://www.findagrave.com : accessed 24 September 2020), memorial page for Arthur Durwood Brown (1868–27 Aug 1928), Find a Grave Memorial no. 87334615, citing Gull River Cemetery, Cass County, Minnesota, USA ; Maintained by Don Taylor (contributor 47627546).
[i] The 1870 Census did not provide relationship information.
[ii] Subsequent Research had indicated that the child was Martin. Born in 1900 and died before June 1, 1900.
[iii] There was one—Dorothy was born sometime between 1905 and 1907 and died in 1908.
52 Ancestors – Week 2018-29
By Don Taylor
Like many of my ancestors, Deborah Buel Maben, was a pioneer wife. She was born, raised, and married in eastern New York (Greene County). After she married she headed west with her husband to Michigan Territory. She was there when Michigan become a state. She passed away and was buried in Benton, Washtenaw County, Michigan, in the land she and her family settled.
I never imagined I’d have an ancestor that there is just too much information available. Amazingly, I have more information about Chester Parsons and his life than I can keep up with. Ancestry, suggests there are 85 Ancestry Hints and 13 other public Ancestry Member Trees relating to Chester Parsons. Admittedly, five of those Ancestry Hints are from me because of one of those old trees, but still 80 Hints is more than I recall seeing elsewhere. I went through all of them, several weren’t clearly my Chester Parsons (1799-1887) and appeared to have been other Chesters. But still, there were a couple items I hadn’t seen before including a photo of Chester. I have several sources of information that I didn’t add to my tree because they didn’t add any new detail, instead confirmed information that I already had. But still, I ended up using 21 sources for information about Chester’s life.
5th Great-grandfather: 204. John Parsons (1764-1813)
6th Great-grandfather: 408. John Parsons Sr. (1737/38-1821)
Chester Parsons (1799-1887)
Chester Parsons was born on 1 December 1799, the fifth child of John Parsons, Jr. and Mary Wolcott, in Sandisfield, Berkshire County, Massachusetts.
Chester’s siblings included:
Samuel – Born 5 Apr 1787
Polly – Born 17 Jan 1792
Orrin – Born 6 Mar 1794
John – Born 5 May 1796
Sometime shortly after his birth and before 1802, the family moved from Massachusetts to Windham, Greene County, New York. In April 1813, Chester’s father, John, died. It appears that older brothers Samuel and Orrin established their own households by the 1820 Census. I have not been successful determining where Chester, his sister Polly, his brother John or his mother, Mary, were during the 1820 Census. I suspect they were living with another family member whose surname was not Parsons.
Chester married Deborah Buel Maben on 26 November 1824 in Greene County, New York.
They had eight children
Lucinda Born 1825 in New York
James Born 1826 in Michigan
Mary Electa Born 1828 in Michigan
Alfred David Born 1830 in Michigan
Harriet Eliza Born 1832 in Michigan
E. W. Born 1833 in Michigan
Sarah Jane Born 1833 in Michigan
Melissa Born 1843 in Michigan
In May 1826, Chester and his brother, Orrin headed west to Michigan Territory. The two of them purchased 160 acres of land in Saline Township on 1 November 1826. They built the first mill in the area as well as the first frame house.
The 1830 Census found Chester as the head of the household consisting of two males and three females. On 1 August 1831, Chester purchased 78.24 acres of land, and in 1837 he bought another 80 acres.
The 1840 Census found Chester’s household consisting of four males and six females. There is one male, age 50 to 60 and one female age 20 to 30 that are unknown and do not appear to be Chester’s children.
The 1850 Census finds the Chester Parsons household consisting of Chester, his wife, five of his daughters, one son, and four unrelated farm hands, although Zebe Fuller would marry his daughter Harriet. Chester’s real property was valued at $7,800.
The 1860 Census finds a prosperous Chester Parsons living with his wife and two daughters. Also living in the household are two young females, ages 19 and 22 who are domestics as well as three farm laborers. Chester’s real property was valued at $12,500.
The 1870 Census finds Chester and his wife, Deborah, living alone. His real estate is valued at $21,000 and his personal property at $5,000.
Deborah died in 1874 at the age of 69. They had been married for nearly 50 years.
Chester remarried on 11 November 1875 to the Widow Wakefield. Chester’s second wife, Jennette Arnold Wakefield, was 24 years younger than Chester.
The 1880 Census finds Chester and Jennett living together in Saline, Chester was 80 and Jennett was 56 and keeping house.
Chester died on 7 June 1887. He was buried at Benton Cemetery, in Plot 30 next to his first wife.
Chester’s property went through probate. Many of his children and grandchildren were mentioned in the various probate documents. There were auctions of his property as well. At one auction, on November 28th, 1890, 52 acres wheat on the ground sold for $6.95 per acre. Also, and a large number of farm implements. Sixty acres of timberland was sold to Sturm and Reeves. Also sold at the auction were 12 cows, 16 head young cattle, and seven horses,
Because Chester was an early pioneer in Saline Township he is often mentioned in various historical books, such as The History of Washtenaw County, and newspaper articles long after his death. According to them Orrin and Chester built the first sawmill in town in 1827, two miles south of the village. There is another story where Chester and Orrin were concerned that someone else might purchase the land they wanted, so they walked by an old Indian trail through the night to Monroe to acquire the property. Chester became the postmaster for Benton in 1835 and cut a road from Saline to Tecumseh road. He kept a hotel before the railroad was completed to Ann Arbor.
Page 437 of The History of Washtenaw County provides a portrait of Chester Parsons. (See above.)
Likewise, page 105 of York, Saline, Ypsilanti, Lyndon, Sharon (Mich.) Township residences, ca. 1874, provides an image of Chester Parsons’ house in Saline. (See above.)
I’ve found a photo of Chester, a birth record, a death record, two marriage records, presumably him in the 1800 Census and through all the Census records in his adult life, 1830 through 1880. I’ve found photos of his home, Bureau of Land Management records of his land purchases, his probate records, and maps showing his property during various years. Finally, stories about his life and activities abound. His was a life well lived and I am proud to be descended from him.
Further Actions / Follow-up
The History of Washtenaw County, page 1406, indicates that Chester’s wife Deborah wrote a history of their move from New York to Michigan what recounted the “hardships and privations of their early pioneer life.” Apparently, she did not complete it, but I would love to find a copy of whatever might have survived from that writing.
I have so many sources for Chester Parsons, I’ve decided to abbreviate the sources so that the sources aren’t longer than the article. Additional detail is available; however, the information provided should be sufficient to find the record.
1800 Census – John Parsons Jr. – Sandisfield, Berkshire, Massachusetts (3rd from bottom).
1830 Census – Chester Parsons – Saline, Washtenaw, Michigan Territory/
1840 Census – Chester Parsons – Saline, Washtenaw, Michigan
1850 Census – Chester Parsons – Saline, Washtenaw, Michigan
1860 Census – Chester Parsons – Saline, Washtenaw, Michigan
1870 Census – Chester Parson – Saline, Washtenaw, Michigan
1880 Census – Chester Parsons – Saline, Washtenaw, Michigan
Daughters of the American Revolution, “Ancestor Search,” DAR, Buell, Grover – Patriot: A016639 – Member: Ruth Evelyn Hill Carr
Daughters of the American Revolution, “Ancestor Search,” DAR, Maben, John – Patriot: A072838 – Member: Ruth Evelyn Hill Carr
Chas. C. Chapman & Co. (2012). History of Washtenaw County, Michigan: Together with sketches of its cities, villages and townships, educational, religious, civil, military, and political history; portraits of prominent persons, and biographies of representative citizens: history of Michigan: embracing accounts of the pre-historic races, aborigines, French, English and American conquests, and a general review of its civil, political and military history – Pages 1370, 1371, 1373, & 1405.
Massachusetts, Town and Vital Records, 1620 – Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2011 – Parsons.
Michigan, Death Records, 1867-1950 Ancestry.com – Chester Parsons – Died: 7 Jun 1887.
By Don Taylor
Following ancestors through all the census records is often difficult, particularly in census records before 1850, when only the head of household was named. Tracing my 4th great-grandfather, Chester Parsons was straight-forward from the 1880 census back to the 1850 census, even on to the 1830 Census, while Chester was in Saline, Michigan. Before that, he was a young man in someone else’s household not in Michigan. The path to understanding is to take what you know, hypothesize what should be, then see if research fits.
What I think I know.
Chester was born on 1 December 1799 in Sandisfield, Berkshire, Massachusetts.
Chester married his first wife in Greene County, New York in 1824.
In May 1826, Chester and his young family moved from New York to Saline, Washtenaw County, Michigan Territory.
He and his family appear in 1830, 1840, 1850, 1860, 1870, and 1880 censuses. The family seems to have been very stable living in Saline, Michigan, for over 60 years.
Chester’s father, John Parsons, died in 1813 in Greene County, New York.
In 1820 Chester would have been 20 years old.
Because Chester probably lived with his father when his father died in 1813 and Chester probably resided in Greene County when he married in 1824, I presume the 20-year-old Chester also was living in Greene County during the 1820 Census. If so, who was he living with?
Search & Results
A quick search on Family Search of all families with the Parsons surname living in Greene County, New York in 1820 yielded four candidates, Samuel, Orrin, Albert, and Stephen. I’m looking for any of those people that might have Chester living with him.
Samuel Parsons – This Windham household consists of 1 Male (Age 26-45) and no other males. Chester’s oldest brother was named Samuel and would have been 33-years-old. This Samual is possibly, even likely, Chester’s brother.
Orrin Parsons – This Windham household consists of two males (one 16 to 26 and one under 10. There is also a female 16 to 26 in the household. Chester’s 2nd oldest brother was named Orrin and was 25 at the time. It is likely this was him with his wife, and first, previously unknown, son.
Albert Parsons – This Windham household consisted of five individuals, apparently Albert age 16-26, male 10-16, and male under 10 and two females, one, an apparent wife 16 to 26 and another age 10 to 16. There is no known Albert Parsons in my research before this. I will probably need to do more research to determine this Albert’s place in the family or determine he isn’t related. In any event, Chester is not in that household either.
Chester’s father John died in 1814. It appears that Samuel and Orrin each married and established households of their own. Chester, his brother John, and their mother were probably either missed in the 1820 Census or were living in the household of someone without the surname Parsons in Greene County, New York.
It is possible that Chester and family lived with sister Mary/Polly in 1820. Research Mary/Polly Parsons’ life.
It is possible that Chester and family lived with a female sibling of John Parsons, Jr. Research the lives of the other Parsons of Sandisfield, Massachusetts that located to Windham, Greene County, New York between 1800 and 1820.