Each of us has our own brick wall ancestor or family. Mine is Ira William Sargent, who, along with his wife and two children, was apparently dropped off by aliens in Warsaw, Hancock County, Illinois, in 1880. Regular readers will remember Ira from previous articles.
Occasionally I type Iraâ€™s name in the search box at Ancestry to see if a new potential match appears in any recently released databases. I keep track of all the â€œfalseâ€ leads–those Iras who, for one reason or another are â€œnot mine.â€ This tracking is important and includes where I located the â€œIraâ€ and why I think he is not mine. The spreadsheet of Iras continues to grow over time and is an integral part of my research process.
A few months ago, a â€œnewâ€ Ira surfaced in the Iowa State Census database at Ancestry. I immediately checked it out and viewed the complete record image.
Based upon the family structure, this Ira was not one I had already located and eliminated. However, that does not mean he is automatically â€œmine.â€
The first step was to see how close these details matched what was known about the Ira for whom I was looking. My Ira was born ca. 1843 in either Canada or the state of New York. Based upon later census information, he came to the midwestern United States by the early 1870s and most likely lived in Iowa, Missouri, or Illinois from that time on. Those are the only details I have. (Itinerant day laborers are not known for leaving a vast quantity of records.)
The age and place of birth for this Ira is consistent with mine. The consistency proves nothing, but indicates that further work on this new Ira is needed.
If the 1856 Iowa census was correct, Ira and most of the other children in the Landon household should be enumerated somewhere in the United States in 1850, probably in Illinois or in Iowa. Given that I have searched the 1850 and 1860 census extensively for any reasonable rendering of Ira Sargent, I thought it odd I had not already located this family.
I easily found Asa Landon living in Illinois in 1850 with what appeared to be the same family from the 1856 Iowa state census.
1850 Owen, Winnebago County, Illinois Census
- Asa Landon, aged 41, male, farmer, $400 real estate, born Canada
- Mary Landon, aged 39, female, born Canada
- Emma Landon, aged 10, female, born Canada
- Lucretia Landon, aged 8, female, born Canada
- Ira Landon, aged 6, male, born New York
- Martha Landon, aged 4, female, born Illinois
- Minerva Landon, aged 2, female, born Illinois
- Edwin Landon, aged 3/12, male, born Illinois
- Nelson Witesall, aged 25, male, born Canada
The ages and first names are relatively consistent with the 1856 Iowa state census enumeration. In 1850 all the children have the last name Landon. This explains why I had never located this family.
A Marriage Record
The Illinois State Marriage index contained a reference that hinted at the likely family structure and explained the variant last names for some of the children.
There was an index entry indicating a Mrs. Mary Sargent married Asa Landon on 6 January 1849 in Winnebago County, Illinois. This date of marriage is consistent with the census enumerations for the family and the last names of the children as given in 1856.
I still have problems, though. I need to track down the Ira Sargent from the 1856 census enumeration in order to determine whether or not he is â€œmine.â€ I also need to find the name of Maryâ€™s prior husband (Sargent) in order to conclude if records on him (or on his family) provide any information on his children.
The 1860 Census
The Landon family was located in Missouri in the 1860 census. There are a few inconsistencies with this information, but it appears to be the correct family.
1860 Census, Benton Township, Christian County, Missouri
- Asa Landon, aged 62, male, farmer, New York
- Luxesy, aged 18, female, born New York
- Martha, aged 16, female, born Canada?
- Ira[nn?], aged 14, female, born Illinois
- [Mariana?], aged 12, female, born Illinois
- Edwin [T?], aged 9, male, born Illinois
- Roxey, aged 7, female, born Illinois
Asa appears to have aged twenty years since the 1850 census. However, the age in either enumeration could easily be incorrect. If Asaâ€™s age in 1856 is actually fifty-eight then the 1860 census age of sixty-two is not that inconsistent.
The rest of the household presents a slight challenge. Except for Emma the names of the children are relatively the same as they were in 1850. Emmaâ€™s absence is easily explained. In 1860, Emma would have been twenty years old and could easily have been married and in her own household or working outside the home and enumerated elsewhere. The ages of the children are pretty much a ten-year progression until you look at the names and the gender. That is when Ira and Martha create a problem.
My premise is that the census taker, when using his field notes to write up his clean copy of the census, made a mistake in the enumeration. The sixteen-year-old should be Ira and the fourteen-year-old should be Martha. The gender of Ira is incorrect as well. Iâ€™m not entirely certain whether this is the case, but it seems reasonable and easier to explain that than the appearance of â€œnewâ€ children in 1860. The key is that I transcribe the census exactly as it appears and include my commentary in my notes.
There is still more work to do on this family. Research needs to be conducted in Winnebago County, Illinois, in an attempt to learn more about Mary Sargent Landonâ€™s first husband. However, there are a few lessons remembered or learned:
- Remarriage of the mother can â€œhideâ€ children and they can be difficult to find when the new husbandâ€™s name is not known.
- Census enumerations for families should be relatively consistent, 100 percent consistency is rare.
- Variations on first names are common.
- Always be on the lookout for newly released databases or sources.
In an upcoming column, weâ€™ll see how WorldConnect was used to assist in locating this family and how I may have found Maryâ€™s Sargent husband.
Michael John Neill is a genealogical writer and speaker who has been researching his or his children’s genealogy for more than twenty years. A math instructor in his “other life,” Michael taught at the former Genealogical Institute of Mid-America and has served on the FGS Board. He also lectures on a variety of genealogical topics and gives seminars across the country. He maintains a personal website at: www.rootdig.com
Upcoming Events with Michael John Neill
- Genealogy Computing Week, 03-08 March 2008
Computer workshops at Carl Sandburg College, Galesburg, IllinoisÂ
- Salt Lake City Family History Library Trip, 14 May-21 May 2008