Wednesday, December 11, 2019

A Boothe Nearby

A good lesson to keep in mind, when researching Southern lines, is the possibility that nearby families sporting the same surname may indeed be related. Recalling this lesson from my Southern Research class at SLIG last year may actually reveal over-reaching hopefulness on my part, but I thought I'd give it a try in this current research challenge. After all, I know nothing about who the parents of William Alexander Boothe might have been. All I know is that my second great-grandfather came from Nansemond County, Virginia.

Finding Alexander in the 1840 census in Nansemond County was an encouraging start. Even more so, when I flipped the page from his entry and discovered, four lines later, an entry for another Boothe family. This one was for the household of a man named Nathaniel Boothe, who was somewhere between the ages of forty and fifty. If closer to fifty, for my William Alexander Boothe, born in 1812, that could place his neighbor at precisely the perfect age to be—possibly—his father. Not only that, but father of an oldest son.

There were other people in this household of Nathaniel Boothe, of course. Youngest was a possible son between the ages of five and nine. Then, too, there was the expected female in this family, as well—a woman under the age of fifty, like Nathaniel, himself. Even more interesting was that there was a second woman in the household, aged about twenty years older than both Nathaniel and his assumed wife.

Whether these were the right people to represent William Alexander Boothe's parents is hard to say, just from this one census record. After all, just because the two entries are separated by only four lines on the document doesn't necessarily mean that the two Boothe households lived close to each other. It is impossible now to determine the route the enumerator might have taken in completing his duties in 1840.

It would be a good idea to search through the 1840 census for this county to see if there were any other families by the same surname—which I will have no problem doing, since the population of that now-extinct county was under eleven thousand in 1840 and the census entries were one line per head of household. Not exactly an easy task, but not daunting, either.

In addition to slogging through the 1840 census for Nansemond County, though, I've taken a look through other available resources. It turns out that there are a number of other places where a few things can be found about the various Boothe families of the area. Virginia may have suffered fires and wars, but there apparently are some other records available, after all.


  1. Remember to look at the "nearby" households that don't include the Booth surname. Years ago when I was researching 3x great grandparents William and Matilda (Lewis) Mason, I took a highlighter and marked all the nearby households (about 10 to fifteen on each side of them) on the 1850 census that had a young girl named Matilda or a wife near Matilda's age who was born in Alabama. It took a lot of work, but many years later I found that they were married sisters of my Matilda. So, surround your Boothe household are probably married sisters. You just don't know it yet.

    1. Good point! Thanks for mentioning that. Anne Mitchell--"Ancestry Anne"--discusses that in her classes, particularly on southern research, and recommends going even farther away from the target family!

      This especially applies in agrarian communities, where land ownership influenced where family members might have settled in the next generation. I am particularly keen on finding land records from that time period, just to see the roots of such a possibility...except that I have little hope that any such records would still be available.


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