The best jumping-off place for a deep exploration of the genealogical unknown is to start with what we do know. In our earliest beginners' training sessions, for instance, we were always told to "start with yourself"—and certainly not to pass "go" or even collect two hundred relatives before we have done our due diligence with each step through the generations.
With Delaney Townsend, however, there is precious little to know. And yet, that is precisely where we need to begin our search: with what we know.
I already know, thanks to family reports, that Delaney's daughter, my second great-grandmother Emma Charles, married William Henry McClellan in Suwannee County, Florida, on October 23, 1867. Thus, I have a toe-hold on this line to enable me to start with what I know. Emma was the "baby" daughter I mentioned yesterday—the youngest of at least three children who became my only means of tracing what became of Delaney's family.
The problem is that, although I can find Delaney with her family in the 1850 census, I can only find her children by 1860. Even that was a challenging chase. From the 1850 census, I could see Delaney—recorded under the nickname Lania—in the household of her husband, Andrew Charles, along with three children, listed as a four year old son named Francis, a six year old son named Benjamin, and a two year old daughter "Emily."
But even tracing the children in 1860 was challenging. Not only were they not living with their parents, but the names and ages weren't quite right. There were three Charles children, alright, but they were fourteen year old Rupert, thirteen year old Fanny, and eleven year old Emma.
Fanny? This begins to border more on "messy" than "challenging."
The only restraining hand that kept me from tossing out the entire find was that the head of that 1860 household, Melburn Odum, was husband of Andrew Charles' sister Drucilla. And Drucilla had been married before, to a man named Hines, which explains the surname of the other children in the household. It took a long meander through several probate and other court records to piece together that story—and it looks like we may have to repeat that process yet again for the missing Andrew and Delaney Charles.
We can assume that the names and ages of the 1850 report could be chalked up to an inept enumerator, perhaps, but you know that isn't a convincing argument. We'll have to check that discrepancy further. But the discrepancy also makes me hesitate to rely on the other information provided in that 1850 census report: that Delaney was then thirty four years of age and born in South Carolina.
The only bright spot for inquiring about the Charles' whereabouts in 1850 is that the county where they then resided may actually still have records of some marriages from that time period—if, in fact, Andrew and Delaney were wed in Madison County in Florida. Looking for any other Townsends—if, indeed, that was her maiden name—in Madison County might help, as well.
Otherwise, our challenge is to search for a Townsend family somewhere in South Carolina, back where Delaney was supposedly born around 1816. And that is just too wide a parameter to tackle, even back in that era.