Tuesday, June 8, 2021

Needing that Double-Check


I'm a firm believer in double-checking details. In the case of researching my mother-in-law's second great-grandparents, that habit may have come in handy as we pursue our next step in the research process.

Joseph and Elizabeth Flowers likely settled near Perry County, Ohio, by the time of their son Thomas' birth in 1814. At least, that's what we've found in a local history book published in 1883.

Unfortunately, that handy history book neglected to tell us just where Joseph and Elizabeth Flowers came from. And that is our next step to determine. That is where the double-checking comes in.

With the resources we have at hand online, the only census reports which would include both spouses' place of birth would the the 1850 and 1860 enumerations, late in their lifetime. Joseph and Elizabeth both passed away long before the 1870 census. And that's the problem. According to the 1850 census, while Elizabeth was born in Pennsylvania, Joseph was born in Maryland. Yet, the 1860 census reports both as born in Pennsylvania.

We need to keep in mind there were all sorts of possible reasons why a census report could be in error. Clerical errors come to mind, thinking of the rush of work needing to be done by enumerators in a limited amount of time. Another factor could be the reporting party, who might—or might not—know the correct answer to each question for each family member he is representing.

Looking at the Flowers children's own reports in subsequent decades—especially including those enumerations which also ask where the parents were born—can help fill in the blanks. Since we already saw the report that son Thomas was born in Ohio, what about the next oldest child? Thomas' next oldest brother, named after his dad, was certainly accessible in census records for two more decades than his parents.

The younger Joseph reported his place of birth as Pennsylvania in the 1850 census, and again for 1860—but then stated Ohio for place of birth in the 1870 census. The answer reverted back to Pennsylvania in the 1880 census—along with affirmation of that location for both parents, as well—so we can assume that one enumeration was just an aberration.

The challenge, at this point, is embedded in the very date at which the government began naming all members of a household in the enumeration: 1850. We could look back to census records drawn up before that point, scouring all the results for Pennsylvania before 1820 to find just the right family constellation for a head of household named Joseph Flowers, but that might yield us too many results for any level of confidence. Or worse, none at all.

Of course, finding a will for Joseph's father would go a long way in providing clues—though I have yet to stumble upon such a family Rosetta Stone. And, unlike our previous project for the Ijams family, which serendipitously included a rich uncle dictating several stipulations for the disposition of all his earthly goods, I have yet to find any such leads from the siblings in the Flowers family.

There was, however, one other resource which could possibly help. It wasn't something I found any time recently, while shut in, out-manuevering the pandemic. It was a listing found through another resource, years ago—and while I learned about it online, it isn't something that can be found online now, at least as far as I know.

This might be time to revisit those old, old notes and see if I can retrace my steps—and hope something new has been added to the mix in the meantime.

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