Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Why Is Someone Who Died in 1841 in the 1850 Census?

This guy died in 1841, so why is he in the 1850 Federal Census??
detail from Find A Grave, database and images (http://findagrave.com : accessed 2 Feb 2016), memorial page for Isaac Webb (1806-1841), Find A Grave Memorial no. 114,326,358, citing Mount Nebo Cemetery, Milford, Butler County, Pensylvania.  
Image added by Kurt Albert.

One of the benefits of having distant cousins and a public tree on Ancestry is that you can get feedback on whatever research you have.  I had this experience a few days ago.

The cousin who contacted me shares my Webb ancestors from Pennsylvania.  Both of us have had a devil of a time with this line.  My ancestor Abner Webb (1834-abt 1861) was the son of Isaac Webb (b 1806), and grandson to the elder Isaac Webb (b abt 1760), but I didn't have definite dates pinned down for either Isaac Webb.
I had recently found an estate file for an Isaac Webb who died about 1842 in Butler County, Pennsylvania (where Isaac Webb Jr had lived in 1840), and assumed it was the elder Isaac Webb, for a reason I'll explain in a minute.

My Webb line is through Alta Slater Norville, my maternal grandmother.

My cousin pointed out that it had to be the younger Isaac Webb who died in Butler county, and sent me links to the orphan's court papers (via FamilySearch) from 1848, clearly showing my Abner Webb and his siblings, Jesse and Elizabeth Jane, and their mother petitioning for a guardian for them because her husband Isaac Webb had died.

Both images from the same page.  Jane Webb petitioned for her children to be appointed a guardian, and the court appointed William C Martin (he is mentioned with his father, Robert Martin, in this county history).
Butler County, Pennsylvania, Orphan's Court Dockets, Volume 2: 470, Jane Webb's petition for guardian for Abner, Jesse, and Elizabeth Jane Webb, estate of Isaac Webb, 27 March 1848; digital images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.3.1/TH-1961-28783-14234-93?cc=1999196 : accessed 2 February 2016), image 251.


I have no problem correcting whatever mistakes I've made on my tree, and these sources are a gold standard as far as proving parentage.  The record clearly shows that Jane Webb was the widow of the late Isaac Webb of Franklin County, Butler, Pennsylvania, and that the children were his.  That was where Issac Webb was in 1840, so it all makes sense.  This was some awesome evidence!  My cousin also provided me with a death date for the elder Isaac Webb in 1844.  Now I had more concrete dates and places for them.

But I had one little problem...

The last federal census I found with Isaac Webb (b 1806) was in 1850!

Isaac had died 9 years earlier!

Here he is listed, in McKeesport, Allegheny, Pennsylvania, with Jane (Sill) Webb, and Abner, Jesse, and Elizabeth, all the right ages.  Both Isaac and son Abner are listed as laborers.  Maybe an overly talkative informant overwhelmed the census taker who put down the same profession for both, not quite understanding the father was long gone?
1850 U.S. census, Allegheny County, Pennsylvania, population schedule, p. 238A (stamped), dwelling 185, family 185, Isaac Webb; digital image, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com: accessed 2 Feb 2016); citing NARA microfilm publication M432, roll 432.

After discussing this discrepancy with my cousin and with some of the helpful folks over at Ancestry's Member-to-Member Support Community, I have decided that this is most likely a result of a misunderstanding between the census taker and whoever was the informant for the family. I have no other explanation.

This was a heavy reminder to not put too much stock in what a single census says, that's for sure!

© 2016 Copyright, Christine Manczuk, All Rights Reserved.

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