Sunday, October 6, 2013

William Sullivan is AWOL in 1850

I have spent all day trying to find the William Sullivan Family in 1850.  With no luck.  But some leads.  Let me explain: 

William is my great great-grandfather, married to Susanna Lambert.  I know William and Susan both emigrated from Ireland, probably in the mid-1830’s. 

1-Lynn Anne HANSON (19xx- )
2-Patricia Ethel SULLIVAN (1927-2013)
3-William Augustine SULLIVAN (1877-1957)
4-Michael SULLIVAN (1847-1929)
5-William SULLIVAN (1818-1893)
            Married abt 1843
5-Susanna LAMBERT (1822-1904)

From their obituaries, we learn what they and/or their children remember about their early years. 

As written in his 1893 obituary, William:
  •       landed in Baltimore in 1836
  •            lived in Rochester NY
  •       moved to Canadaigua, Ontario County, NY for 5 years where he married  Susanna Lambert on January 20, 1843
  •      arrived in Milwaukee Wisconsin fall of 1843 [Author’s note: Margaret was  born Nov 1843]
  •      bought 80 acres in Erin, section 23, where he lived for 50 years [Author’s  note: This implies he lived on land starting in 1843]
  •      was appointed County Commissioner in 1844 and served for 2 years
  •      was the first chairman and treasurer of his town
  •      served on the Board of Supervisors for several years
  •           bought land for the county farm in 1845

As written in her 1904 obituary, Susanna
  •          was born in Ireland Jan 1824,
  •          emigrated to Quebec, Canada at age 9 [Author’s note: about 1833]
  •          went to New York City “when she was old enough to leave home” [Author’s note: perhaps about 1840]
  •          met and married William in New York City in 1842
  •          came to Wisconsin that same year
  •          stayed in Milwaukee for a short time
  •          moved to Erin
  •          lived for 50 years on the farm now owned by Michael Powell [Author’s note: They would have sold the farm about 1892]

Do you see some contradictions in stories?  Hoo boy….  Presumably, William’s obituary was written with input from Susanna and almost 10 years earlier when she was just shy of 70 years old.  Susanna’s obituary may well have been written by her children who weren’t around in her early life.  Neither obituary is particularly reliable information as it is written well after the facts we’re looking for.

In 1850, William is about 32, Susanna, about 26. They have 4 children: Margaret (about 7), Mary Ann (about 5), Michael (about 3) and James (about 1).  Government land records list a William Sullivan as purchaser of parcels of land in 1844 and 1849 in section 23 of Erin, Washington County, Wisconsin.

So, it would seem the logical first place to look for the family is in Erin township.  They probably own land, their obituaries both mention they have lived for 50 years on the same farm (which for William’s death date, would have to have been purchased about 1843). Finding historical records of county and township officers would provide confirmation of location as well. 

With this information as background (taken with a grain of salt), I have searched every page of the 1850 Erin Township census rolls (luckily, only about 25 pages in 1850) and printed out pages that contained Sullivan family names.  There are 5 Sullivan families living in Erin Township in 1850.    One family is just a couple.  Another has only 3 children, all boys, all born in New York, including a set of twins. And a third family has parents that are too old, has 6 children whose names and ages don’t match our family.  So, 3 families are eliminated pretty easily.

The last 2 families look like this:

  •          Wm. Sulivan, age 31 Male, Farmer, land valued at $1,000, born in Ireland     
  •          E.  Sulivan, age 28 Female, born in Ireland     
  •          Marthy Sulivan, age 6, female, born in Wis.        
  •          Elen Sulivan, 5, F, Wis.        
  •          Daniel Sulivan, 3, M, Wis.        
  •          John Sulivan, 1, M, Wis.        
  •          Sarah Sulivan, 3/12 [3 months old] F,Wis.        
  •          M. Dunivan [Sullivan?], 50, F, Ireland     
  •          J.   Sulivan, 27, M, Labourer, Ireland     

This family starts with a William, of the correct age, whose wife and children also are about right with the exception of the child named Sarah.  I currently have a best guess birth date for William’s 5th child, a daughter named Catherine, as Feb 1851.  This child would be a almost a year older than that, born in June of 1850. The two adults at the end were undoubtedly living and working on the farm, not at all unusual to find in farm census data.  The biggest problem is the names of the wife and children.  Not one of them matches the names we know are right for this family.  Marthy could be Margaret, but the others aren’t even close.  

Looking for this family in records going forward might help eliminate or prove them as our William Sullivan family.  Also finding the elusive birth records for the children would help confirm their birth location and dates. But for now, I have to consider this family not a match.I’m not too concerned about the ages being off a bit.  Census records are notoriously inaccurate in these. I can imagine all sorts of scenarios where those interviewed might mis-state ages or enumerators mis-hear or mis-write what they hear. 

The last Erin Sullivan family also holds possibilities.  The original page has what appears to be a piece of tape (rectangular strip darkened differently than the page written on). It happens to cross over the Sullivan head of household and his wife, obscuring the text.  To exacerbate the issue, this enumerator didn't gather first names, just wrote the last name for each person.  So we have:

  •          T. (?) Sull**** ?, Male, Farmer, property valued at $2,000, born in Ireland [Age unreadable]
  •          --Sull**** 35 Female, Ireland     
  •          --Sullivan, 10 Male, born in Mass.       
  •          --Sullivan, 8 Female, Mass.        
  •          --Sullivan, 4 M, Wisconsin   
  •          --Sullivan, 2 F, Wisconsin   

Here we have the right number of children, approximately the right age and sex, except for the oldest child.  The mother is also significantly older than we would have expected. And two of the children were born in Massachusetts.  This is not likely our family either.  But the same further checking as above applies here too. 

In addition, looking at surrounding families and plat maps might shed some light on where within the census process our Sullivan’s might have been expected. Census takers went from house to house in geographic order, as much as possible and the census documents this order by using dwelling numbers and family numbers and in cities, names of streets and house numbers. 

For the moment, I have given up on finding William in the census and have made some quick checks for possible online records about early township officers and birth records for the children.  Nothing surfaced at all – no records anywhere.  Ugh! 

It looks like trips to Wisconsin Vital Records and the Wisconsin Historical Society, and probably Hartford's History Center, are in order.  I’m not too good at doing on-site research yet, but it looks like I’m going to learn. 

And it’s possible that this may have to wait till after Christmas.  I’ve given myself one more week to work on this research and then it must be put aside for some sewing and scrapbooking, some cooking and decorating. Christmas is just around the corner if I want to make something personal for gifts.  Yikes!

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Looking for Marie Josephine Bednorz via the Census

Here's a look at Marie's nuclear family: her parents and siblings.

1895 Minnesota State Census
The first census the Andrew Bednorz family appear in is the 1895 Minnesota State Census.  At this time they are living in Waverly, Marysville Township, Wright County Minnesota, just 37 miles due west of Minneapolis.

As of June 5, 1895, Andrew Badnorz (note misspelling of last name) is 43, Frances is 42, John (10), Henry (8), Francis (6) and Mary (1).  That’s our Marie Josephine!  The census document tells us that Andrew, Frances, and John were all born in “Germany” and the family has lived in Waverly, Minnesota for 9 years and one month.   (That fits with the immigration information we have from the Ship Suevia’s 1886 passenger manifest.) Henry, Francis, and Mary were all born in Minnesota.  Andrew is working as a blacksmith. 
1895 Minnesota State Census Andrew Bednorz Family in Marysville, Wright County MN

1900 US Census

We meet the family again in the 1900 US Census where the family is listed as Bednore, living in Buffalo Township, Cass County, North Dakota.  (Buffalo Township is almost straight west of of Fargo on the western edge of the county.)  How or why they got there is a mystery.

The family now consists of Andrew (age 47) and his wife, Frances (46), who have been married for 29 years; their sons, John (15), Henry (13) and Paul (4); and their daughters, Frances (11), Mary (6) and Gertrude (2).  The census notes that Frances has had 12 children, 6 of whom are living.  The family is living on the William Metzger farm as are Metzger’s wife, daughter and mother, 3 female servants and 8 other single men working as farm laborers.  Andrew lists his occupation also as farm laborer and sons John and Henry are listed as day laborers. Frances and Mary are at school. 

Random Analysis notes
A Plat map of Buffalo Township from 1893 shows a William Metzger property of 171 acres in the northeastern corner of the town.  This fits with the census information of 1900.

This census lists an immigration date of 1885 for Andrew, Frances, and John and notes they have been in the country for 15 years. (Interestingly, the census taker lists John as being born in Minnesota, which contradicts both his own writing and previously known information.) Other discrepancies with this census are the births of Paul and Gertrude.  Paul’s birth is listed as June 1895 and he is 4 years old.  The Minnesota Death Index and the Social Security Death Index (SSDI) list his birth date as March 14, 1896.  Gertrude’s discrepancy is similar: the 1900 Census lists her birth as June 1897 while SSDI and MDI list her birth as November 11, 1897.  Birth certificates (probably from Waverly, Wright County MN) are needed to clear up these discrepancies.  While it's not unusual for birth years to be off in census documents, it is unusual for the birth month to be off.

1905 Minnesota State Census
Andrew and family are back in Minnesota, in Marysville Township, Wright County where they have lived for 4 years and 8 months.  

He claims he has lived in Minnesota for 19 years 1 month, which doesn’t square with the 1900 census where they were in North Dakota.  (ND became a state in 1889, so it wasn’t part of Minnesota.  One question to ask is how long the Bednorz family remained in ND.) The data implies that the Bednorz family left ND about 4 months (September)  after the 1900 US Census. 

In Marysville, Andrew is farming at 53 years old. John Joseph is no longer at home, but Henry (18), Frances (16), Marree (notice the misspelling)(11), Paul (9) and Gertrude (7) are at home with their mother Frances (51). 

1910  Marysville, Wright County, Minnesota
By the 1910 Census, Henry (24), still single, is now the head of household on a Marysville farm which he owns by mortgage.  Andrew (58) is listed as his father and Frances (56) as his mother.  Andrew and Frances have been married 30 years and have borne 11 children, 6 of whom are living.  They are listed as immigrating in 1886 and Andrew is a naturalized citizen. He is also a blacksmith with his own shop.  Andrew and Frances report their parentage as “Ger. Polish”.  Henry’s sisters Frances (22) and Gertruid (note misspelling) (12) and brother Paul (14) are living with the family.  John and Mary, or Marie Josephine as we know her, is not living with the family.

Where's Waldo  Mary Josephine Bednorz? 
Buh Township?
We do find a single, 16 year old Josephine M. Bednor in Buh Township, Morrison County, Minnesota, about 100 miles north of Marysville.  She lists her parents as from “Austria (Ger)”.  This Josephine is a servant on the farm of John Premersberger (who, according to a 1907 Plat Map of Buh Township in Morrison County, owned 180 acres in section 35). The census document spells his name as Preimesborger.  He and his wife are 53, have been married 33 years, had 14 children of whom 11 were living.  They and their parents were from “Austria (Ger)”.  In 1910, seven sons ages 10-25 were living and working on the farm with their parents.  Could this be our Marie Josephine?
1910 US Census  Buh Township Morrison County MN - Josephine M Bednorz

We know that Marie’s brother John marries Mabel Christianson of St. Paul (Ramsey County MN), possibly around 1919, and in 1930 they are living in St. Paul.  Is it possible that John and Marie are living in the St. Paul-Minneapolis area in 1910?  Family lore says Marie meets William (who calls himself Arthur) while working at the Golden Rule store in St. Paul.  And they marry in Minneapolis.  So Marie had to be in Minneapolis before 1914 if family lore is even partially correct.

In searching the Minneapolis-St. Paul area for John, we find a  Mary Bednorz (or Bednorg)  living at 2305 Bloomington Ave in Minneapolis (Hennepin County).  This Mary is a lodger with the French-Canadian Joseph Payette family who have lived at 2311 Bloomington Ave for many years.  Based on previous census information for this family, they have never had a daughter named Mary.

This Mary Bednorz is 20 years old, in school with no occupation.  She was born in Minnesota, but parentage is listed as Canada-French for both parents.  It’s possible that the census taker first assumed Mary was a Payette family member as there is the horizontal line left of her name, indicating Payette as the last name.  Bednorz (or perhaps Bednorg) is written over the line.  Is it possible the census taker completed Mary’s line assuming relationship to the Payette family and was then corrected and didn’t follow through with changing the parentage?  Could this be our Marie Josephine, padding her age in an adult world? 
1910 US Census - MN Minneapolis (Hennepin) - Mary Bednorz

A mystery to be sure.  Especially since Marie and William now disappear from the records.  So far I have not found their marriage license.  The vital statistics clerk for Hennepin County  looked for all sorts of combinations of Sullivans and Bednorz to search her records and none come up at all. We have found a birth registration for Lu, but not for Edwin.

And we know that in 1920, Marie and WmA along with sons Lucius and Edwin are living in Le Pas, Manitoba, Canada.  Therefore there will be no 1920 US Census data for them.  We won’t see them on a census until 1930 when they are living in Oshkosh (Winnebago WI). What was going on in their lives between 1910 and 1930?  We have family lore, digging up family documents will be harder.  

There are still many holes to plug in understanding Marie Bednorz’ background before and just after her marriage to William A. Sullivan.  Sigh.  I wish someone had saved these important  documents for Marie and William.  

Using Census Data to Find Grandma

We, the Sullivan descendants, have a family lore about Grandma and Grandpa’s life.  We have birth and death dates, a few notes written by Sullivan siblings, and Sulli Cuzzin stories to accompany photos posted on our family Facebook page.  But how do we know any of these second hand stories are true?  How do we know what Grandma and Grandpa’s lives were really like?  Collecting as much information as possible from as many sources as possible is the first step in documenting our family story.  The second is confirming the facts of the story.  That means finding the family in vital records, in newspaper clippings, on plat maps, in cemeteries and any other documented sources we can find.  This part is both fun and frustrating.

One very useful source is the US Census.  The census is taken every 10 years and has been since around 1800. Census documents are kept private for 70 years before being released publicly.  The most recently released census is 1940, too early for any of the Sulli Cuzzins to be recorded.  The 1950 census will be released in 2022.  I hope I live that long!
1900 Census for Andrew Bednorz Family, Buffalo Township, Cass County, ND

Sadly, there are only 6,000 records remaining of the 62,000,000 records gathered in the 1890 census.  The original records were damaged and some destroyed in a 1921 fire in the Commerce Building in Washington, DC.  The remainder were destroyed by act of Congress in the 1930s.  That 20 year gap can be hard to fill in.  However, in Wisconsin and Minnesota, there were State censuses taken in 1895 and 1905 which can help fill in the missing information.

Finding people in the Census is not always an easy task.  Census takers wrote the information by hand, sometimes in illegible handwriting, often misspelling names.  For that matter, people changed their names seemingly at will.  Grandpa Sullivan appears in census documents as William, Augustine, or Wm A.  Grandma was listed in various census documents as Marie, Mary, Marree, or Josephine.  Bednorz was spelled Bednor, Bednar, Bednarz….well, you get the picture.  Then there are the indexers – people who read the census to create an index of the names found, making the information searchable in a database.  Without an index, you would have to page through all the documents for a town to look for your ancestor’s name.  Not too hard in 1850, but the population was significantly larger in 1940.  Indexers make mistakes too.  For example, Marie was indexed as Mance in one census.  But with some idea of where families were at a given time, some creative searching, and a lot of patience, you can be rewarded with a snapshot of the family at a given moment in time.  

Nancy and I have been working at finding out about the early lives of Grandma and Grandpa - Marie Josephine Bednorz and William Augustine Sullivan.  Check out the next post for what we've found so far for Marie.