1820 Cranberry, New Jersey Census Substitute

There are no extant United States Federal census population schedules for the state of New Jersey prior to 1830.1 Therefore, any surviving list of inhabitants before that time will be a welcome addition to the scholarship for genealogists and historians researching in the Garden State who are trying to pinpoint residents of a particular community. I recently discovered one such list for Middlesex County.

While reviewing early newspapers for any mention of my New Jersey Carson family, I ran across an entry for one General Charles Carson of Cranberry, New Jersey, nominated as a Representative to the 17th U.S. Congress.2 Despite the fact that my ancestor shares a name with this man, I am unaware of any relationship to him at this time. It is possible my ancestor was simply named for this officer in the War of 1812.3 The mention piqued my curiosity nonetheless because of the sheer number of names included in the article. It appears to be a comprehensive listing of adult male residents of the town of Cranberry, Middlesex County, New Jersey and can stand in as a census substitute.

Responding to an article dated 19 Sep 1820 in which Carson’s character had been allegedly impugned, sixty male petitioners of the town affixed their name to a letter sent to Messrs. Tuttle & Co., presumably the editors or printers of the newspaper. I have transcribed the complete article below.

From The Centinel of Freedom, published in Newark, New Jersey, dated 25 Sep 1820, p. 1, col. 4. Courtesy New Jersey State Archives.

Messrs. Tuttle &. Co.

   A publication has appeared in your paper of the 19th inst., wrote no doubt with an intent to injure me in public estimation. In justice to the feeling of my friends, my family and myself [illegible] following a place in your paper.


  We the undersigned, inhabitants of the village of Cranberry, in the county of Middlesex, state of New Jersey, understanding that a publication has appeared in the Newark Centinel derogatory to the character of Gen. Charles Carson of this place, wherein the writer makes the following remark — “I trust his standing at home will be inquired into by the gentlemen who compose the Convention.” In justice to the individual whose character is thus publicly assailed, we have no hesitation in saying that we believe him to be a man of the strictest veracity, in whose honesty and integrity we have the fullest confidence.

Cranberry, 25th Sept. 1820.

  Nathaniel Hunt, Samuel Disbrow, George Barclay, Amos Shaw, Cajah Voorhies, John W. Perrine, William Jordan, Aaron Disbrow, John N. Lewis, Aaron D. Shaw, James Clarke, Elias Bayles, Joshua Edwards, Rescarrick Ayres, William H. Mershon, Cornelius Voorhies, Timothy Horner, Reuben Vanderbeak, Clement Hooper, Peter Sutphin, John Voorhies, Joseph M’Chesney, Charles R. Brindly, Andrew G. Vankirk, Henry Silcox, Daniel Ervin, Joseph Conover, Aaron Dewitt, jr., William Newton, jr., Lewis Carman, John Jordon, Ralph P. Lott, John Van Dyke, Matthew Gilland, William Logan, James Debow, William Newton, Aaron Lane, John Clark, Jacob Brown, Ezekiel Ervin, Joseph M’Chesney, jr., James Vanhart, Randolph Hunt, John Vankirk, Horatia Sansbury, Syrennes C. Henry, Aaron Dewitt, David Conover, Peter Conover, Joseph Mount, John Voorhies, jr., Amos Coriell, Geo. Naphey, Okey H. Vankirk, Anthony Appleget, George Shaw, Henry Perrine, James Stephenson, George Davis.

   We do hereby certify, that Gen. Charles Carson, was born in the village of Cranberry, and has resided therein ever since, and that his recommendation is signed by all the free white male inhabitants of said place above the age of twenty one, with the exception of one young man who is from home at the time.  [Emphasis mine.]



1 Alice Eicholz, ed., Red Book: American State, County, and Town Sources, 3rd. ed. (Salt Lake City: Ancestry, Inc., 1992): 448.

2 “A List,” Centinel of Freedom (Newark, New Jersey), 19 Sep 1820, p. [2?], col. 4.

3 Although called a General in this article, he was a Captain of the 15th U.S. Infantry in the War of 1812, a rank he held from March 1812-April 1813. It is unclear when or whether he may have attained the rank of General. See Francis B. Heitman, Historical Record and Dictionary of the United States Army, 1789-1903 (Washington, D.C. : Government Printing Office, 1903), 1: 286; digital image, HathiTrust Digital Library (http://www.hathitrust.org/ : accessed 25 Nov 2017).

Totality, Then and Now

We are less than 24 hours away from a total solar eclipse in the United States. If sales of protective eyewear are any indication, interest in witnessing this rather unique event is very high. I have my eclipse glasses, and plan to drive in to work early just so I can be out of the car and ready to witness the event, which will only be a near total eclipse (98%) here in Seattle.

The last total solar eclipse to traverse the continental United States was on June 8th, 1918. My grandmother was a teenager then living in Kansas, so I got to thinking about whether she would have been able to have seen the eclipse and how it was reported in the newspaper in her time. When she learned the next event of this magnitude was nearly one hundred years in the future, I wonder if she mused about whether she would have children or grandchildren who would witness the event? I will never know the answer to that question, but can research how the event was covered in 1918. Using Chronicling America, my favorite historical newspaper site, I was able to locate an article in The Topeka State Journal. Amid the many columns devoted to updates from the front about the war effort overseas was this article, quoted below:

Kansas in Path of Event Rarely Seen in America.
Next Total Eclipse Here Will Be in 2017.

  Ninety percent of the normal sunlight in Kansas will be shut off this afternoon between hours of 5:22 and 6:22 o’clock, when the moon will pass between the sun and the earth. In some parts of the country the eclipse will be total.

  The total eclipse of the sun takes place when the lunar shadow actually reaches the earth. While the moon passes eastward, approaching gradually the point where it is exactly between us and the sun, steadily the darkness deepens as more and more sunlight is withdrawn. Then quite suddenly the darkness of late twilight comes on, when the moon reaches just the point where the moon first shuts off completely the light of the sun. At that instant, the solar corona flashes out and the total eclipse begins.

Shadow Passes Rapidly.

  The observer is then within the umbra and totality only lasts so long as he remains within it. As an average, the umbra will require less than three minutes to pass by any one place, but the extreme length of a total solar eclipse is nearly eight minutes.

  Those who will be lucky enough to make the journey to any of the towns over which the shadow of the eclipse will appear will do well to get as near the center of the favored zone as possible. It will not be necessary to take a telescope, but a smoked or dark glass can be used to advantage to watch the progress of the moon in its preliminary phase, the glass should be discarded as soon as the totality arrives.

100 Years Until Next Eclipse in U.S.

  Not until 2017 will another total solar eclipse be visible over so large an area of this country, and it is rare that an eclipse track anywhere in the world offers so great a choice of accessible sites for observing the eclipse.1

[Article continues.]
Total Solar Eclipse, 1918
This image of the path of the total solar eclipse of June 8, 1918 was published in the El Paso Herald (El Paso, Texas).

Image: “Sun to be in total eclipse in this section June 8th in afternoon,” El Paso (Texas) Herald, 4 May 1918, p. 21, cols. 2-8; digital image, Library of Congress, Chronicling America Historic American Newspapers (http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov, accessed 20 Aug 2017).

1 “In Eclipse Today,” Topeka State Journal (Topeka, Kans.), 8 June 1918, p. 1, col. 2; digital image, Library of Congress, Chronicling America Historic American Newspapers  (http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov, accessed 20 Aug 2017).

Chronicling America Video Resources

I recently completed an article for publication in the Seattle Genealogical Society’s semi-annual Bulletin, introducing the Chronicling America historic newspaper website. Space constraints prevented the inclusion of additional resources which may be of use to genealogical researchers.

The National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) and the Ohio Historical Society (OHS), one of the participating state partners in the National Digital Newspaper Program (NDNP), have each released short videos about the Chronicling America project. Both groups have YouTube channels, but it may be easier to begin your search elsewhere.

In 2013, NEH released two brief videos, one an overview of Chronicling America, and one on how to clip and save content from the site. Both of these videos can be accessed via the EDSITEment! Chronicling America portal, aimed at educators and students. Additional content is promised.

EDSITEment Chronicling America pagehttp://edsitement.neh.gov/what-chronicling-america

The Ohio Historical Society released a series of eleven video podcasts in early 2012, addressing a variety of topics on using the Chronicling America website. Basic search and navigation are included, of course, but other videos cover topics such as advanced searches, optical character recognition technology (OCR) and “controlled vocabulary”. I highly recommend watching all of them. The Chronicling America website was revised earlier this month so the images from the video series will differ somewhat from what you see on the Chronicling America website today.


Alternately, download a PDF file with links to video content on YouTube from the Ohio Historical Society (OHS) here.

In addition to the links to the OHS YouTube videos, a lot more content regarding the Ohio NDNP program can be accessed from the main page of their wiki. Do not miss this if you are interested in historic Ohio newspapers!