Establishing a Death Date for Charles Carson

Carson Family Group Sheet (Pt. 4)

Fourth in an ongoing series that attempts to document the early days of my research on the Carson family of New Jersey as it originally unfolded. In this installment describing research conducted in 2002-2003, I established a tentative death date for my ancestor, Charles Carson.

I suspected that my 3rd-great-grandfather Charles Carson of Mercer County, New Jersey died at a relatively young age.

From prior research in the Federal census population schedules (highlighted in this post) I learned that he was 26 years of age in 1850, and age 36 in 1860. I estimated his year of birth as circa 1824 from those two records. The 1860 census was the last record in which he was found.

He was not among immediate family members by the time of the 1870 census. By 1881, his wife, Caroline Carson, was called a widow. Using all of this information, I can bracket his possible date of death as sometime after 1 June 1860 and before early 1881, a 20-21 year range. Thus, he would have been no younger than 35 and no older than 57 years of age when he died, depending on how early in the year he was born.

Can I narrow down that window of time?

Any American male aged 18-60 that disappears from a family in the first half of the decade of the 1860’s is a candidate for Civil War service. Charles was definitely in that age range.

Civil War service as a volunteer can be quickly verified by a look-up on the Civil War Soldiers and Sailors System (CWSS) website maintained by the National Park Service. With over 6.3 million names of soldiers indexed, representing participants from both Union and Confederate forces, it is one of my first stops when beginning new research on a potential soldier in the American Civil War (1861-1865). Names in this database were entered as found on the Compiled Service Records, created in the latter portion of the 19th century.


I clicked on Soldiers and entered basic search criteria:
First Name: Charles
Last Name: Carson
Side: Union

Search box detail. Click to enlarge this or any other photo.

Forty-seven soldiers named Charles Carson were included in my search results (including Colored Troops and Home Guards), but none saw service in a New Jersey regiment. I doubted with at least six children at home that he would have traveled to another state to join up.

I also ran a search for Charles Carson in the 1876 publication “Record of Officers and Men from New Jersey in the Civil War, 1861-1865″….by Adjutant-General William S. Stryker and found no listing for any officer or soldier named Charles Carson. This volume is available in digital form from the New Jersey State Library at this link.

If Carson died between 1861 and 1865, it was unlikely the result of any wartime service unless, perhaps, he was a career soldier, as compiled military service records were not created for “Regulars”. Since I had no information that directly suggested service in the Civil War in any capacity, I decided to table this research angle. Even though this search yielded negative results, it was necessary to document that I did consider military service as a possibility.

What other information could I uncover that might suggest a death date for Charles Carson?

It was November 2002 when I turned to GenForum, my genealogy message board of choice (which has recently transitioned to a read-only archive of former queries and posts). There on the Kansas board I found a query posted mere weeks prior that mentioned both Furman Carson and his father, Charles Carson.1 I saw other names that I knew from my own research among the list of children, so posted a response.2 It was not long before I received a notification that a reader had responded to my query. We compared notes and in short order determined that our 2nd-great-grandfathers were brothers. Some of our family information meshed quite well, but some of it differed. For example, she identified our known common ancestor as Charles C. Carson, and showed his death in 1896, and not “before 1881” as my research indicated. My cousin also had information on the purported maiden surname of his wife Caroline.

How to resolve this conflicting information? With more research, of course! As I would learn, much of this information was provided to her by a third party, without source citations. I began to attempt to verify my new cousin’s alleged facts, but also continued to look for records that would support my hypothesis. I found it difficult to believe that Caroline’s husband Charles simply dropped off the grid between 1860 and 1896. I was aware of other males named Charles Carson living in the greater Trenton area in the mid to late 19th century, so figured the 1896 death date attributed to my Charles really was that of another man. But, I would have to prove this before dismissing it completely.

I next searched the 1880 U.S. census index to learn whether Charles Carson had reunited with his wife and children. He was not living in the household. In fact, Caroline Carson was again identified as a widow.3 I now had three independent sources that either suggested or stated outright that Caroline was widowed, certainly by 1880, but possibly long before that.

1880-caroline-carson-household-chambersburg-new-jerseyThe printout of the 1880 census household of widow Caroline Carson

Fast forward a few months to early 2003. The Old Mill Hill Society (OMHS) had a web presence at the time, consisting mostly of transcribed records like city directories and obituary indexes. Included among these records was something called the “Chronological Indexes”, a succinct listing of events in the local newspaper, published on New Year’s Day, which covered events of the prior year. Four Chronological Indexes were then online: 1856, 1857, 1863, and 1870. Like any good genealogist, I worked with what was available and reviewed them all. Imagine my surprise when I read this stark entry for May 1863:

“22. Charles Carson was injured in Hutchinson’s saw mill, and died on the 24th.”4

Charles Carson death in the 1863 chronological index

Could this be the first tangible clue that my Charles Carson died 24 May 1863 as a result of injuries sustained in a sawmill accident two days prior? It certainly fit within the timeline that I had already established. I was cautiously optimistic. I needed to learn more about this man and more about the accident that claimed his life. The fact that the entry was included in an annual roundup of news items meant that it was reported on or near the time of the event.

I made a new research plan with this last record in mind. My plan included locating the following items:

  1. The 1863 death record for Charles Carson in Trenton, New Jersey
  2. Any news articles regarding the accident and subsequent death
  3. A probate file in Mercer County, New Jersey for Charles Carson
  4. Hutchinson’s sawmill to learn if it was near the last known residence of the Carson family

Check back for a future installment to see how well I executed my plan.

Notes and sources:

1 Jean [Owens], “Re: Kansas surnames,” discussion list, 23 Oct 2002,, GenForum: Kansas Genealogy Forum (  : accessed 16 Nov 2002), message 12392.

2 Dawn Bingaman, “Re: Kansas surnames Carson – Hopkins,” discussion list, 16 Nov 2002,, GenForum: Kansas Genealogy Forum ( : accessed 16 Nov 2002), message 12547.

3 “1880 United States Census Household Record,” database, FamilySearch ( accessed 02 May 2003), entry for Caroline Carson, District 1, Chambersburg, Mercer County, New Jersey, citing National Archives microfilm publication T-9, roll 789, sheet 500A.

4 Franklin S. Mills, “Index to the Year 1863.” Daily True American (Trenton, New Jersey), 1 Jan 1864, transcription, Old Mill Hill Society website ( : accessed 11 Jun 2003). This website was located using the Wayback Machine and can be viewed today at this link:
Sharp-eyed readers will also note there was another Carson entry among the news items. See 9 May 1863: “Mary Ann, wife of David C. Carson, died in the 33d year of her age.”

Bingaman-Rice Family Photo: A Contemporary Misidentification?

Comparing the caption on a treasured family photo with information from the census to resolve an incorrect identification

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A photograph of a family member who lived and died before anyone now living remembers is akin to finding the Holy Grail for genealogists. An old photograph captures what mere words cannot. This message is reinforced by watching popular television series like “Who Do You Think You Are?” and “Finding Your Roots”. Oftentimes the professional genealogists on the respective shows manage to track down a photograph of the celebrity subject’s family who are clearly moved when the image of their long-dead ancestor is revealed to them for the first time.

I can certainly relate to this feeling. It was looking at early family photographs with older family members and listening to their stories that were the “hook” for me and my life-long interest in genealogy and family history.

I have had a photograph in my personal collection for at least fifteen years, gifted to me by my father for safe-keeping due to the damage. It is torn, stained, scuffed and tinged with mold but is precious nonetheless. It is the only photo we have of Josephus Bingaman (1844-1931) and his wife, Mary Rice (1849-1917), and their children. Today the original photograph is stored in a Hollinger metal edge archival box in my home office. A framed copy of the photo sits on my mantle.

When I first laid eyes on this particular photo as a young teenager, it was stuffed in an overflowing metal file box, along with other photos, letters, bills and the like. What I don’t know is when or where my father acquired the photo. When questioned about the provenance of the photograph last October, Dad admitted he did not remember where or from whom he had gotten it. He offered three or four possibilities, but nothing definite. Because the photo is of my father’s grandfather and great-grandparents, it seems most likely that he received the photo from his great-aunt, Wanda (Bingaman) Jensen. Growing up estranged from his father, first by war, followed by a divorce, it was she that filled in some of the gaps for Dad about his paternal ancestors from Kansas. She provided other photos to Dad of his Bingaman ancestors over the years, and he seems to have inherited others upon her death. Our family even moved to the same small community where she lived in the mid-1970s.

This original photograph, mounted on a heavy card backing, is undated and has no visible photographer’s imprint to tell us the name of the studio. An apparently contemporary caption was recorded by an unknown hand. The inked notation reads: “Aunt Mary & Uncle Joe Bingman & family and Tressie Rice.

Besides this caption, someone took the time to number the children depicted in the photograph, and record their names, as follows:

  1. Henry
  2. Fred
  3. Frank
  4. Rice
  5. Oliver
  6. Elizabeth, Lizzie
  7. Bert
  8. George

Upon closer inspection, three persons in the picture have no numeral or notation. Two of them are clearly the parents, Mary Rice and Josephus Bingaman, the oldest members of the family group. The third unnumbered individual, then, is supposed to be Tressie Rice, the young woman shown on the far left of the group. On the surface, there is no reason to doubt this identification; whoever recorded the information using a fountain pen did so long ago, much closer to the event than I am today. Whether the information was captured about the time of the taking of the photograph is unknown. Fountain pens were commonly used for at least the first half of the twentieth century.

Two things jump out at me immediately: 1) the caption was probably recorded by a niece or nephew due to the use of the words “aunt” and “uncle” to describe the parents and 2) the surname of BINGAMAN has been misspelled “BINGMAN”. If the writer shared the last name of Bingaman then, chances are, they would have spelled the name correctly. The caption was likely penned by someone on the Rice side of the family. This is pure speculation on my part, though.

Fortunately, we have another photograph of my great-grandfather, Edward Frederick Bingaman (called “Fred”) to use for comparative purposes. The individual photo of Fred seen in the slideshow above was taken in Garnett, Kansas in 1898. I do not see a great deal of difference between the two images, so my initial impression is that the group photograph was taken within a few years at most of the dated photograph, say 1900-1901. One thing is certain: the photograph was made before 1917, as Mary (Rice) Bingaman died in February of that year.

For additional clues as to when the photo may have been captured, I turned to the 1900 Federal census. Taken in the United States every ten years, it is the census closest to the estimated date of the photograph. This should reveal the ages of family members in the photo at a fixed point in time and allow me to determine whether my initial estimate is correct by visual comparison.

It was in looking at the 1900 census that I first noticed a problem with the identifications of Lizzie Bingaman and Tressie Rice in the family photo. That year, Lizzie was recorded as eighteen years of age, and Tressie was only six years old.

1900 census household of Josephus Bingaman1900 census households of Josephus Bingaman, and his son, Edward F. Bingaman, with entries for Lizzie and Tressie highlighted. Click the photo to enlarge.

Dating the photograph to 1900 seems about right if the identification of the young woman and the girl in the photo are swapped. Assuming the census ages are correct, Tressie should be the girl marked as number 6, and Lizzie thus has no number recorded. I then looked at census entries for all family members to verify that the ages recorded in the 1900 census were not a simple mistake made by the census enumerator. They were not. In fact, ages tracked surprisingly well across the years when compared with state censuses taken on either side of the Federal enumeration. In doing the census research, it becomes obvious that the list of children was annotated in birth order.

Table 1. 1895-1905 census enumerations for the Josephus and Mary Bingaman family members. Adult children in their own households are included but footnoted separately.

Table 1 Bingaman census comparisons 1895-1905

While the estimate of 1900-1901 is probably fairly accurate based on visual comparison of individuals correlated with census research, undoubtedly more can be done to evaluate the clothing styles worn by those in the photo and studio props. An expert in fashion or Kansas photographers would likely be able to discern if my estimate is correct. Likewise, physical characteristics of the photographic print itself can also yield clues to the type of camera used or available photographic processes in certain time periods. I am not an expert in these esoteric subjects, so invite comments from experts in these fields. Some further specifics about the original print have been included below should someone with this knowledge wish to comment.

Details of the photographic print
Details of the photographic print. Click to enlarge.

If you have a copy of this photograph or copies of photographs of any of the persons shown in the Bingaman-Rice family photo in your family’s collection that could be used for comparison, I would like to hear from you. Please click on the title of this post to bring up commenting options.

This post and the associated images first appeared on on 28 Dec 2014. All images of the original photograph were created and edited by Dawn Bingaman. © 2014. All rights reserved.

Table 1 footnotes

[a] 1895 Kansas state census, Franklin County, population schedule, Pomona Twp., p. 6, dwelling/family 38, Joseph “Bingamin” household; digital images, ( : accessed 16 Dec 2014), citing Kansas Historical Society microfilm reel 51. The children are all incorrectly attributed to dwelling 38, family 39, that of D.M. “Bingamin”. D.M. Bingaman was David Marion Bingaman, a Civil War soldier and brother of Josephus Bingaman. He and his wife, Ada (McKibben) Bingaman had no children.

[b] 1895 Kansas state census, Franklin County, population schedule, Lincoln Twp., p. 9, dwelling/family 49, C. H. Bingaman household; digital images, ( : accessed 16 Dec 2014), citing Kansas Historical Society microfilm reel K-50.

[c] 1895 Kansas state census, Franklin County, population schedule Lincoln Twp., p. 9, dwelling/family 47, George Patterson household; digital images, ( : accessed 16 Dec 2014), citing Kansas Historical Society microfilm reel K-50.

[d] 1900 U.S. census, Anderson County, Kansas, population schedule, Jackson Twp., ED 18, sheet 4B, dwelling 76, family 81, Josephus Bingaman household; digital images, ( : accessed 14 Dec 2014), citing National Archives microfilm publication T623, roll 470.

[e] 1900 U.S. census, Franklin County, Kansas, population schedule, Lincoln Twp., ED 82, sheet 5A, dwelling 53, family 54, Cornelius Bingaman household; digital images, ( : accessed 22 Dec 2014), citing National Archives microfilm publication T623, roll 480.

[f] 1900 U.S. census, Anderson County, Kansas, population schedule, Jackson Twp., ED 18, sheet 4B, dwelling 77, family 82, Edward F. Bingaman household; digital images, ( : accessed 14 Dec 2014), citing National Archives microfilm publication T623, roll 470.

[g] 1900 U.S. census, Anderson County, Kansas, population schedule, Jackson Twp., ED 18, sheet 5A, dwelling 86, family 91, Frank L. Bingaman household; digital images, ( : accessed 22 Dec 2014), citing National Archives microfilm publication T623, roll 470.

[h] 1900 U.S. census, Osage County, Kansas, population schedule, Junction Twp., ED 119, sheet 3B, dwelling 56, family 57, Rice “Bingeman” in John Myres household; digital images, ( : accessed 22 Dec 2014), citing National Archives microfilm publication T623, roll 494.

[i] 1905 Kansas state census, Anderson County, Kansas, population schedule, p. 14, dwelling 1, family 4, Joe Bingaman household; digital images, ( : accessed 16 Dec 2014), citing Kansas Historical Society microfilm reel 4.

[j] 1905 Kansas state census, Franklin County, Kansas, population schedule, Ottawa, p. 7, dwelling 116, C. H. Bingaman household; digital images, ( : accessed 28 Dec 2014), citing Kansas Historical Society microfilm reel 55. The enumerator used a 1904 form and penned in column headings, omitting family numbers.

[k] 1905 Kansas state census, Franklin County, Kansas, population schedule, Ottawa, p. 1, dwelling/family 296, Fred Bingaman household; digital images, ( : accessed 16 Dec 2014), citing Kansas Historical Society microfilm reel 54.

[l] 1905 Kansas state census, Franklin County, Kansas, population schedule, Ottawa, p. 1, dwelling/family 295, F. L. Bingaman household; digital images, ( : accessed 16 Dec 2014), citing Kansas Historical Society microfilm reel 54.

[m] 1905 Kansas state census, Franklin County, Kansas, population schedule, Hayes Twp., p. 61, dwelling 104, family 109, R. W. Bingaman in the H. Wright Smith household; digital images, ( : accessed 28 Dec 2014), citing Kansas Historical Society microfilm reel 55.

[n] 1905 Kansas state census, Rice County, Kansas, population schedule, Wilson Twp., p. 3, dwelling 19, family 21, O. M. Bingaman in the Susanna Wills household; digital images, ( : accessed 28 Dec 2014), citing Kansas Historical Society microfilm reel 136.

[o] 1905 Kansas state census, Franklin County, Kansas, population schedule, Franklin Twp., p. 6, dwelling 55, family 56, E. E. Crane in the W. J. Crane household; digital images, ( : accessed 28 Dec 2014), citing Kansas Historical Society microfilm reel 55.

Carson Family Group Sheet (Pt. 3): Charles and Caroline

This third installment in a chronology discusses how I identified the parents of Andrew, Charles and Furman of White City, Morris County, Kansas, and their brother, Wes, and summarizes what I knew of the family as of 2002.

In part two of this series, I first presented my research question, a relationship question seeking the identity of the parents of four Carson brothers, all of whom were thought to have been from New Jersey originally, and three of whom lived in the vicinity of White City, Kansas in the early to mid-1900s. Following additional research, I refined the question slightly:

Who were the parents of Andrew, Charles and Furman Carson, residents of Morris County, Kansas from 1900-1920, and their brother Wes, location unknown?

All research questions will govern both the sources consulted and steps undertaken to determine the answer to a focused question, and such is the case with my research. The first step described in my prior post was to consult the 1870 New Jersey census. I located a household in Mercer County, New Jersey that matched up with what I knew of the Carson family up to that time. [1] The extracted information from that census entry appears below:

1870 census household for Caroline Carson

The fine print from the 1870 census form tells us that Census Day that year was June 1st, so this should represent the household composition and ages as of that date.

We do not have explicit statements of relationship in any Federal census before 1880, but we can hypothesize that Caroline was the mother of all the children listed with the Carson surname. The identity of Lewis Rainear and his relationship to the Carsons was a mystery then and remains so to this day.

When I filtered the information to include only those individuals named Carson, and re-arranged the list in chronological order, it became easier to see the regular spacing of the children’s birth years. To arrive at the estimated birth years, I simply subtracted the age from 1870. Although this basic method does not take into account all the many nuances (and correct estimates will encompass a broader range) this gave me a quick idea of what time frame I was dealing with. For a comprehensive discussion of age calculation, see the recent article by Dr. Barbara Levergood entitled “Calculating and Using Dates and Date Ranges” in the March 2014 issue of the National Genealogical Society Quarterly.


To gather more information about the Carson family, I looked for their 1860 census enumeration in New Jersey, since that is the stated birthplace of Caroline and all of her presumed children. One census household in 1860 looked very promising when compared with the 1870 census entry for Caroline Carson and children.


Composite image of the 1860 census household of Charles and Caroline Carson, West Windsor Twp., Mercer Co., New Jersey. [2] Highlighted individuals were included in the 1870 enumeration. The “do” notation in column 10 means “ditto” and represents “New Jersey” as a place of birth, carried down from higher up on the page.

Note the points of commonality when the data are correlated between the two census years.


The 1860 census revealed two other possible family members: a male head of household named Charles Carson, and an older boy, 13-year-old John W. Carson. These two additions may be Caroline’s husband and the elusive Wes Carson, identified by my grandmother as a brother of Charles [Jr.], Andrew and Furman Carson. Note that a presumed daughter (Amanda) is missing. If she was 11 years of age in 1870, she likely would have been a part of the household in 1860 as a girl about one year of age.

I next turned to the 1850 New Jersey census and located this entry for Charles and Caroline Carson in adjacent Monmouth County.


Composite image of the 1850 census household of Charles and Caroline Carson, Upper Freehold Twp., Monmouth Co., New Jersey. [3]

Extracted household information:

Dwelling 219, Family 219
Charles Carson, age 26, male, labourer, born New Jersey, cannot read and write
Caroline Carson, age 21, female, born New Jersey, cannot read and write
Wesley Carson, age 4, male, born New Jersey

I updated my table with this new information.


Census research on Charles and Caroline Carson as a couple ended at this point since both would have been too young to have appeared as heads of household in their own right in 1840.

Beyond census research, in 2002 I had located one additional record that mentioned Caroline Carson and a presumed daughter by name, living at the same address in Chambersburg: an extracted entry from the 1881 Trenton City Directory.

Carson, Amanda, 112 Madison, Chamb’g
Carson Caroline, widow, 112 Madison, Chamb’g [4]

Other names of interest from this city directory, which probably represent the entries for the other children of Caroline Carson, are as follows:

Carson Andrew, laborer, h Fillmore n Clinton, Millham
Carson Furman, farmer, h 1212 Broad, Chamb’g
Carson John W., wool worker, h 826 Hamilton, Chamb’g [5]

It should be noted this same directory also contains two entries for Charles Carson. One of them is probably the listing for the son of Charles and Caroline, but the other entry is likely for yet another man named Charles Carson living in the vicinity. Our Charles Carson was supposedly dead by 1881.

Carson Charles, laborer, bds 622 Second
Carson Charles, wool worker, h 170 Lamberton [6]

Having analyzed the information contained in each of these sources, and after careful comparison of that information, I was able to make these statements which can be crafted into research questions and be proved or disproved by further research.

  • Caroline and Charles Carson likely married about 1845, possibly in Monmouth County, New Jersey where the couple resided in 1850.
  • Charles Carson pre-deceased his wife. Caroline Carson was called a widow in 1881, but Charles was not present in the census household in 1870. Given the fact that no children appear to have been born to the couple after about 1861, it is possible that Charles died closer to that date. Caroline was still a young woman of child-bearing years, and it is unlikely she would have abruptly stopped having children if her husband was still present in the household. Examine the possibility of Civil War service for Charles Carson.

In the period represented by the 1850 – 1870 censuses, the Carson family was found in three townships in two counties. The townships of Upper Freehold, West Windsor and Hamilton are contiguous although they span county borders.


Research on this family is on-going, and much additional information has been gleaned in the past twelve years. In my next post I will discuss how I found others researching this family, and how we determined the date and circumstances surrounding the death of Charles Carson. If you have information on this family you would like to share, please use the associated comment form found by clicking on the title of this post.

Sources and credits:

Image credit: Topographical Map of Mercer Co., New Jersey by F. W. Beers (1872), courtesy David Rumsey Map Collection online at via a Creative Commons 3.0 license. Annotated by the author to mark townships of interest.

[1] 1870 U.S. census, Mercer County, New Jersey, population schedule, Hamilton Township, p. 82 [stamped], dwelling 270, family 268, Caroline Carson in Lewis Rainear household; digital image, ( : accessed 21 Dec 2013), citing National Archives microfilm publication M593, roll 871.

[2] 1860 U.S. census, Mercer County, New Jersey, population schedule, West Windsor Township, p. 89 [penned], dwelling 676, family 696, Charles Carson; digital image, ( : accessed 22 Jun 2014), citing National Archives microfilm publication M653, roll 697.

[3] 1850 U.S. census, Monmouth County, New Jersey, population schedule, Upper Freehold Township, p. 351 [stamped], dwelling 219, family 219, Charles Carson; digital image, ( : accessed 22 Jun 2014), citing National Archives microfilm publication M432, roll 457.

[4] Fitzgerald’s Trenton and Mercer County Directory (Trenton, N. J. : Thomas F. Fitzgerald, 1881), 135; Trenton Historical Society ( : accessed 22 Jun 2014).

[5] ibid. 135, 136.

[6] ibid. 136.