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.

soldiers-and-sailors-database

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

cwss-search-charles-carson-civil-war-service
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, Genealogy.com, GenForum: Kansas Genealogy Forum (http://genforum.genealogy.com/ks/  : accessed 16 Nov 2002), message 12392.

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

3 “1880 United States Census Household Record,” database, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org: 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 (http://oldmillhillsociety.org/research/chronoindex/Index1863.htm : accessed 11 Jun 2003). This website was located using the Wayback Machine and can be viewed today at this link:
https://web.archive.org/web/20030310174958/http://oldmillhillsociety.org/research/chronoindex/Index1863.htm.
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.”

Web Sightings: National Archives Video Programs

Since at least 2004, the United States National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) has held free public programs on a wide variety of topics about their holdings at the Washington, D.C. and College Park, Maryland facilities. Some of these recorded programs of particular interest to genealogists began making their way online in 2012 as part of the “Know Your Records” series. Twenty such videos are now available for viewing on the National Archives YouTube channel.

kyr-nara-logo

Three short introductory videos concerning military records are online, featuring Archives Specialist and resident military expert, John P. Deeben. I have embedded the videos below for convenience:

Military Research at the National Archives: Volunteer Service

This video tells us about military service records compiled for Volunteer soldiers who served in wartime from the Revolutionary War to the Philippine Insurrection, with specific examples of the CMSR for a Revolutionary War soldier.


Military Research at the National Archives: Regular Service

Registers of Enlistments for professional soldiers in the United States Army (1798-1914) available on M233 give information relative to the registration of soldiers and their discharge or separation from service.

Deeben also discusses the equivalent records for the United States Navy, called “Rendezvous Reports”. These reports (indexed as T1098 and T1099) cover the time frame between the Mexican War to about 1891. The records themselves are part of M1953.


Military Research at the National Archives: Pension Records

In this final video, Deeben introduces military pension files for service members (or their widows) stored at Archives 1, covering the period between 1775-1916. He shows examples of the records and information gleaned from them of interest to military historians and genealogists. He also reminds us that pension files for service in the Confederate military forces during the American Civil War are not held at the National Archives and must be sought at the state level.

In early February 2015, an announcement was made that future programs would be live-streamed. Check the monthly calendar and plan your viewing schedule accordingly by clicking in to this link: http://www.archives.gov/dc-metro/events/.

Web Sightings: New Jersey Civil War Gravestones

This is the first post in what I intend to be a continuing series I am calling “Web Sightings“, highlighting websites I use in my own research.

New Jersey Civil War Gravestones [link] is an online database of headstone images of Civil War veterans and related service and biographical information aimed primarily at genealogists and family historians. Their mission “is to capture digital images of gravestones of our ancestors who served in the Civil War and are buried throughout New Jersey“.

This website is one of the many independent sites now utilizing software originally developed for the Gravestone Photo Project (GPP) in 2003 to house and display cemetery images as part of the larger Iowa GenWeb project.

More than one million gravestone images have been uploaded to GPP websites as a whole, and more than 12,000 of those images are part of the New Jersey Civil War Gravestones site. Soldiers from both sides of the conflict are included in this New Jersey database, as long as they were buried within the state. Since this is an archive of grave markers, there will be no entry in the database if there is no corresponding headstone image. This is one of the main differences between New Jersey Civil War Gravestones site and the better known cemetery website called Find A Grave.

nj-civil-war-gravestones-main

The site has a Quick Search function, which allows one to input a first and last name, and limit the search to a particular county within the state of New Jersey. This is the default search type, accessible on the site’s home page, or by clicking on Search on the menu bar. There is also an advanced search feature, accessible by clicking Search on the menu bar, then Advanced Search. Advanced search reveals additional parameters including search by record ID, cemetery, submitter information or upload date.

Searching for the grave marker of a service member is straightforward: simply input a name in the search box. I am searching for the surname Carson, so that is the name I used in the example below. If searching for a very common surname, you may want to include a first name and/or county in your search. As a general rule, I always do a very broad search at the outset, and then narrow the search only if I get too many results.

nj-civil-war-gravestones-search-bar

I quickly received a list of eleven Civil War soldiers with the Carson surname buried in the state of New Jersey with gravestone photos contributed to the website.

nj-civil-war-gravestones-carson-search-results

I recognized all five of the Mercer County names; three of these men were brothers, and are part of my extended Carson family from that area. Their information from the New Jersey Civil War Gravestones site appears below.

james-carson-nj-civil-war-gravestonesJames T. CARSON (1836-1910) Co. E, 21st New Jersey Infantry [1]. (Click on his name to go to the featured website.)

perrine carson nj civil war gravestonesPerrine CARSON (1821-1866) Co. I, 38th New Jersey Infantry [2]. Birth and death dates are from my own research, and are not part of his database entry. See my blog post regarding the provisioning of his headstone, part of the Office of Quartermaster General records (RG 92) at the National Archives here. A more legible image of his headstone is on the aforementioned Find A Grave site here.

george carson alias cassner nj civil war gravestonesGeorge H. CARSON, alias CASSNER (1834-1903) Co. F, 38th New Jersey Infantry [3]. Middle initial of H (for Henry) and his birth date is from my own research. I included an image of one of his pension cards (from T289) as part of a 2012 blog post here. The pension bureau confused the service of two New Jersey Civil War veterans named George Carson, and have papers incorrectly interfiled in their pension files as agents attempted to establish their separate identities.

The fifth man from Mercer County, John Wesley Carson, is not the same man as I have blogged about here previously, even though they share a name. Our John Wesley Carson moved about following the Civil War and died in Oregon.

There are several things to be aware of when using the New Jersey Civil War Gravestones site.

It is not all-inclusive. Not all Civil War veterans buried in New Jersey are included in this database. This is a volunteer-driven site and requires that a recent photo of the headstone be submitted, along with information about the veteran’s military service. The site owner will then verify the service before actually posting the photograph. If the soldier had no headstone, or service cannot be verified, then the submission will not be accepted.

All headstone photographs submitted to the site must be original images taken by the contributor. Images from other websites or taken by others may not be uploaded without their express permission. The photographer retains all rights to the image, but gives permission for the project coordinator to edit the image if necessary to meet certain specifications and to store and display the images “permanently for free public access“.

Getting permission to utilize the photographs may prove to be difficult. I have submitted two separate requests via the website’s contact form (12/2012 and 6/2014) and never received a response to either request.

Overall, this is a fantastic resource for those with Civil War soldiers buried in New Jersey. Kudos to the site coordinator for undertaking this worthy project. I wish I could name those responsible, but I have not been able to glean that information from the website, nor from a WHOIS search. And, a BIG thank you to those who have contributed their time and images. Should you have images you wish to contribute, please visit this link.

Finally, here is a link to other Gravestone Photo Project sites.

**

Sources:

[1] New Jersey Civil War Gravestones, database and images  (http://newjerseycivilwargravestones.org : accessed 29 Jul 2014), entry no. 10384 for James T. Carson (1836-1910), citing Groveville Cemetery, Groveville, Mercer County, New Jersey; image contributed 24 Aug 2012 by “fredsays”.

[2] New Jersey Civil War Gravestones, database and images  (http://newjerseycivilwargravestones.org : accessed 29 Jul 2014), entry no. 6857 for Perrine Carson (no dates), citing Presbyterian Churchyard, Hamilton Square, Mercer County, New Jersey; image contributed 16 Sep 2010 by “fredsays”.

[3] New Jersey Civil War Gravestones, database and images  (http://newjerseycivilwargravestones.org : accessed 29 Jul 2014), entry no. 6853 for George Carson (d. 1903), citing Riverview Cemetery, Trenton, Mercer County, New Jersey; image contributed 15 Sep 2010 by “fredsays”.

Disclaimer: The author regrets the inability to obtain explicit permission to showcase images from this website and makes no claim to ownership of any image shown here. Clearly, all screenshots on this Web Sightings post were taken from the New Jersey Civil War Gravestones site, and every attempt has been made to make that obvious.