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.”

Where There’s a Will…

Tracking down the Will of Morris Kelly Sheppard of Ohio on the FamilySearch website

My 3rd-great-grandfather, Samuel Fryman, allegedly born in Virginia in 1807, married as his first wife, Mary Shepherd (aka Shepard, Sheppard, Sheppards etc.) in Belmont County, Ohio in 1832. When research on this line commenced nothing was known of her birth family, siblings or early life, outside of the fact that her father was living at the time of her marriage and that the couple were both residents of Smith Township. Census households headed by Shepherd males in the vicinity suggested possibilities for further research but nothing concrete had been established.

1848-ohio-map-greenleaf-shepherd-locales-starredShepherd families can be found in the starred counties of Belmont, Morgan and Richland counties, Ohio between 1820-1847.

At a later date, I serendipitously pulled a book off the shelf at the local library and found this will abstract linking a Samuel Fryman to a Sheppard man in Richland County, Ohio, several counties and fifteen years removed from the Belmont County marriage. Here is the information from the will abstract, as entered into my genealogy software program:

SHEPPARD, MORRIS KELLY, Bloomfield Twp.     21 Jun 1847     23 Aug 1847
To Samuel Fryman, $250.00.
To Arnold Sheppard, $250.00.
To brothers and sisters Prudence, Rebecca, David, Priscilla, and John, residue of estate equally.
Witnesses: William Baskins, Francis P. Griffith. [1]

Could this be my Samuel Fryman?

I wondered if I could learn anything further by looking at the original will. My attempt to do just that failed when at the Family History Library in Salt Lake City in 2005. At that time I was simply unable to locate the appropriate volume. Now that image copies of these records are available online at FamilySearch.org, I thought that I would try again.

At the main page, I clicked on the Search button, then scrolled down to the bottom of the page and clicked the United States link, which took me to the Historical Records Collections page. From the Place list on the left, I selected Ohio. Under Collections, I selected Probate & Court, which left me with a manageable list of seven collections.

3-ohio-probate-and-court-results

Richland County was not listed out separately, so I clicked in to the larger collection of court records called Ohio, Probate Records, 1789-1996. I then located Richland in the list of counties. Since I knew I was dealing with a will, and had a date of 23 Aug 1847 for when the will was probated, I selected Wills 1816-1864 vol 1/2-2.

5-richland-county-wills

There are 677 images on this microfilm, so I should be able to find what I need. Volume 1/2 on FHL film 388,794 covers the years 1816-1822.

6-richland-wills-volume-one-half

Volume 1 on the same film covers 1849-1855.

7-richland-wills-volume-one

What about 1823-1848? Clearly, this gap in the records is what I ran into in 2005, when I quit looking. But surely, I reasoned, the author of the book on will abstracts was working off of something. This time, I advanced the images to read the information at the front of volume 1, to see if there was any explanation for this gap. That is when I found this note penned on the inside cover of the volume:

8-richland-wills-volume-1-preface

Index for the years 1849 to 1855
to which is added

To which is added an Index to the Wills in

the Administration Records

from 1813 to 1849

Embracing all the wills in the old
Records
Made for the benefit of all whom it may
concern by John Meredith, P. J., 1859

Thank you, Judge Meredith. I scrolled forward to find the S section of the index. Eureka! There I found the index entry for the 1847 will of Morris Kelly Sheppard.

9-richland-volume-1-index-old-wills

Clicking back in to all the Richland County, Ohio probate and court records, I located the link for Administration Records, volumes 7-8.

10-richland-county-administration-records-vol-7

The index entry to the will of Morris Kelly Sheppard said it was located on p. 28, but information regarding the settlement of the estate actually starts on p. 27, filmed on frame 12 of FHL microfilm 960,100.

11-sheppard-will-1847-richland-county
Richland Co., Ohio administration of estate of Morris Kelly Sheppard, 1847. [2]

From my experience, it is rather unusual that a will would be filed in with the Administration Records when there are separate volumes for wills. That fact most likely signals that we are dealing with a special type of probate, called an Administration C.T.A. (C.T.A. being an abbreviation for a Latin term “cum testamento annexo“. Black’s Law Dictionary explains the phrase this way:

L. Lat. With the will annexed. A term applied to administration granted where a testator makes an incomplete will, without naming any executors, or where he names incapable persons, or where the executors named refuse to act. [3]

The will of Morris Kelly Sheppard was entered into the bound volume of the Administration Records and clearly shows that no executor was named. What I have not yet verified is whether all wills in Richland Co., Ohio were for some reason included in with the Administration Records between 1823 and 1848.

Sources and credits:

1848 Ohio map by Jeremiah Greenleaf, courtesy David Rumsey Historical Map Collection online at http://www.davidrumsey.com/ via a Creative Commons license.

All screenshots in this post are from the FamilySearch.org website created and maintained by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (LDS), accessed 06 Feb 2014.

[1]  Anne Lockwood Dallas Budd, Richland County, Ohio, Abstracts of Wills, 1813-1873 (Mansfield, Ohio: Ohio Genealogical Society, 1974), p. 71.

[2]  Richland County, Ohio, Court of Common Pleas, Mansfield, Administration Records vol. 7, 1844-1848 p. 27, entry for Morris Kelly Sheppard, 21 Aug 1847; digital images, “Ohio, Probate Records, 1789-1996.” FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org : accessed 06 Feb 2014), imaged from FHL microfilm 960,100.

[3]  Henry Campbell Black, Black’s Law Dictionary, abridged 5th ed. (St. Paul, Minnesota : West Publishing Co., 1983), p. 200.