Monthly Archives: December 2014

Pay Attention to Little Clues in Census Records

Just yesterday I was reminded of how something less obvious on a census record; could be very important and very useful.  I have been doing some research recently for a client whose ancestor was a James Park/Parks who was born 1835 in Tennessee.  When I started the research; we had no idea of his parents or siblings.  We knew he was on the 1870 census in Pettis Co., MO.  In doing a small amount of searching; I had also found him on the 1860 census in Hickory Co., MO; which is near Pettis County.  I knew this was him because I had previously found his wife in Hickory County; with her parents; on the 1850 census.

You will see James on the 1860 Hickory County census on the image below. (Click the image to enlarge it)

Parks, James M and William - 1860 Hickory Co, MO Census


When I initially found James Parks on the 1860 census; I immediately noticed that a William Parks was living just 2 households away from James.  He was only a couple of years older than James; and had also been born in Tennessee.  It didn’t take much for me to believe that he was “probably” a brother of James.

I had spent a good bit of time searching for James Park/Parks/Parke in 1850.  Of course I knew that he had been born in Tennessee.  So…. I searched the entire U.S. for any James Park/Parke/Parkes who was born in Tennessee close to 1835.  I found several.  None of them really stood out to me; so I was not convinced that any of those I had found was the same James whom I was searching for.

So… yesterday I was doing some more searching of the census records.  In looking again at the 1860 Hickory County census above; and thinking about the Sarah J. Pruett who was in the household of James in 1860; I got to thinking about her.  Her birthplace was also listed as Tennessee.  I began to wonder if she might be related to James or his wife.

At that point, I decided I should try to locate her on the 1850 census.  “If” she was related; and “if” I could find her on the 1850 census; I might find James in the same county and state which she was living in at the time of the 1850 census.

I did a search of the 1850 census for and Sarah Pruett/Prewitt, etc.; who was born in Tennessee; and was the approximate age of this Sarah J. Pruett.  I got several hits.  I began to pay attention to the state and county in which each of these Sarah’s was living in; and one of them immediately jumped out at me.  A Sarah J. Pruett was living right there in Hickory Co., MO in 1850.  Her age was only 1 year off from the Sarah J. Pruett who was living with James Parks in 1860; and…. her birthplace was listed as Tennessee.

Of course my initial intention was to look around at the neighbors to see if any Park/Parke/Parks were nearby. Instead; I got a big surprise as soon as I looked at that 1850 census of Sarah J.  Take a look at that 1850 census of the household Sarah was in during the 1850 Hickory Co., MO census (below). (Click the image to enlarge it)

Parks, William, James and John - 1850 Hickory Co, MO census


Notice the last 3 people listed in that household.  There was William “Parker”, who was 17 years old; James “Parker”, who was 15 years old; and John “Parker”, who was 13 years old!  Remember….. the William Parks living by James in 1860 was 27.  James was 25 at that time.  A perfect match!

Thanks to my decision to search for Sarah J. Pruett on the 1850 census; I found James Parks (Parker).  I also got some additional confirmation that the William living near him in 1860, was his brother.  And…. I got some additional information and clues.  I gained the name of John as another brother of James.  Finally; based on the ages of all of the children in the Pruett household in 1850; and the age of Robert Pruett’s wife, Elender; it seems likely that Elender was probably the second wife of Robert; and that the “Parker” children were probably hers from a previous marriage.  Notice that there is an 8 year gap between Matilda (18 years old) and Eliza J. (10 years old).  Although more research needs to be done to confirm; it seems likely that Matilda and her older brother, Aaron; probably belong to Robert and a previous wife.  The Park (Parker) children likely belonged to Elender and a previous husband.  Eliza J., Sarah J., Margaret E. and Nancy E. probably belong to Robert and Elender together.  In other words; I “think” I have also found the mother of James Parks.  Sarah J. Pruett was likely the half sister of James, William and John.  This would explain why she is living with James in 1860.

Of course there is more research to be done.  But; I now have some great additional clues and information to work with; all thanks to Sarah J. Pruett!


Posted by on December 11, 2014 in Census, General Genealogy


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Posted by on December 2, 2014 in General Genealogy