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Probably anyone in the U.S. who has ever researched a family history has, at some point, thought one or more ancestors must have just appeared out of thin air, and dropped into a particular place with no parents! Because the census is only every 10 years and prior to 1850, only the head of household was named, if a person was a young adult by 1850, living away from his or her parents, finding relatives in the U.S. can be a challenge unless you’re lucky enough to have other sources of information.

For a great many years, I was practically convinced that my 3rd great-grandmother Elizabeth “Eliza” Watson in this maternal line was one of these dropped out of nowhere, born in Indiana with an older brother Henry who was born in England. I only knew about Henry because Henry’s wife and Eliza’s husband were siblings also (Castetters). All were married in Ripley Co., Indiana before 1850, and also by then their parents were dead, leaving not a trace on paper of their parents ever being in Ripley County. I’ve already written about my Castetter search (another big challenge!).

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You have a grand gift for silence, Watson.*

So, I’ve been years on the trail of Eliza and Henry’s families from Indiana to Iowa and Missouri, piecing together everything I could find on any Watson in their vicinity, even others that lived elsewhere in the country, but had Indiana or English roots. Lucky for me, Eliza had a brother — otherwise, her story may have remained a complete mystery to me. You see, women in those days were rarely named in any county histories and social news, except as they related to the men either as wives or daughters — IF they were fortunate enough to have been recorded as more than Mrs. so and so or as an unnamed daughter of so and so. Even in burial, headstones were seldom inscribed with a woman’s maiden name, and even some in my family were buried under stones inscribed, “Mrs.” so and so, with no first name recorded!

A few years back I found an unsourced tree of a likely sister, Naomi, that pointed to possible parents and maternal grandparents. After investigation, I found infant baptism records for Henry and Naomi, in Kent, England, giving their father’s full name and their mother’s first name. I also found their mother’s birth record in Kent. The tree I found appeared correct, and I could then follow her family back several generations with birth and marriage records, but their father was a different story! A John Watson from somewhere in England is as hard to trace as a John Smith! I also thought he was probably from Kent, as was his wife, but it turns out he was not!

I know, my dear Watson, that you share my love of all that is bizarre and outside the conventions and humdrum routine of everyday life.*

Several days ago, I suddenly received an email from a descendant of another of Eliza and Henry’s sisters that I didn’t even know existed! Sarah Joanna — a sister, also married in Ripley County, Indiana. With all my careful sleuthing, how had I missed her?! The writer of the email found me from contributions I’d made to Find A Grave, thinking I was probably one of Henry’s descendants. She wrote, “Did you know Henry’s parents were John Watson and Mary Glover? The whole family is listed in THE EMIGRANT’S GUIDE by William Cobbett, an English reformer.”

Yes, sometime after January 2009, I had learned their parents’ names, but almost nothing about them, except by knowing she was born in Maidstone, Kent, I had been able to follow her line back in some branches a few generations. I’d never heard at all of the sister Sarah she mentioned, nor of this book; however, I immediately searched for it online and found it. WOW! What a wonderful story of family love and perseverance! Information poured from the book, including details of where and when Eliza was born, all the names and birth dates of her siblings, experiences, and hints of family relationships written in letters from Eliza’s father in New Brunswick, Canada; Seneca, New York; and Dearborn County, Indiana to his parents back in SUSSEX!

As it turns out, the author wrote THE EMIGRANT’S GUIDE in 1829, which included several letters written not only by my ancestor, but also his brother, and other family members back to their parents and relatives in England as examples of what an English emigrant might expect to experience when going to the States. The author also briefly explained their departure from England, saying, “several parishes in the East of Sussex had ‘got rid of’ many families that were a great burden to them, or likely to be,” by shipping them off to Canada and the United States. Since finding out who they were, I’ve discovered several relatives of the family also went to Australia about this same time.

The parties writing the letters, are JOHN WATSON, who went from the parish of SEDLESCOMB (Sedlescombe) near BATTLE; from STEPHEN WATSON, his brother, who went from the same place; from MARY JANE WATSON, a daughter of STEPHEN WATSON;… and I suppress not one single word of them….I begin with the letters from JOHN WATSON to his father STEPHEN WATSON of SEDLESCOMB. This JOHN WATSON, it will be perceived, was carried to our sweet colony of NEW BRUNSWICK; but he soon found that he could not live there; and it will be seen with what wondrous toil and perseverance he removed himself, his wife, and his children, first into LOWER CANADA, then into UPPER CANADA, and then in the UNITED STATES. Let this man’s progress be observed: see the English pauper become a good solid landowner in AMERICA, in the course of only five years; and then come to your decision. JOHN WATSON tells his father, that he was discouraged from going to the UNITED STATES; and that many had come from the STATES to NEW BRUNSWICK! These lies had been stuffed into his head, as into the heads of thousands of others; but they all, if they be able soon quit the miserable colonies, and get to the UNITED STATES. (~Cobbett)

I’ll begin now, and later summarize my tale with the last of John’s letters included in the book. On November 29, 1828, John Watson wrote to his parents, Stephen and Sarah Watson, at Sedlescomb [sic], Sussex, “Old England,” from Aurora, Dearborn, Indiana, USA:

We received your letter November 8th, which gave us great satisfaction that you are well, and we are glad to hear that some of you intend coming to America; and we greatly desire that you would all come to this rich fertile country…. We are highly gratified to think of father and mother coming, and more so shall we be if you all will come. We advise you to come to New York and up the river to Albany, where Stephen lives. There you can get information of the road to my house….

Other letters indicate that another brother William had considered coming to the U.S., but was reluctant to believe things in America were as good as his brothers described, and perhaps could not pay his own passage.

When I finished the letters, I had imagined that his parents and at least some of the rest of the family had made it to the U.S., but when I discovered their father as a widower in Whatlington, Sussex, in the 1841 English census, living with his widowed son James and James’ children, it seems John’s mother, Sarah, had died in Sussex. Even with all the desire for the family to be together in the U.S., and with all the encouragement from sons John and Stephen, they never made the journey. Whether brother William or other immediate family members ever did, is yet unknown. By 1851, Stephen, about age 84, was residing with his next younger brother, Thomas, in Goudhurst, Kent; both born in Ewhurst, Sussex according to the census. By 1861, Stephen was no where to be found and had probably died in England.

All letters, beginning in 1819 and on, from sons John and his brother Stephen, Jr. to their parents and from Stephen Jr.’s daughter Mary Jane to her grandparents were addressed to them in “Sedlescomb” [sic], with most adding “near Battle” to the address, but a letter in 1827 also adds “to Footland” (Footlands). Stephen Watson, the father, appears to have been employed by Tilden Smith of Vinehall in Mountfield, Gentleman, owner of Footlands Farm in Sedlescombe (aka: Sedlescomb and Siddlescombe), part of the Vinehall estate in Mountfield, Whatlington, Sedlescombe and Ewhurst, that was originally owned by Lord Ashton. At least some of the John’s children were born on this estate, and John, in 1825, writing of his satisfaction with his life in the U.S., said he would never wish to go back to Mr. Tilden’s farm.

As I find no criminal records for them, John and Stephen Watson from Sedlescombe, were apparently among those considered at least financially burdensome to their parish, and “run off”; however, John, the first of the family to leave, did not initially go to the United States, but to Saint John, New Brunswick, Canada. John wrote on 15 Oct 1819 from Queensbury, New Brunswick to his father:

Dear Father,— I arrived in St. John the 16th of June, after a disagreeable passage….

Arrival records for the brig “Wellington” are actually dated 15 June, which agree with the date he gave in a subsequent letter in 1822. In his letter of October 1819, however, John continued:

I am now situated 120 miles up the river St. John. The gentleman in whose employ I am, has built me a house in which I now live. I am to have it, and 10 or 12 acres of land, rent free for three years. I expect to be able to maintain my family on this until I get land from Government. Every married man is entitled to 200 acres, and every single man 100…. We are a free people; free from rates and taxes.

The first winter in New Brunswick was severe, and when John did not receive what was promised him, he found that his family could not live there. With “wondrous toil and perseverance he removed himself, his wife, and his children, first into Lower Canada, then into Upper Canada, and then in the United States” (~Cobbett), even after he was discouraged from going to the states. Apparently, King George did not reimburse the parish of Sedlescombe for their passage, nor did John receive any government land and pocket-money for initial expenses, as promised.

On either the 8th or 15th of Mar 1820, they left New Brunwick and went toward Quebec, which was still “an entire wilderness.” From Quebec they proceeded up the St. Lawrence River to Montreal and on to Kingston, Ontario, then up the lake to Niagara, where they crossed over from Fort George into the U.S. Once in America, they traveled east into New York where John found the little land still available too expensive for his means. They stayed in Seneca and Geneva, Ontario, New York only through the summer, where John was employed by Robert Watson from Northumberland, England, who was not related to him. After a few months working, they planned to follow the Allegheny and Ohio rivers into Ohio. Years later, accounts from his son, Rev. James V. Watson, say they had scanty provisions as they passed through Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, noting the iron works, and then settled for a time near Cincinnati, Ohio.

By his letter of 15 Jun 1822, John wrote to his parents that he was “perfectly settled” in Aurora, Dearborn, Indiana and wishing their family in England could be with them. In this letter he described their journey from Canada to New York, and finally to Indiana:

I, therefore, with my wife, got a hand-sleigh, in which I placed the children, and drew them on the ice up the St. John’s river, about 360 miles, Mary and myself walking, drawing the children after us. You must also recollect that 100 miles of this was not settled, being all wood. We arrived at the head of St. John’s river. We travelled on in the same manner, across snow and ice, to the great river St. Laurence, about 180 miles below Quebec; there we found the country, along the bank, thickly settled. I then built myself a light waggon, and had all our family provisioned during the time of making the waggon for ‘I thank you’ the good people, who were French Canadians, wishing us very much to stay with them. In this waggon our children were drawn by myself for upwards of 400 miles to Kingston, at the mouth of the lake Ontario. There (as every other place, we met with uncommon kindness) a gentleman, quite a stranger, not only sent us by the steam-boat, free of all expense, to Fort George, but put six or seven dollars in our pockets besides. From Fort George we crossed into the United States, and passed the summer at Geneva, Ontario County, New York state. Hearing a more favourable account of the State of Indiana, I once more started on a ramble, and, travelling across the State of New York, I came to O’Lean (Olean) Point, on the Alleghany river; which river, a very rapid one, I came down in a flat boat to Pittsburgh; here I staid two days, and passing on, after begin detained by head winds, and the water being very low, landed at Aurora, situated at the mouth of Hogan Creek. Here I found myself a stranger, without friends, acquaintance, utensils of any kind, or money, having spent our last dollar a day or two before; added to which, myself and all our family were caught by illness for six or eight weeks, without the power of doing any thing. But no sooner was our situation known, that we had plenty of provisions brought to us, and, as our strength recovered, I obtained work at digging, &c. My wife took in sewing, and by degrees, we have worked it to that I have 2 cows, 2 calves, 9 pigs, and 1 calf expected in August. James is now in school, and I intend to send two in the winter. I have joined with a farmer in cropping; that is, I received one-half of the produce, and had the team found me. I now am working for an English gentleman, named Harris, who is building in Aurora, and owns four quarter sections up the Creek. Much good land can be bought, far distant, for one dollar and a quarter per acre, and improved land for not much more; indeed, so good is the prospect for a man who must live by industry, that I wish all my friends and acquaintance were here with me. I can safely say, I would not, nor would my Mary, return to England on any account whatever. We are now all in good health, and are very desirous of hearing from you.

On April 26, 1823, from Aurora, John wrote after receiving a letter from his parents, that they were sad to receive news of “sister” passing, “who could not have been expected to remain long, having been ill so long.” The name of the sister was not mentioned. He also wrote to his father, “you should have mentioned who my brother James married; we suppose it must be Henry Freeland’s sister.” Records show, however, that James married Hannah Martin, and it was another brother, Edward, who married Harriot (or Harriet) Freeland, sister of Henry, Jr. and daughter of Henry Freeland, Sr. It was evident in this letter that John’s brother Stephen had previously inquired from England about employment in America. John mentioned he was still working for Mr. Harris and expected to be for some time. Quite fortunately for his descendants, John also listed his children in this letter, giving their birth dates:

John, born April 22nd, 1809; James, October 18th, 1813; Naomi, February 7th, 1815; Henry, April 11th, 1818; Eliza Anne, born January 21st, 1821, in Langley township, on Hogan Creek, Dearborn County, Indiana.

He also mentioned his sister Sarah, along with another mention of his brother William and his brother-in-law, William Glover.

In his letter of March 9, 1825 from Aurora, John wrote:

It is two years since we heard from you, excepting a letter from brother Stephen, saying you were all well. We are longing to hear what you are all doing; the particulars of all the family; when you sent the letter, you did not say any thing about William and Sarah, neither who James and Ann was married to…. We should be very glad to hear from all our friends; we think they would do a great deal better here than in England; we cannot think what makes so many of them go back, for we would not come back again for Mr. Tilden Smith’s farm and all he has got.

By this letter, we read that his brother Stephen had arrived in America, but had not come to Indiana, and John was wondering if he had gone back to England. We later learn he had not. John also relayed more news of his children:

We have another little daughter, named Sarah Joanna; she was born on the 29th of February, 1824; the other children are all well; John is grown very much lately; he is almost like a man; he has just been out a month, and earned himself a summer’s suit of clothes, though he is employed at home on the farm. I let him have his wish; he sends his best respects to his grandmother.

In the biographical information written by Rev. E. Q. Fuller regarding Stephen and Sarah’s grandson, Rev. James V. Watson, D.D., we learn that James’ father, John Watson (son of Stephen) was an industrious and moral laborer of the Methodist faith. John Watson’s wife, Mary Glover, affectionately referred by him in letters to his parents as “my Mary,” was of a higher social class, very pious and educated, but her family at some point before her marriage had suffered pecuniary misfortune.

John’s brother Stephen departed London on the ship “Hudson,” and with his family and relative (apparently his cousin), John Gardiner, arrived 4 Sep 1823 in New York City after a 7 weeks-long voyage and 16 days of sea-sickness. They remained in New York City about a week and then sailed about 144 miles on the Hudson River to Albany, where they were well settled by October 5th. He reported in a letter to his father that he did not have enough money to go 1400 more miles to where his brother John was living. Stephen traveled alone to scout out the town of Utica, but found it no better than Albany so decided to remain there, sending some of his children out to live with others so they could attend school. The captain of the Hudson took Mary Jane with him to Connecticut for schooling and Stephen Thomas went to live with a Mr. William Fisher. Naomi was going to live with a Mr. Moulton at Utica and James was going to the same place. In his letter to his parents 5 Oct 1823, he reported that by then his cousin John Gardiner had found his brothers who had come before. The Gardiner brothers’ mother was referred by Mary Jane as her aunt in her later letters. John Gardiner’s brothers were William and James, and at least by 1825, they were all living in Utica, New York. Stephen was unhappy and discouraged about staying in America in September 1823, saying if he couldn’t get enough work they might return to England in the spring, but by 27 Oct 1823, his wife, Elizabeth, wrote home saying she knew they were well off to stay. Stephen was by then sawing with Richard Fuller and they were also living with him, and their son William had found work filling wagons with goods that came in on the canal.

On March 29, 1824, Stephen wrote to his parents again, saying he no longer had any reason to complain of America, his wife liked it very much, and there were so many English people in Albany that it seemed much like home. He also reported again that Captain Champlin was sending Mary Jane to school in Connecticut where she was learning to read and write quite well, and that people paid according to their abilities for the “free school” there in Albany, where 400 “scholars are taught reading, writing, arithmetic, geography, &c., &c.”

By October 27, 1825, Mary Jane was back with her family in Albany and writing for the first time to her grandparents in Sedlescombe and Rye, saying:

I don’t wish to return to England again. I like America much the best; it is a very plentiful country. A person may get a very good living here if they are industrious. My father is doing very well, and is very well satisfied to stay in this country. He has got a cow of his own, and nine hogs. My mother has been lately confined of a daughter; she is very hearty; her name is Sarah Anne. Little Myram (aka: Miriam) is a very pretty child; we think very much of her; I think she is indulged too much in having her own way. Thomas and Naomi are living out. Thomas is living in the country with Mr. Fisher. I have spent two years out to the eastward with the captain I came over with. I took much comfort and consolation with them in the two years. But now I am returned home to my parents. I like living in Albany better than I did to the east. I have been very fortunate. I have got good clothes, and I can dress as well as any lady in Sedlescomb…. The girls here that go out to doing house-work, dress as well as any lady in Sedlescomb.

She continued by describing the current ladies’ fashion in Albany. She also once again encouraged her Uncle William to come to America if the parish would send him, was sorry to hear that the parish said they would not send any more, and wrote that they were surprised to hear of Uncle Edward’s marriage. In addition, she said her father had a good summer’s work sawing and working in the malt-house for the winter.

On April 11, 1826, Mary Jane wrote relaying messages from her Uncle John in Indiana:

Tell William we are astonished at him doubting the truths of our letters; we can assure him the letters don’t get altered before they reach him. America is as good as we have stated before; and he would find it so if he had heart enough to come….

She had messages for Aunt Gardiner regarding her sons, John, James, and William, and also wrote:

Give my love to Thomas and grandmother (Mary Green), at Rye; and ask her if she will come over here if I come over for her. Father and mother send their kind love to you and grandfather (Watson), and aunt and uncle Lawrence; tell them we wish they was here. Our love to aunt and uncle Freeland; tell them,—will not promise them,—I think if I can get a chance with the captain I came over with, I shall come back to England to visit them all in a year or two. Mother and father wish to be remembered to all their sisters and brother…. Aunt Mary has sent a letter to her brother John, and has received no answer.

Cobbett included one more letter that Mary Jane wrote again to her Watson grandparents 27 Dec 1827, this time addressed to them in “Footland,” (Footlands) to tell them she was “married on the 13th of November last, to a man in good circumstances” and that she was very comfortably situated. She neglected to name her husband, but called herself Mary Jane Coulson. Her husband, from records, was Thomas Coulson. She again enclosed messages from her Uncle John, that he had moved down river as low as the falls of Ohio, where they lived a year and a half, but were not satisfied with the country there, so returned to Aurora, Indiana in August 1827, and purchased 75 acres, a house and orchard.

Of the last of John’s letters transcribed for his book, Cobbett wrote:

That finishes the account of his progress; and there we find this English ‘pauper,’ of whom the Parish of Sedlescomb thought itself happy to get rid, seated firmly down on a piece of land of 75 acres, in a comfortable dwelling house, and having a good orchard of apples and peaches, having earned the money to make the purchase, and maintained his numerous family at the same time.

With respect to Mary Jane’s letters, Cobbett says she “does so much honour to her heart as well as her head,” and that her letters are “worthy of universal admiration.”

You know my methods, Watson. There was not one of them which I did not apply to the inquiry. And it ended by my discovering traces, but very different ones from those which I had expected.*

* ~Sherlock Holmes (character of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle)

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And I thought PRENTIS was a difficult name!

A 2nd great-grandmother of mine was a CASTETTER, but my genealogical research has turned up so many variations of this family name: Castetter, Castator, Castater, Castteter, Carsteter, Casteter, Castor, Kirstaetter, Kestiter, Kearstuter, Kerstetter, Kierstaetter, Kirstätter, Kirschstatter, Karstetter, Kastetter, Kastater, Kastator, Kaster,  Kostatter, Kostetter, etc. Census takers and transcribers created even more unusual variations in spelling (Custaton, Casteller, Castelter, Casteator, Castrater, etc.), making it very difficult to find available records!

From J. R. Baker: “The surname seems to have originally been Kerstaetter. It was spelled that way, plus Kirstetter, Kerstetter, Karstetter, etc. in German church records in Pennsylvania. When the family reached Kentucky and Ohio, the officials, of English descent, spelled it Castator or Castetter. I’ve been told that it is pronounced similar to Gestapo (cas-TAH-ter).”

Some time ago, while researching my Castetter/Castator line, I found a wealth of information in Stephen Arlington Kerstetter’s online publication: THE KERSTETTER FAMILY: THE EARLY YEARS, 1727-1850. Part V refers to Michael and Dorothea Kerstetter (a.k.a. Johannes Mikael Kirstaetter and Maria Dorothea Dietz), my 6th great-grandparents. They were the parents of Martin Kerstetter (a.k.a. Johan or Johannes Martin Kerstaetter) who married Abby Elizabeth (a.k.a. Appolonia and Abigail). Martin and Abby were the parents of Michael Castator (a.k.a. Castater, etc.) who married Anna  (“Anne”) Thomas. Michael and Anna’s oldest son, George Washington Castator (a.k.a. Castater and Castetter, etc.), married Elizabeth (“Eliza”) Anne Watson, 24 Aug 1840, in Ripley County, Indiana. George and Eliza Anne are my 3rd great-grandparents.

I was very grateful to the author for all his effort and found it extremely helpful to my own research; however, it dead-ended for my branch of the family with a snippet of information that piqued my curiosity:

V. THE FAMILY OF MICHAEL AND DOROTHEA

(p. 55 )

Michael Born about 1798 in Tennessee
Married Anna Thomas on Jan. 16, 1817 in Butler County
Died in Ripley County, Indiana after 1840

(p. 58 )

• Michael and his wife Anna apparently moved from Butler County to nearby Ripley County, Indiana, not long after their marriage in 1817. The 1820 census in Ripley County shows Michael, his wife, and two daughters and one son under the age of ten. At the time of the 1850 census, an Anna Castator, age 49, was living with the family of George Washington Castator in Ripley County.

George Washington Castator married Eliza Watson on Aug. 24, 1840. George
Washington was born about 1817 in Ohio and Eliza about 1820 in Indiana. Eliza
apparently died after 1850. The 1870 census listing includes a Louisa Castator born in Indiana about 1821.

Born where, you say?

None of my own information suggests that Michael was born in Tennessee; however, Anna’s birthplace is listed as Tennessee in the 1850 census. As with most families, a lot of public information is conflicting. Parental information on census reports between 1880-1920 for some of their children confuses me further with birthplaces listed for both Michael and Anna as Pennsylvania, Ohio, Germany, Kentucky, “the United States of America,” or left entirely blank.

I had concluded that only Anna was born in Tennessee, and that Michael was probably born between 1797-1801 in Northumberland Co. (or adjacent Snyder Co.), Pennsylvania, as were his other siblings (from various family records). Do documents exist (Tennessee land records, etc.) that suggest Michael was born there instead of Pennsylvania?

Castetter, Kerstetter… Where are you?

As for Michael living past 1840, I’ve located a Mikael Castator residing in Ripley Co. in 1830, but haven’t yet found any record of him still living there in 1840. I did find record of a Michael Castater in Ross, Butler, Ohio in 1840, but the ages in the household aren’t right for him at that time (must be some relative though!). My records agree that he was married 16 Jan 1817 in Butler County, Ohio to Anna Elizabeth Thomas (born abt. 1801-02 in Maryville, Blount, Tennessee*, and died after 1850 in Ripley Co., IN). They had seven known children: George Washington, Abigail, Mary Ann, Elizabeth, Malinda, Susannah (“Susan”), and Ira Ishmael. The 1830 census records another son, while a known daughter was overlooked. Was there another son we don’t know about, or did the census taker mistake their youngest daughter for a boy?

*I assumed Anna was from Blount County, Tennessee since Michael’s sister Christina / Christiana was supposedly married there in 1808, and have recently found more evidence to support this. According to another researcher for this family, Tracy Bischoff, who found land records, the Castator family was living in Butler Co., Ohio by 1811, and apparently Anna’s family also moved from Tennessee to Ohio, where she and Michael were married in 1817. They may have known one another in Tennessee, but without documentation proving otherwise, I tend to believe she was the only one of the two actually born there. There are several marriage and land records for people with the surname Thomas in Butler Co., Ohio and Ripley Co. IN, which are thought to be relatives, but the names of Anna’s parents have only recently been discovered. (See updates below.)

Almost all family histories indicate that his father died about 1814, but C. R. Mapes gives an unsourced date of 1 Sep 1815, in Snyder Co., Pennsylvania, and Tracy Bischoff gives information extracted from Michael’s father’s will. An unnamed source gives the date of  20 Aug 1814. Abby (recorded incorrectly as Abegail Castrater) was still living as of 1820, as evident in Butler Co., Ohio census records. Since she was a widowed landowner there, it seems logical that Michael died there instead of Pennsylvania, as Tracy Bischoff believed.

Tangled Roots…

When I read on page 58 that Eliza was assumed by the author to be dead after 1850, I wondered how many other family researchers had the same misconception. She was still living in 1860, and I had already seen the 1870 census with “Louisa J.” as George’s spouse and knew it was a mistake. Also still living in the household at that time were daughter Ida, son John, and their married daughter, Margaret Jane (“Jennie”) Bone, whose husband was either temporarily away or living elsewhere for some reason. Apparently wherever one was living at the time the census was taken, was where one was documented, whether it was a permanent residence or a temporary one — so the inclusion of a married daughter without her husband (or children, if there were any) could also be evidence of an extended visit there without her spouse.

I wasn’t sure when George died, but I knew Eliza lived past 1881. Census mistakes were common.  I have a Louisa in another family line whose name was pronounced in a way that rhymes with Eliza — so with this in mind, I believe the census taker may have simply misheard her name. Eliza was still married to George in 1870, and did not die until sometime after 4 Oct 1881, when she was married 2nd (probably in Ripley Co., Indiana) to William Hobbs.

At that point in reading the Kerstetter genealogy, I checked for contact information for the author and planned to offer “new” information and correct what I knew to be inaccurate — but first I thought it best to locate Eliza in public records after 1870.

With some difficulty due to the many variations of the family name, I finally located Eliza in the 1880 census, divorced —not widowed as I’d always believed — and living in Ripley Co., Indiana with her youngest son, John T. Castator (their last name transcribed as Castater on the census). Who knew? Not only was I surprised at this discovery, but the idea of divorces being recorded in census records of that time period had never even occurred to me. Incidentally, John T. is also recorded as John F. on the 1870 census, and on the 1860 census, the family name is spelled Castteter [sic].

Besides the name of Eliza’s second husband and their date of marriage (provided years ago by my grandfather), I have no other information about him from family records. Online records for Ripley County marriages also only go through 1880, and they were married in 1881. According to Granddad, Eliza died in Delaware Township, Ripley Co., Indiana (no date given), but I find no record of her there past the 1880 census. Unfortunately, 1890 census reports were mostly destroyed by fire, and she’s nowhere to be found by 1900.  It appears that both Eliza and her second husband were deceased by 1900.

My family records never gave any indication of their divorce. I don’t know if there was a deliberate “cover up” of this information by subsequent generations, but it was definitely not shared with me.  While contemplating this new information, it occurred to me that the notation of divorce could be incorrect, and then it also occurred to me that even if they were divorced after 1870 and George had since died, Eliza’s marital status in 1880 would probably be “single.” Since it was neither single nor widowed, then George must have still been living and there should also be an available census record for him in 1880. Maybe this is why social networking sites like Facebook include the relationship status “it’s complicated.” Census forms apparently needed the same option back then, and probably still do today!

Unable to find any record for a divorced George, I wondered if he had already remarried by then. With further checking, I found an 1880 census record in Fairmount, Grant, Indiana under the name George Custaton (Castator, transcribed incorrectly) that could belong to him with a much younger wife, Margaret — but also with three children (the oldest a teenager and the youngest born in 1879). Because none of the children were recorded as stepchildren to George, I dismissed it at first, but after much more searching, that was the only George I could locate that could possibly be him! By then I felt like I was playing a game of Clue.

It was Colonel Mustard, in the conservatory, with a revolver…

Recalling that in 1870, married daughter Margaret (“Jennie”) was listed as a household resident, I tried to make the 1880 record a better match for our George by considering that maybe Margaret was again (or still) living with her father without her husband (Did his occupation involve frequent or extended travel?), that perhaps she was recorded incorrectly as wife instead of daughter, and that the children were actually grandchildren to George — but her birth year was off by four years, she was more commonly known as “Jennie,” and if the name I have for her husband is correct, she was in her own household in 1880 with different children. All that pretty much ruled out this Margaret being a daughter rather than wife.

The wrong family name and the fact that both of this George’s parents were “born in Ohio,” should not discredit the possibility that this is our George. Names and census information were often poorly recorded or transcribed, and it is apparent that several siblings of George who lived past 1880 also gave erroneous information for their parents’ birthplaces. Our George’s youngest brother Ira, a Civil War veteran who lived at least through 1920, changed his response for that section of the form on every available census after 1880!

If there are any real inaccuracies on this census, what are they? Did the census taker mean to write “W” for “widowed” rather than “D” for “divorced” on Eliza’s original form, or if George was still alive and married to this younger Margaret, were all or at least two of the children really adopted stepchildren, but not recorded correctly?  If George was still living in 1880, but this wasn’t the right George, where is the correct census record? If the record I found is the right record and there are no errors, then our George may have fathered two or all of these children illegitimately before his divorce from Eliza, and that would have been quite the scandal!

One factor that supports this being the right record for our George is that the youngest child, Ira, has a name common to our family line and could have been named for his brother Ira. Another is that in 1900, this same Margaret (now widowed) is Margaret CASTETTER, living with her married, oldest daughter’s family. CASTETTER is the way of spelling the family name that by that time was preferred by all of George’s children and at least some of his siblings.

Divorces at that time were not so common, especially late in a marriage. Why would a woman married forty years prior to 1880 divorce her husband? An adulterous relationship with a much younger woman and 1-3 illegitimate children would certainly explain a divorce, a change in location, and why vagueness or a possible “cover story” may have led future generations to assume George had died before Eliza married a second time.

Forgive me, George, if I have unjustly shamed you!

Although there are many unanswered questions regarding this family, the real story is probably not nearly as complicated as incorrect or missing information makes it seem. No family is perfect, but it was not my intent to let my curiosity fabricate or unearth an unsavory family tale. What I have or haven’t yet found is definitely not enough to conclude without doubt that George had a second family with adulterous beginnings — but it does raise the possibility.

It’s all relative

Apart from all the mystery surrounding George and Eliza’s final ten years, it’s interesting to note that except for one unnamed brother who (if he existed at all) apparently died in infancy, all the rest of George’s siblings survived into adulthood and married.

George’s oldest sister Abigail married Eliza’s older brother, Henry Watson. They had ten children.  George’s sister Mary Ann creates yet another mystery: Did she marry William Culver, Culyer, or Cuyler, and did they have any children? George’s sister Elizabeth married John Morris and then nothing more is yet known. The sister Malinda (or was it Melinda or Belinda?) married Levi Tucker. They had eight children. The sister Susannah (“Susan”) married Richard Lyons (a.k.a. Lions and Lyens). They also had eight children. George’s brother Ira, born a decade or more after all the rest married Florence J. and they had nine children.

George and Eliza’s firstborn was my 2nd great-grandmother Sarah who married Josephus Main. They had eight children, including my great-grandfather John Dwight. The rest of George and Eliza’s children included William Montgomery who married Belle Little, Margaret Jane (“Jennie”) who married Mr. Bone (probably James Milton Bone), George Washington Jr., Franklin Marion who married Sarah A. Brinegar, Ida May who married Martin Van Buren Brown, and John T. All this makes for quite an extensive descendant outline covering eight generations beginning with George and Eliza. There are also eight known previous generations in this lineage.

The Source of the Matter…

My sources for this family line include online Ripley County Indiana marriage records (site linked above), personal records, and genealogical records of my maternal grandfather, Weldon C. MAIN (J. Dwight MAIN3, Sarah E. CASTETTER2, George W. CASTATOR1) compared with various family trees, marriage records, military records, census data, and public records available through Ancestry.com and other online searches.

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Update: (14 Jan 2009)

Re: ANNA THOMAS
Since originally writing this entry, I have attempted to connect Michael Castator’s wife, Anna Thomas, to others of that name in Blount County, Tennessee. My findings indicate there were several Thomas families residing in Tennessee by 1800, some with Welsh ancestry and some with German. Our Thomas line would more likely be German, and with Blount County ties, I zeroed in on the most likely family to be that of Anna’s father. A Jacob Thomas of that location had five sons and one daughter. The daughter (Margaret) and two of his sons (Jacob and Adam) remained in the area and their descendants have been fairly well documented. The remaining three sons (George, Henry, and John) were mostly unaccounted for. Other than their mention in Jacob’s will, there was apparently no further record of them in Blount County.  I emailed Bettye Heinrich, a known descendant and she very kindly offered assistance in checking census and marriage records for the areas in which they were believed to have lived. The 1820 Ripley Co. census revealed Anna living near a Henry Thomas old enough to be her father and a George Thomas, old enough to be her brother. The 1820 Butler Co. Census revealed Abigail Castator living near another George Thomas. Butler Co. marriage records revealed a possible sister Elizabeth.

Bettye Heinrich directed me to a Thomas Family website that had archived the findings of now deceased Barbara Fitzmaurice. In the last years of her life, Mrs. Fitzmaurice made several forum posts on genealogical sites regarding the Thomas family of Blount Co., TN. As I became more convinced that Anna was a daughter of Henry, I recalled seeing in one of her posts that Henry’s wife was named Mary, but couldn’t relocate it. Attempting to find that, I instead found another, and there, among Henry and Mary’s children were Anna, George, Elizabeth, and others.

Combining data from government documents and several family histories available online, I have concluded the following:

Jacob THOMAS (farmer) b. abt. 1739-43, Northumberland Co., PA; d. bet. 20 Jun – 28 Aug 1804, in or near Maryville, Blount, TN; m. abt. 1760-61, Pennsylvania, to Margaret ____, who was still living as of 1808, and d. in or near Maryville, Blount, TN. They had the following children:

 

  • Margaret THOMAS (F) b. abt. 1762, Northumberland Co., PA; d. aft. Jun 1836, Blount Co., TN; m. abt. 1789, Blount Co., TN to Jacob NEIMAN, b. bef. 1759, PA; d. May 1793, Knox Co., TN (now called Blount Co.); issue.
  • George THOMAS (M) b. abt. 1763, Northumberland Co., PA; d. aft. 1820, probably in Ross, Butler, OH. (Probably father of George THOMAS, b. abt. 1790, Tennessee;  who m. Margaret ____, b. abt. 1790, Tennessee; both probably d. in Ross, Butler, OH.)
  • Henry THOMAS (M) b. bet. 1764-67, Northumberland Co., PA; d. aft. 1820, Rush Co., IN; m. abt. 1783, Pennsylvania to Mary ____, b. 1767, Pennsylvania; d. Rush Co., IN; Issue. (See list below.)
  • John THOMAS (M) b. abt. 1768, Northumberland Co., PA; d. __, probably in Indiana. (Likely one of the first land owners of Ripley Co., Indiana, along with other Thomases.)
  • Adam THOMAS (M) b. 1 Jan 1770, Northumberland Co., PA; d. 10 Jan 1855, Blount Co., TN; m. 1st,  abt. 1790, Blount Co., TN,  Anna B. ____, who d. abt. 1840, Blount Co., TN; issue; Adam m. 2nd, 13 Nov 1849, Blount Co., TN, Jane Ralston, b. 1826.
  • Jacob THOMAS (M) b. abt. 1780, Northumberland Co., PA; d. 10 Sep 1855, Cleveland, Bradley, TN; m. 20 Feb 1812, Blount Co., TN to Margaret Elizabeth NEIMAN, b. abt. 1787, TN; d. 10 Jun 1888, Cleveland, Bradley, TN; issue.

 

 

Children of Henry and Mary THOMAS:

 

  • Jacob THOMAS (M) b. 30 Oct 1784, Pennsylvania
  • Henry THOMAS (M) b. 1786, Pennsylvania; Served in the War of 1812.
  • Margaret THOMAS (F) b. 1787, Pennsylvania
  • Elizabeth THOMAS (F) b. 9 Apr 1790, Tennessee; m. 8 Feb 1810, Butler Co., OH to Stephen SCUDDER, b. abt. 1785; Stephen may have d. in War of 1812, as there is no record of him beyond that. Another Stephen Scudder in Liberty Twp., Butler, OH proves by later census records not to be him, but is probably a cousin. Elizabeth may have remarried.
  • Barbary THOMAS (F) b. 16 Nov 1792, Tennessee
  • Mary Ann THOMAS (F) b. 1794, Tennessee; d. 1855, Rush Co., IN; m. 1813, Butler Co., OH to Jacob BOLSER / BALSER, b. 1789, York, PA or Butler Co., OH; d. Aug. 1844, Rush Co., IN; issue.
  • George THOMAS (M) b. abt. 1798, Tennessee; d. 1869, Rush Co., IN; m. 27 Nov 1818, Butler Co., OH to Elizabeth ELDER, b. 17 Jul 1797, Tennessee; d. 18 Jan 1869, Rush Co., IN; issue.
  • Anna Elizabeth THOMAS (F) b. abt. 1801-02, Maryville, Blount, TN; d. bet 1850-60, Delaware Twp., Ripley Co., IN; m. 16 Jan 1817, Butler Co., OH to Michael CASTATER / CASTATOR; issue.
  • Susannah THOMAS (F) b. 8 Jan 1802, Maryville, Blount, TN; m. 2 Mar 1819, Ripley Co., IN to James Stevens, b. abt. 1799.

 

 

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Re: ELIZABETH (“ELIZA”) ANNE WATSON

Eliza’s 1880 census supports the information I had from my grandfather’s records that Eliza’s parents were both from England. Granddad’s information included that she had a brother Henry Watson (b. 11 Apr 1817), who married Abigail Castator (oldest sister of George W.).  Abigail was b. 8 Sep 1819 In Delaware Twp., Ripley Co., IN, and died 5 Dec 1880, in Union, Worth,  MO. After her death, Henry married 2nd in 1882, to Elizabeth _____ (born 21 Apr 1829 in VA; d. 15 Aug 1905 in Grant City, Worth, MO).

From Henry’s 1900 census, his place of birth is England and his year of immigration is 1818. (His sister Eliza was born abt. 1821 in Ripley Co., Indiana). Henry is listed as both Henry Watson and Henry Walton on Ripley Co. marriage records (alphabetically, he’s Walton, and by date, he’s Watson). Henry and his second wife are buried in Grant City Cemetery, Grant City, Worth, MO. Abigail, some of their children, as well as Abigail’s sister Balinda (as spelled on her headstone; a.k.a. Belinda and Malinda) and brother-in-law Levi Tucker are buried in Bethel Cemetery, Union, Worth, MO. The Tuckers’ daughter Elizabeth married Ellis Denver Watson, whose grandmother was born in England, so was probably indirectly related to Henry. Her family is also buried in Bethel Cemetery.

I don’t know the names of Eliza and Henry’s parents. I suspected they were children of Eber and Phebe (Thompson) Watson, since Eber was the only Watson on the 1820 census for Ripley County, but a marriage record for Eber in Phebe in Butler Co. Ohio says they were married there in 1805. They do have ties to Ripley Co., Indiana though, so may be related in some way. Perhaps Eliza was born in an adjacent county where other Watsons resided and moved to Ripley County later.

I found a reference for James V. Watson, born in London, England in 1814, and “when quite young his parents removed to Indiana.” This Watson moved around a lot, but was somewhere in Missouri about 1832. Our Henry was in Worth County, Missouri by 1855 as one of its first settlers. Since Eliza and Henry’s parents came to Indiana from England in 1818, this James could fit into their family as a brother. I will try to research this possibility further.

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EDIT (22 Apr 2014): I was contacted yesterday by Sarah E. North, saying she was a descendant of Henry Watson’s sister Sarah Joanna (Watson) Jackson. I had never heard of Sarah in all these years. How did I miss her? She also said, “The whole family is listed in THE EMIGRANT’S GUIDE by William Cobbett, an English reformer.” I had also never heard of this book, so I began searching online for where to find it. I love the Internet! The book is available online: The Emigrant’s Guide, and there on page 50 is my third great-grandmother’s date and place of birth, as well as correcting her middle name for me (it’s not Eliza Jane as my grandfather believed, but Eliza Anne, short for Elizabeth!), and finally giving me the names of her paternal grandparents and several other relatives. I had guessed completely wrong about her paternal grandfather. The family correspondence is amazing! PLEASE READ THE LETTERS and see my updated genealogy!

EDIT (1 May 2014): You know my methods, Watson

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