Monday, August 26, 2013

Mystery Monday - The Case of the Changing Children

1860 population schedule, Georgia, Gordon, Freemans
We all are accustomed to seeing changes in the spelling of a person's name, variations in ages, or different birth places as we trace a family through the years using census information.  While looking at census records concerning my husband's Great Grand Aunt, Sarah A. Dillard Smith, I've come across a mystery concerning her children.  The puzzling information is highlighted below; my notes are in brackets [  ].

In the 1850 census, Sarah and her husband P. L. Smith were living in Murray County, Georgia, and had two children listed in their census enumeration:
          Lodeske J Smith, male, age 2 [born ca 1848]
          Mary E Smith, female, age 1 [born ca 1849]

By 1860 the Smith family was listed as living in Freemans, Gordon County, Georgia, this time with four children:
          Pemelia J Smith, female, age 12 [born ca 1848]
          Mary E Smith, female, age 10 [born ca 1850]
          Hendrix L Smith, male, age 8 [born ca 1852]
          China A Smith, female, age 4 [born ca 1856]

Moving to 1870, the Smiths and their five children were now in Calhoun, Gordon County, Georgia:
          Loduskey Smith, male, age 22 [born ca 1848]
          Mary E Smith, female, age 20 [born ca 1850]
          Hendrix L Smith, male, age 18 [born ca 1852]
          Chinna Smith, female 13 [born ca 1857]
          John D Smith, male, age 9 [born ca 1861]

By 1880 we find the Smith family now enumerated as living in Coosawatee, Gordon County, Georgia, son Henry [Hendrix] is now married and living near by, and only two children are still at home with Prior and Sarah:
          Jane Smith, female, age 22 [born ca 1858]
          John D Smith, male, age 18 [born ca 1862]

Sarah and Prior are finally empty nesters by 1900 where the census records that of her five children, three are living.  Son Hendrix is living near by.

Widow Sarah Smith is living with her son Hendrix in 1910 and is still recorded as having three of five children living at that time.

Here's part of the mystery.  What are the actual names of the children highlighted?  If I trace the children according to their approximate birth years, it looks as if the same child is recorded as Lodeske J Smith, male in 1850, and Pemelia J Smith, female in 1860, a dramatic change in both name and sex.  China Smith may also be the same person as Jane Smith, a decidedly less drastic change than Lodeske / Pemelia.  Maybe the China A in 1860 was really China J who later was recorded as Jane.

I also wonder what happened to Lodeske / Pemelia after 1870.  Was this one of Sarah's children who had died before 1900?

As for the whereabouts of Mary, Jane, and John Smith after 1880, it is like looking for the proverbial needle in a haystack with that combination of common names!   I continue to search marriage records, cemetery records, census records and even online family trees to no avail.  Maybe someday I'll stumble upon a few answers.   Until then "The Case of the Changing Children" goes unsolved.

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