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We know, in The Legal Genealogist’s family, what seems like so very much about my fourth great grandparents, William and Elizabeth (Jones) Buchanan.

Question mark symbol dice rolling 3d illustrationWe know, for example, that they were married in Rutherford County, North Carolina, 223 years ago today,1 and that their family was recorded on the 1800 U.S. census of Morgan, Rutherford County, NC. William was shown as head of the household, age 26-44. Based on age and gender, his household could have included his wife Elizabeth Jones, his sons George B. and William (males under age 10), and his daughters Mary J. and Elizabeth, my third great grandmother (females under age 10).2

We know that, in 1809, William sold an estimated nine acres of land to Daniel Rinehart,3 and believe this may mark the end of the Buchanan residence in Rutherford County and the beginning of their residence in nearby Burke County.

We know that they were in Burke for the 1810 census. William was listed as head of a household on that census in Morganton. Based on age and gender, his household could have included his wife Elizabeth, his sons Leonard, Arthur, John and James (males under age 10), his sons William and George B. (males age 10-15), his daughters Patsy, Sally and Anne (females under age 10), and his daughters Elizabeth and Mary J. (females age 10-15).4

We know they were still in Burke County in 1820, when William was listed as head of a household on the 1820 U.S. census. Based on age and gender, his household could have included his wife Elizabeth, his sons Joseph Alexander, Lewis and Clement (males under age 10), his sons Leonard and Arthur (males age 10-16), his son John (male age 16-18), his sons James and William (males age 16-26), his daughters Ruth and Nancy (females under age 10), his daughters Patsy and Sally (females age 10-16), and his daughter Anne (female age 16-26). We think that John was likely double-counted as age 16-18 and age 16-26.5

They continued to live in Burke County in 1830,6 but the area where they lived had become part of the new county of Yancey by the 1840 census. 7

He and Elizabeth appeared on the 1850 U.S. census of Yancey County, enumerated 26 August 1850. William was shown as an 85-year-old farmer, born in Maryland. Elizabeth was shown as age 79, born in Virginia. Their children Sally and Patsy were listed as living with them. Both Sally, shown as Sarah, 39, and Patsy, shown as Martha, 37, were shown as born in North Carolina.8

And we’re pretty sure William died before 1860, probably in Yancey County, while Elizabeth lived through the 1860 census9 and reportedly died on 21 May 1861 at Mitchell County, NC, at age 86.10

Yes, we know a lot.

And we know almost nothing.

Was he called William or Will or Willy or Bill or Billy? Was she Elizabeth or Eliza or Lizzie or Liz?

Did they truly get along with each other as dear and best friends or was theirs more a marriage of convenience? Did they love their children fiercely, dote on and spoil their grandchildren?

Did they gossip? Tell tall tales? What made them laugh? What made them cry? What did they believe in? What were they afraid of?

What were they like, really, as people?

Oh, for a time machine… because those are the stories I’d most like to hear, the questions I’d most like to have answered.

Yes, I love knowing the names and dates and places.

But there’s so much more that I want to know. Just what else did I get in my family history because of the roll of those family dice?


SOURCES

  1. Bible Record, contained in Affidavit, Ben Buchanan and Burns Turner, 29 January 1931, reproduced in in “Buchanan Family Tree,” Families of Yancey County 10: (September 1993) 67. This affidavit, setting out a “true and exact copy as appears in the old family Bible of Mrs. Naomi Sparks of Estatoe, NC,” was executed before the Yancey County Clerk. The affidavit matches, in most particulars, a transcription purportedly of the same Bible by a school teacher, David Stamey, some years later. The whereabouts of the Bible today are unknown.
  2. 1800 U.S. census, Rutherford County, North Carolina, Morgan District, p. 99 (stamped), line 16, William Buhannan household; digital image, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 18 March 2007); citing National Archive microfilm publication M32, roll 33.
  3. Rutherford County, NC, Deed Book 25:36-37, recorded 12 May 1809; North Carolina State Archives, Raleigh
  4. 1810 U.S. census, Burke County, North Carolina, Morganton, p. 322 (penned), line 7, William Buchannan household; digital image, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 5 July 2003); citing National Archive microfilm publication M252, roll 39.
  5. 1820 U.S. census, Burke County, North Carolina, population schedule, p. 55 (stamped), line 2, William Buchanan household; digital image, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 14 March 2003); citing National Archive microfilm publication M33, roll 83.
  6. 1830 U.S. census, Burke County, North Carolina, p. 199 (stamped), line 19, Wm Buckhannan household; digital image, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 13 September 2003); citing National Archive microfilm publication M19, roll 118.
  7. 1840 U.S. census, Yancey County, North Carolina, population schedule, p. 256 (stamped), line 9, Wm Buchanan Sr household; digital image, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 14 March 2004); citing National Archive microfilm publication M704, roll 374.
  8. 1850 U.S. census, Yancey County, North Carolina, pop. sch., p. 413 (stamped), dwell. 432, fam. 457, William Buchanan household.
  9. 1860 U.S. census, Yancey County, North Carolina, population schedule, Bakersville Post Office, p. 394 (stamped), dwelling 330, family 330, Elizabeth Buchanan household; digital image, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 30 December 2004); citing National Archive microfilm publication M653, roll 919.
  10. George Baumbach, “Colonial Pettypool-Poole-P’Pool Families” (http://www.mindspring.com/~baumbach/ppoole/ : accessed 7 June 2003) (2011, online only through Wayback Machine, http://www.archive.org/web/web.php; 2003 website copy in data files).
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