Ancestor Falls off Radar? Look at the Map for Clues.

April 30, 2012 at 1:45 am | Posted in Genealogy Research Strategies | Leave a comment
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Jonathan Rhoades Migration from Lynn MA (A) to Southbridge MA (B)

Jonathan Rhoades Migration from Lynn MA (A) to Southbridge MA (B)

By now you’re well acquainted with the near infamous Jonathan Rhoades.  And while the story is quite rich, there are still questions to be answered.  Among them is what happened to him between 1843 and 1852?

Jonathan’s first wife, Lucinda Parrot(t) dies at the age of 28 from consumption in 1843.  Yes, Jonathan married Lucinda first, then Mary E. Allen, THEN Louise Bolster (Bullard Rhoades Watson.)  Jonathan and Lucinda were only married two years.  Lucinda came from a seemingly very distinguished family.  Her father was a Revolutionary War Patriot.  Given Jonathan’s proclivity to military service, I can imagine him quite at home with the Parrott family, and looking forward to a long and happy life with Lucinda.  But such was not the case.

After this very unhappy turn of events, Jonathan only next turns up on radar in 1852, when he marries Mary E. Allen in Southbridge, Worcester, MA.  I can reason, that Jonathan shys away from the family life for awhile (okay, 9 years?), but the question remains what happened to him during those intervening years?

1850 Census

I have been frustrated that I could not find Jonathan anywhere in the 1850 Census.  I looked high and low in Lynn, MA, where he is from and married Lucinda.  I looked high and low in Southbridge, MA where he married Mary and remained until he retired and returned to Lynn, MA.  Nothing.  He was certainly old enough in 1850 at age 33 to make the 1850 Census as a head of household.  So, where was he?

The Hint Found in a Map

All along I had assumed that Lynn, MA and Southbridge, MA were very near each other.  I had assumed – even in light of seeing that they were in different counties – that Johnathan hadn’t moved far away between marriages.  That was until I Googled the cities, and had Google give me the travel route and mileage between the two. (see above)  Lightbulb!  After the death of Lucinda, Jonathan traveled75 miles to Southbridge, MA.  For us that’s a mere hour-and-a-half morning drive.  For Jonathan, that’s a world and a lifetime away – or in horseback time it must have been at least a couple days ride.

Now, the possible reason why he isn’t found inthe 1850 US Census becomes clearer.  He was in route.  As my “new friend” Marsha Hoffman Rising, says sometimes migrants aren’t counted in the Census because they tell the census worker that they are “just passing through” or the census worked chooses not to count them because they aren’t settled “there.”  Further, censuses are enumerated in the summer, a prime travel time for someone like a single man not concerned with moving a family or livestock.

Had I not looked at the map, I’d never realized that geography played such a role in Jonathan’s life.

Next Question

Now, the question becomes, why Southbridge?  Why did he choose of all places to migrate Southbridge, MA?  Did he know someone there – friends, family, former neighbors?  Did he migrate with friends, family or neighbors who were already going there?  Although, I’ve looked into these possibilities I have yet to find the “lightbulb” moment, but I’ll let you know when I do find the answer.

Until then happy researching.


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