#52Ancestors in 52 Weeks: Broken Branch

My Reid family is one that I have found quite a bit of information about, after 1850.

I had no idea anyone in the family was named Reid until I saw the death certificate for my great-grandfather James William Stevens, known as Billie. The document gives his parents’ names as Bill Stevens and Mollie Reed. The informant was Billie’s daughter, my grandmother, Willie Stevens Cook.

I searched in Escambia County, Florida, and Escambia and Baldwin Counties in Alabama for people with those names, to no avail. When I widened my search, I found marriage documents for William A. Stephens and Mollie Reid in Conecuh County, Alabama, which is just north of Escambia County, Alabama.

William and Mollie were married on 26 July 1883, fifteen months before Billie Stevens’ birth. One court record for the marriage says they were wed at Mrs. Nancy Reid’s.

That led me to U.S. Census records for the Reid family in Conecuh County. The earliest record is for Mary Reid, age 5, living in the household of James T. Reid and Nancy J. Reid. She was living with her parents as Mary in 1870, age 16, and as Mollie in 1880, when her age is given as 24.

Later, I found the record for her second marriage, to J.C. Gilmore, on 19 March 1891. The marriage was performed at the home of Pink Lewis, who was married to Mollie’s sister Matilda.

I also have several DNA matches from James and Nancy Reid’s descendants, so I’m confident that I have the right couple.

But that’s where the branch breaks.

Detail from 1870 Census showing James T. and Robert Reid living next door to each other.

FamilySearch has John Abner Reed and Sarah B. Kendrick attached as James T. Reid’s father. There are no sources attached. One person has added a note that the first name could be James instead of John. According to the FamilySearch tree, James had a brother named Robert Seldrick Reid, who has a son named John Abner Reid, for what that’s worth. The FamilySearch tree indicates that Robert was born in Conecuh County in 1821.

Looking at the 1840 Census for Conecuh County, I find four Read families.

James Read’s household consisted of a man and a woman both between 20 and 30 years old, and one girl between 10 and 15.

The second James Read household has a man and a woman between 60 and 70 years old, a man 20-30, a male and a female between 15 and 20, and a girl under 5.

Could one of these households be the home of James and Nancy Reid?

Records suggest that James was born around 1815, which would make him 25 at the time of the 1840 Census. Nancy was born around 1820, which would make her about 20 years old. Either household could include this couple.

We don’t know when James and Nancy were married. The oldest child we’re aware of was born in 1843. They went on to have a total of ten children. Could they have married in 1839 and had one baby in 1840 who later died? Of course, it’s possible, but I don’t think it’s likely, which would rule out the first household.

Robert Reid, who’s listed as James’ brother, was born in 1821, so he’d be between 15 and 20 in 1840. James and his brother could have been living with their parents in the second James Read household. We don’t know who the younger females are. Has a sister been lost to time? Could they have had a young servant and her child in the home?

Looking at the other two households:

Nancy Read is the head of a household with one woman age 20-30 and four children – a boy 5-10 years old, and two girls and a boy under age 5.

Finally, we have Absalem Read, the head of the largest Read household in the 1840 Census for Conecuh County: One man age 50-60, a woman age 40-50. Two boys age 20-30, a girl age 15-20, two girls and a boy age 10-15, two girls and a boy age 5-10, and one girl under 5.

Absalem owned property in South Alabama at least as early as 1824, according to land records on FamilySearch and at the Bureau of Land Management. He has two boys in the right age group to be James and Robert. It’s possible that he could have arrived in Conecuh County by 1821 before Robert’s birth and just not bought land until 1824.

If Absalem is not my ancestor, it’s still possible he’s related, but I find only two census records for him in Conecuch County – 1830 and 1840.

This is a broken branch that still needs a lot of attention.


About Taminar

When I grow up, I want to make movies and write books. Now in my 50s, I wonder if I'll ever really accomplish the dreams of my youth. I have made two short films, one for a college film-making class, the other for an MTV-sponsored contest. I have written short plays that have been produced, and a few short stories and reviews that have been published. I also perform and direct for community theatre. My working life has included stints in local TV news, public relations, retail management and cashier, and for a couple of years, I made the rides go at Walt Disney World. I have two cats and a husband.
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1 Response to #52Ancestors in 52 Weeks: Broken Branch

  1. Barb LaFara says:

    I have several of this sort of broken branch too. How I wish the old censuses included the names of family members! Good luck, and thanks for sharing.

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