28 September 2012

Brickwall: The Case of Oscar F. Brown, Part One

Please refer to this previous post for the summary on this multi-part series. Thank you! 

Within this series, I have decided to reevaluate my evidence on Oscar Fitzallen Brown, and the theories surrounding who his father may have been. The ultimate goal is to determine the following: 
  1. Has a reasonably exhaustive search been conducted? 
  2. What other resources need to be examined? 
  3. Who is the most likely candidate to be Oscar's father, based on the evidence collected and the conclusions that have been drawn from said evidence? 

Theory One: Abraham Brown

In the obituary for Oscar Fitzallen Brown, Abraham is listed as his father. Although the hand written notes on this photo copy indicate the newspaper is not known, I have since been able to determine that this was printed in the Central City NonPareil, Merrick County, Nebraska on 18 October 1906. 

Additionally, this was printed in The Freeland, 19 October 1906, Page 10: 
"Died in Central City, Nebraska, on Saturday October 19 at 75 years of age. Buried at Richland cemetery, with services in Richland Methodist Church, Presbyterian Church, and at the grave side. Oscar was one of the early homesteaders North East of Richland. He was heavily involved in community service including public affairs, school boards, grange organizer, delegate to conventions, and acting as an assessor."

 Assuming the dates in the obituary are correct, or even within a year or two, Oscar and his family should be listed in the following census records and locations:

  • 1840: Michigan. In order to narrow down this search, I am forced to include information from other sources, as the 1840 Census did not list anyone by name other than the head of household, who would have been Abraham. The obituary states that Oscar had four older siblings, so the family should have included a husband and wife, and five children. That is, of course, making some rather large assumptions. At this time, no likely candidates have been found. There are two sources that list a possible move date for the family to have left New York and gone to Michigan: this obituary, and a Political Ticket for Oscar from The Columbus Journal, October 21, 1882, Platte County, Nebraska, when he ran for State Senate. In that column, it states he was born in Danville, now Town of Sanford, in Broome County, New York in 1832 and moved to Michigan only two years later, putting the family there in 1834, versus the 1836 date that the obituary suggests (born in 1831, moved at age of 5 years). To be thorough, a similar search of the 1840 Census was conducted for the family in New York, and three results came back as potential matches, however, their locations were far from what I would have expected to see for Oscar and Abraham. I backed up ten years, looking for 1830, and again, nothing was found that would indicate a match to this family without more information. Also, the Town of Sanford was contacted, and no record of birth for Oscar Brown exists, though they indicated that much of their historical collection was lost to flood several years ago (Letter dated 13 Feb 2007, Town Clerk/Registrar).

Action Item: Try to obtain a copy of the original newspaper article for Oscar's political ticket. The copy currently held is a transcription. 

  • 1850: Michigan. Lists an Oscar F. Brown in the household of Tolman Brown of Pittsfield, Washtenaw County. No other candidates for Oscar were found in this census in the correct state. 
  • 1860: Michigan or Missouri: Located in the household of W.W.W. Weatherby and his wife, Harriet, living in Salt River Township, Shelby County, Missouri. Later determined that Harriet and Oscar are siblings.
  • 1870: Nebraska. Colfax County, Nebraska, living independently as a farmer, born in Michigan (not New York). 
  • 1880: Nebraska: Richland, Colfax County, Nebraska, with wife Frances and two children, as well as two boarders. Birth place listed as New York. 
  • 1900: Nebraska. Central City, Merrick County, in a household with wife Frances and his two youngest children, born in New York. 

In 1890, Nebraska conducted a Special Census of Civil War survivors and/or their widows along with the state census. Oscar is listed as a resident of Richland, Nebraska at this time.

Moving away from census records, I have not been able to locate vital, property, tax, probate or any other record for an Abraham Brown, father of Oscar. Since this is the only real information I have on Abraham, searching for such a common name has not been easy, nor fruitful.

Other records provide nothing to support the theory that Oscar's father was Abraham, and we will get into these in more detail as the series continues, but Abraham is not found on his marriage record, death record, military records, etc. In fact, the only mention of Abraham that I can confirm is the obituary.

I have been able to confirm two of Oscar's sister's: Harriet (mentioned above) and Mary. Both list other men as their father (not only are they not Abraham, they don't match each other, either.)

Considering the obituary is an indirect source (meaning, someone besides Oscar or his father would have had to have given the information to the newspaper), I am going to officially mark Abraham as "not very likely" in the race to be Oscar's paternal ancestor.

I am going to conclude by answering my initial questions:

  1. Has a reasonably exhaustive search been conducted? Based on the information I can confirm as of now, I believe it has. There is more history beyond what has been touched on here, I have just featured the highlights, and truly, I have attempted every search configuration I can think of utilizing just the combination of names. Unless further information is obtained to narrow down the parameters of the search, I have done what I can do. 
  2. What other resources need to be examined?  This is not something I can answer at this time. Without further details on this individual, I would not know where to start looking or what to look at. It would be like looking for hay in the hay stack.  
  3. Who is the most likely candidate to be Oscar's father, based on the evidence collected and the conclusions that have been drawn from said evidence? Only time will tell... stay tuned for theory number two! 

Capt. Oscar F. Brown
Personal archives of author.


  1. Your search is really impressive to me. Many unexpected twists and turns. What leaps out to me is the fact of 4 siblings, and two sisters had different fathers from Oscar, and from each other. Is there any way to know the common mother--like one of the sister's death certificates? I'm a total amateur, so I'm just musing. Thanks for posting your intriguing search!

    1. Hi Mariann, thanks so much! I appreciate you reading, as always. I would ask you to continue reading - the whole series will be at least six posts - and at the end, I'll try to address all comments and suggestions that are left along the way. I think when you read part three, you'll see this may not be so easy as there are at least 3 generations of Mary's in one line of the family. Searching for "Mary Brown" is a little tricky! Thanks again, and I hope you can gain something from this - I'm certainly learning as I write it! ~ Jen


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