30 September 2012

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

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 reasonable candidate to be Oscar's father? 

Theory Two: Tolman Brown

To begin this theory investigation, we actually need to start with Tolman's name. Not a common one, I have seen it spelled a variety of ways: Talman, Talmon, Tolmon, and the most popular, Tolman, which I will use here (unless quoting a source).

Tolman's name was originally found on the marriage record for Oscar F. Brown and Frances Elizabeth Lawrence, married 15 June 1874 in Platte County, Nebraska. Although the marriage certificate appears to no longer exist, they do have a record of it within the county, in the clerk's books, that has been indexed through FamilySearch.org. The Nebraska Marriages, 1855-1995 record series lists the following information:

Groom: Oscar F. Brown
Bride: Frances Lawrence
Bride's birth date: 1854
Bride's age: 20
Marriage date: 15 Jun 1874
Marriage place:  , Platte, Nebraska
Groom's Father's Name: Talman Brown
Groom's Mother's Name: Mary Morvie
Indexing Project (Batch) Number: M71473-1
System Origin: Nebraska-VR
Source File Number: 869275
Reference Number: 2:1STVDQG

Based on the previously examined political ticket for Oscar, we can assume that Tolman moved his family from New York to Michigan around 1834-1835. Again, we will start by examining the census records for this potential family.

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. Tolman Brown can be found in the Pittsfield Township, Washtenaw County, Michigan under the name Salman Brown, with a household including: 1 free white male age 40-49, 2 free white females age 20-29, 2 free white males age 15-19, 1 free white male age 10-14, 1 free white female age 15-19. A total of seven free white people in the household, one of which was employed in agriculture. Assuming this census to be correct, that would mean that Tolman as head of household would have been born sometime between 1800-1809. 
  • 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. Tolman is listed as 55 or 56 years of age, born in New York; a farmer with real estate valued at $5000.00. This would indicate a birth date of around 1795. He is also listed in Schedule 4: Production of Agriculture. His wife's name is listed as Rebecca.1860: Michigan or Missouri: Oscar can be 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.  Tolman appears to have died in 1858 (see below). 
  • 1870: Nebraska (Oscar). Colfax County, Nebraska, living independently as a farmer, born in Michigan (not New York). 
  • 1880: Nebraska (Oscar): Richland, Colfax County, Nebraska, with wife Frances and two children, as well as two boarders. Birth place listed as New York.
  • 1900: Nebraska (Oscar). Central City, Merrick County, in a household with wife Frances and his two youngest children, born in New York. 
The search gets more interesting as we widen the scope beyond the census records. If we assume Tolman to be born sometime between 1795 and 1809 in New York, we find the following:

  • History of Washtenaw County, Michigan..., Vol II. Chicago, Chas C. Chapman & Co, 1881. Page 1250 "Pioneers" : "Talman Brown bought a tract of land located on section 11, which had been purchased of Government by Mr. Hardy. Mr. Brown was a worthy citizen, and a good agriculturist. He died at his residence on section 10."
  • Past and Present of Washtenaw County, Beakes, Samuel L. The S.J. Clarke Publishing Company, Chicago, Illinois, 1906. Page 774, "Pittsfield." : "The wife of Talmon Brown, of Pitt, as the town was then called, was found dead Sunday morning, June 5, 1836, in a small pool of water near her home."  This would indicate that the family was certainly in Michigan by the time Oscar was four years old, and if this was indeed his mother, he was just a young boy when she passed away.
  • Michigan Vital Records from the Michigan Christian Herald (1850-[1859]). Publisher unknown, Detroit, Michigan, 1900. Page 135. "Brown, Talman, d. in Pittsfield, May 4, 1858, ae 67y. He was born at Fort Ann, Washington Co., N.Y., Nov 12, 1791. Moved to Dansville, Steuben Co., N.Y. Came to Mich. in 1834. 9-2-58"  Not only does this record provide us with his birth date and location, it also takes us back to the political ticket written for Oscar in 1882 that stated he was born in Danville. Although the town names are different, and therefore the counties, they are too similar to ignore in this case. 

Action Item: Try to find a death certificate for Mrs. Tolman Brown. 
Action Item: Death certificate or other source for the death date and location of Tolman Brown. 

  • 1840 Map of Pittsfield Township, Washtenaw County, Michigan: Tolman Brown, two tracts between 10 and 11. (htttp://pittsfieldhistory.org/images/platmap_1840_80.jpg)

  • U.S. Department of the Interior, Bureau of Land Management, General Land Office Records. State Volume Patent issued 1 Sep 1826 to Tolman Brown for Section 11, Washtenaw County, Michigan. (Document number 2195, BLM serial number MI NO S/N. http://www.glorecords.blm.gov.)  This would indicate that Tolman was planning his families move to Michigan approximately ten years before records show their presence in that place. 
  • Based on the previous finds, we continued to move backward in time, and located Talmon in Dansville, Steuben County, New York in the 1830 Census. The household consisted of one male between 30-39 years, two males under five years, one female between 30-39 years, and two females between 10-15 years of age. Again, this would mean that Talmon claimed a birth date of sometime between 1800 - 1809. 
  • In 1825, the Town of Dansville conducted their own census, and a Talmon Brown is listed there with 1 male, 3 females, 1 militia and 1 voter. (http://www.newhorizonsgenealogicalservices.com/1825-census-ny-steuben-dansville.htm). This indicates a member of the militia, which may mean that Talmon served or may serve eventually. I was able to locate a record for a Talman Brown, 121 Reg't (Stewart's) of the New York Militia, who served in the War of 1812. Listed as a Sergeant both at induction and discharge. I will not pursue ordering a copy of these records unless I can confirm that Talmon was indeed my ancestor, as his service in 1812 would not provide any information on his future unborn children. His pension file, if one exists, may list just that, but this is not something I can justify at this point. 
The other piece of the initial marriage record examined here for Oscar and Frances listed his mother as "Mary Morvie." All searches using a combination of names for her have come up empty, bar one, that indicates her first name may have been Minerva. However, if she is indeed the woman who died in a pool of water in 1836, it would certainly explain the 1850 Census record that lists Tolman's wife as "Rebecca". She can be tracked to be one Rebecca Shelmire, born about 1810 in New York. I have been unable to determine if they had any children together.

Talmon had at least three children besides Oscar that I have been able to document in some way: Harriet, Mary and William H. Harriet was born about 1819 (calculated from census records and provided by her descendants as a birth date) near Dunkirk, New York, and note that her birth date puts her around ten to twelve years older than Oscar. We will examine Harriet and her family, and the chain of evidence, in a future post. However, this same descendant provided a copy of a family group sheet, compiled by his great-grandfather, a direct descendant of Harriet through her daughter, Jennie Weatherby.  It is dated 1925 and notes that it is a result of conversation with Jennie Elizabeth Weatherby Yoe.  This information states:
"Harriet Brown had sister Mary, brothers William - d in San Francisco; David - killed by Indians in Idaho; Oscar F - Marine Corp Civil War - lived in Nebraska."

William H. appears in the 1850 Census, born about 1829 in New York, much closer in age to Oscar.  He appears to have lived out the majority of his life in Wisconsin, and died in California. His relationship to Oscar, and therefore Talmon, is documented through the 1850 Census and the above family group sheet. His marriage to Mary Foster is documented (by index only) online, but no images of the certificate appear to be available in this format.

Action Item: Order a copy of William H. Brown's marriage certificate, Washtenaw County, Michigan. May list parents' names.

Mary (Brown) Collins.
Personal archives of author. 
Mary, born in New York around 1817, appears to have been the oldest in the family. She married Josiah H. Collins on 24 Dec 1835 in Pittsfield, Washtenaw County, Michigan, and they had five children. The family was still in the area in the 1878/1879 Washtenaw County Directory. Mary's headstone indicate's she was Tolman's daughter, however, just so things aren't too easy, the death record from the State of Michigan lists her father was "William".

 The inscription on her head stone reads as follows: "Wife of Josiah, daughter of Talmon."  A direct descendant of Mary has her father's name in his personal research notes as "William Talmon Brown", but no source is listed. They have also indicated that she had eleven or twelve children, but only five were known to survive by 1881.  Mary is buried in the Judson Collins Memorial Cemetery in Washtenaw County, Michigan. The 1870 Census listed her as "insane". A copy of her marriage certificate indicates Talman Brown as a witness to the nuptials.

Action Item: Membership to the Washtenaw Genealogical Society, and the ability to search through their annual publication, "Family History Capers", which is indexed online and indicates more information is available on Talmon Brown, a William Brown, and the Collins family. (Submitted membership 28 Sep 2012. Waiting for response from organization.)

The final sibling listed on the Family Group Sheet is David, "killed by Indians" in Idaho. Wouldn't that make an interesting story around the Thanksgiving table this year! Unfortunately, I have not been able to locate any further evidence on a David Brown in Idaho, and without more details on his life, I feel that the search is too broad to spend a significant amount of time on him. In the meantime, the family member that provided me with this information is working on going back to the source - his Grandmother - to see if she can recall anything further on the siblings.

What are we left with?

Obviously, there is a good deal of information available on Talmon Brown, and more to come. The direct sources include:

  • 1850 Census listing Oscar in Talmon's household.
  • Grave of Mary (Brown) Collins listing Talmon as her father. However, this source is negated by the death record listing William as her father.
The rest is really circumstantial. Certainly Tolman and Oscar's timelines match well, in regards to birth dates, the move to Michigan, etc. I am hopeful that either William or Mary's marriage certificates may provide more information to the Talmon puzzle. 

To review. 

  1. Has a reasonably exhaustive search been conducted? Geez, I hope so. There are a few items that need to be reviewed, indicated above as action items. What else did I miss? Probate for Tolman, if I can confirm his death, may be an option. Did he have other children? Did he have more than two wives? To be honest, I have shied away from spending money on records up to this point because this is just a theory, and I have to pick and choose my personal genealogy expenditures carefully, but I think now is the time.
  2. What other resources need to be examined? Action Items. Certainly the Genealogical Society of Washtenaw County magazine needs to be scrutinized, and that will probably occur first. 
  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?  At this time, I think there is certainly a much stronger argument for Tolman than Abraham. There is too much circumstantial piling up for me to think this is all coincidence. 

Two down, two to go.

Now a proud member. 


  1. Ok Jen, the first thing that jumps out at me is the number of derivative sources you are using. Now, given the time frame you are working in I know it's difficult. But, based on the circ. evidence being the best for Tolman as father of Oscar, I would suggest this is where you need to focus your genealogy dollars. Here are a few thoughts:

    1) From your post on Abraham, Oscar's obit lists him as 'the youngest of 5' siblings. Looking at your 1840 census the numbers add up if you consider Mary died 1836 and Tolman remarried (a younger wife). You've just narrowed the range in which to search for Tolman's second marriage. I know this bit of info won't directly tie Tolman to Oscar but it might provide useful information about Tolman and more info on his second wife.

    2) Don't know the laws of MI at the time but given the age ranges on the 1840 census, several of Tolman and Mary's children would have been minors at the time of Mary's death. There is a possibility that Guardianship of those minor children would have to be established. I wouldn't hold my breath for a will from Mary but she might have had property or inheritance that would have descended to her children. It's possible that there are intestate probate records available such as administrations and inventories/bill of sale.

    3) Tolman's Death. I would work to confirm this death date and head straight to probate. Given that Tolman was a property holder and a man of some note in the area based on your county bio/histories chances are good there is something to be found here. Tolman’s heirs could be listed directly via will or indirectly by apportionment of the estate according to the laws of the time and place. This might also confirm the Tolman vs William Tolman naming conflict. Probate for Tolman would be my primary research focus.

    4)1860 Census for Rebecca Brown. I'd still check for this. You might find Rebecca in the household of one of her step-children which would give you a lead on other siblings to Oscar.

    Hope that helps,

  2. Talman moving to Dansville and Oscar's political ticket saying he was born in Danville -- that jumps out to me, despite the slight discrepancy in names. Oscar's father -- Tolman, Abraham, or other theories -- seems to depend on who was definitely alive when he was born, and who was with his mother. Again, finding Oscar's mother seems key to finding his father. Death certificates?

    Sorry I can't give the detailed advice that Rorey is giving. I'm too new and green. Just from scanning post one and post two, I'd say there seem to be a lot of early deaths in this family -- along with the fact that Oscar had half siblings. I am so impressed by your work. You have your hands full!

  3. I love this series! Even though my own ancestors are from a completely different area (I'm 99% Dutch) the techniques you describe are universal.

    I have one suggestion for you: have you done any research on Oscar's wife, Frances Lawrence? If you discover how Oscar fits into her FAN-club (friends, associates, neighbors) it may shed some light on his background too.

  4. Thanks for the great post – so many starting blogs seems to have great fresh content for a month or two and then nothing.. It sounds easy but hitting that wall can really cause you to lose interest.

    I think #1 is the best – it’s so easy to focus on results..and then just wait for them to happen.
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