02 October 2012

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

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 Three: William Brown

William Brown. How much more common of a name can you possibly have?  According to Wikipedia, William was the third most common male name in the United States in 2011 (source article), and Brown has always been in the top five of surnames, ranking second in 2010 (source article). So, here I am. William Brown. Should be easy, right? 

Let's start this one with the original source.  In theories one and two, I mentioned Oscar's siblings, and one of them is Mary (Brown) Collins. Mary was born in 1817 in New York and died in 1879 in Washtenaw County, Michigan. She is buried in the Collins Cemetery. On Christmas Eve, 1835, in Pittsfield, she married Josiah H. Collins, who was just three years her senior. 

"Michigan, County Marriages, 1820-1935," index and images, FamilySearch
(https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.1.1/VNLC-PJY : accessed 01 Oct 2012),
Josiah H Collins and Mary Brown, 1835.

The Brown family would have been fairly new to the area at this point, having arrived in Michigan at some time within the last two to three years. Mary and Josiah had at least five children: Henry, Charles, Mary Elizabeth, Josiah, and William B. They resided in Michigan their entire married life. When Mary died, her death record held by the county states her father's name as William Brown, and her mother as Mary. 

Interestingly, the 1870 Census lists the family, and Mary is "at home, no occupation". She is the only person in over ten years I have noted as labelled "insane" on the record. Her now adult daughter, Mary, is listed as the individual "keeping house" for the family. I do find it intriguing that Mary waited so long to get married; and although I do not know the date of her marriage to one Cyrenius H. Sadler, the first child's birth I have recorded is 1879; the year her mother died. It seems to me that there is a real possibility that Mary Brown was so incapacitated that her daughter was required to run the household for her father for a rather lengthy period of time. 

Her record of death with the County of Washtenaw, State of Michigan, is listed on two pages: 

"Michigan, Deaths, 1867-1897," index and images, FamilySearch
(https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.1.1/N3NP-6MP :
accessed 01 Oct 2012), Mary Collins, 20 May 1879.


(Line 1) 352  May 20 1879  Mary Collins  F  W  Married  63 (years)  Lyndon (residence)  Chronic (?)  N.Y. (state of birth)   Housekeeper William Brown (father)  Mich. (Parents residence) June 2, 1880 (Date of Record)
(Line 2)  Unknown (part of cause of death)  A5 P2 U (clerk notations?)  Mary Brown (mother) 

Under the entry on page 1 is a note, stating "See letter of County Clerk, filed Sept 7, 1880." At this point, I do not know if this is in regards to her death, but it may explain why the death was filed in the books more than a year after it actually occurred. 

Action Item: Inquire with the Washtenaw County Clerk and/or the State of Michigan to see if this letter is still available; if so, request a copy. 

Even after this lengthy examination of Mary (Brown) Collins' death record, her tombstone states her father's name as "Tolman Brown." 

A search of appropriate census records during Mary's lifetime provides several William Brown's in the Washtenaw County communities, however, none indicate at least a 50% match on what we know of Mr. Brown, father of Oscar and Mary. The presumed facts are that he was born in New York, sometime around 1790, had a wife named Mary, who died in 1836, moved to Pittsfield, Michigan by 1835 and remained there. 

I have been in contact with another assumed descendant of the person identified as Tolman Brown. Their notes indicate that at some time, oral history indicated the father's name as "William Tolman", but there is no source or further information in their documentation. Could Tolman and William be the same person? 

Since I have been unable to find any further evidence of the life of William Brown, other than the death record of Mary Collins, this question remains unanswered. However, after reexamining the documents I have collected on Tolman Brown, I can say that the names Tolman and William never occur in the same place as different people. Can that be any more confusing?  Where I found Tolman, I did not find William - and vice versa - so it could be considered a possibility that they are not different men with the same surname, living in the same county at the same time

Could they be the same man? Sure, but there is nothing to confirm NOR deny that statement. Searches conducted for William using Talmon's vitals typically result in queries posted by the descendants, who are spread across the country looking for more information. 

Allow me, once again, to ask those three initial questions: 

  1. Has a reasonably exhaustive search been conducted? No, I don't think so. More could be found on Mary (Brown) Collins, that could lead to her parents, and there is a possibility of tracking the family to current day and seeking information from them. Although I have been in contact with one descendant, there could certainly be more out there that have unique artifacts or sources. This is not a line I have fully identified and I do feel that additional work can be done. Additionally, one or two action items have been identified, and more questions have been presented than answered. 
  2. What other resources need to be examined?  See above. I also think that Washtenaw County and the State of Michigan probably have records on file that I need to look at, I just have to do a bit more research to determine what those are. Certainly newspapers need to be researched, as I have realized a great lack of evidence on the Brown/Collins family in that regard. 
  3. Who is the most reasonable candidate to be Oscar's father?  I still feel that Talmon has the best chance, but I think the idea that William and Talmon are the same guy is one that needs more of my time and attention. 

Coming up next... We go back to Oscar and examine his young adult life for clue's. 

Oscar F. Brown
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