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Thursday, February 19, 2015

Tracking Joseph Odell; a work in progress



Individuals in my database, to date - 3,527




Historical Note:

Walton - "Settled in 1785,... formed from Franklin in 1797....incorporated in 1851.  Gardiner Place...is a National Historic District."  from The Encyclopedia of New York State




This is lengthy....

Joseph Odell, the first; is designated the first, by me, because he is my Odell ancestor that I have been able to trace the furthest back.  He was my great, great, great, great grandfather.  He was born approx. 1810-11.  Where he was born is a question because his birthplace appears different on various censuses.

I have been trying to trace each direct line ancestor from birth to death and to collect documentation for each.  I have no documentation for Joseph Odell, except on the censuses.

So, to review my methodology:

I began collecting family information from relatives, as many relatives as I could find and the oldest relatives I could find.  Family information is usually iffy.  Our memories are often faulty.  I often questioned the same relatives more than once; asking the same questions.  I sometimes got different information and had to ask additional questions to try to determine which answer was more accurate.

After sketching families trees and family charts, I looked for documentation to verify the information I was given.



Those of us with ancestry in New York State are fortunate because in addition to the federal census that was done every decade, on the decade, beginning in 1790, New York State also did a state census every decade on the 5 years and at least one, 1892, in addition.  This means that we can track our New York ancestors every 5 years for much of their lives.

So, I was recently asked, online, how I know that a particular individual is the individual, with that name, in our family.  Here’s the sequence:

I know the name of my paternal grandfather.  I know when he was born and when he died.  I know his father’s and his grandfather’s names.  I got this information from family information.  Usually this is all I’ve even been able to get from the oldest family members in a particular family line.

Each of these people was born and died at some point in time, in some place.  The furthest back I had from family information was Joseph Odell who lived in Meredith, Delaware County, NY.  His son, George, my great grandfather, died in the early 1920s.

I don’t remember, at this point in time, which piece of information I used to begin my research but let’s take the vague date of death of George Odell.  We knew he was alive before 1920.  The best censuses are from 1850 through the currently available censuses to 1940 because they list the names of everyone in the household at the time of the census.  Before 1850 only the name of the head of the household was listed; everyone else in the home was listed by gender and range of age.

So, we don’t know when George Odell died, exactly, but early 1920s.  So, let’s look for him, on the federal census, in the next previous census, in Delaware County where he lived. BTW, we also knew that his first wife, Fannie Flowers, my great grandmother died very young, my grandfather her only child and that George remarried.  So, we find George, in Meredith, on the 1910 census with his 2nd wife, Ella.

In order to go back through the generations, it’s necessary to follow George backward through the censuses, identifying him and each parent.  George is found on the 1900 census in Delhi.  Knowing the area, I know that Delhi and Meredith are right next to each other and, in fact the address is Meredith St., Delhi.  On the census, there is usually a number for the sequence of houses visited and a number for the sequence of the family visited.  In many cases, you will see a number for the house and several numbers for the several families in that household, usually they’re related families, sometimes it’s a boarding or apartment house.  In this case George and first wife, Fannie, were living in the same house as his in-laws, her parents, along with Fannie’s sister’s family.



So, this is a sample of what’s necessary to track somebody.  Back to Joseph Odell, the first.

I traced George Odell, back to his father, Joseph K.[King] Odell.  I traced Joseph King Odell back to Reuben Odell in Sullivan County.  I traced Reuben Odell back to Joseph S. Odell, the first.  I traced Joseph Odell back to Windham, Greene County on the 1840 census and forward to Rockland; Morsston Post Office, Sullivan County, 1870 census.  Joseph isn’t found on the 1875 NYS census or the 1880 US Census.  So, I’m assuming that he died between 1870 and 1875, or at least 1880.  Even if someone doesn’t appear on a particular census, doesn’t mean they’d died.  Sometimes they just weren’t home and some people just don’t want to be counted.  Some censuses were lost, through fire, flood, whatever.

Vital records were not officially required to be kept, in the state of New York, until 1880 and even then, for quite a few years, births, marriages and deaths were not necessarily recorded.

The next possible recording of a death would be a cemetery record.  So far none has turned up.  He lived in Rockland with a Morsston address.

Tracing him back further than 1840 is a challenge.  The 1840 shows Joseph listed as head of household in Windham, Greene County and the oldest male, that would be between the ages of 30-40;  the oldest female between 30-40; everyone else in the household is age 15 or younger.  So, Joseph and his wife, at the time, were between 30-40 years old.  Ten years later, on the 1850 census, Joseph is 39, so he must have been 30 on the 1840 census, allowing for birthdate.

NOTE:  not necessarily.  I have found many ancestors whose ages have ranged wildly from census to census.

However, Joseph’s age on the various censuses is very consistent.  So, he was 30 in 1840; would have been 20 in 1830; 10 in 1820; and born 1810.

A rule of thumb in family history research, particularly going back in time:  most people married in their 20s, give or take up to 5 years, many left home at that point.  This, of course, didn’t hold true for every individual but it’s a good starting point. 

So, in Joseph’s case, had he married at age 20, or a little before, there’s a possibility that he was also head of household in 1830 when he would have been 20 – but not necessarily.

Another thing to keep in mind, looking at any particular individual; how much did that person move around?  Did they, over time, live in the same place, or did they relocate and how far away from where they were born?

1840, Joseph was in Windham, Greene Co.  Sometime between 1850 and 1855, Joseph, most family members and many of the related Oliver family relocated to Sullivan County.  We’re guessing it was for work.  Later, some members of both families relocated to Delaware County.  A few family members remained in Greene County.

So, 1840, Joseph is in Windham, Greene Co.  1830, 20 years old, where was Joseph?

The 1870 census says Joseph was born in NYS; 1860, the same.  That’s not helpful.  The 1855 census says Joseph was born in Del. Co.  That’s more like it.  The 1850 census says Joseph was born in PA.  Surprise!  But, there’s a Delaware County in PA as well.

So, where was Joseph in 1830?  There are 5 Joseph Odells on the 1830 census, shown as heads of households:  2 in Westchester County, NY where there was a prominent Odell family; 1 in Massachusetts; 1 in New Hampshire; 1 in PA.  Is one of these Josephs our Joseph?  It's also possible that Joseph was still with his parents, in which case, he wouldn't appear as head of household and another Odell needs to be found.  Quite a bit of additional research is necessary to find out.


Stay tuned.

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