Saturday, February 23, 2008


So you think that when you gain access to more records all
your family mysteries will be solved.


Not only am I still hunting the Elusive John C., I’ve now found
a few more little mysteries to make me scratch my head.

We’ll get to the "Case of the Meandering McFarlands" in a
future post, but at the moment I want to talk about the case
of “Why Was Westley Where?"

Westley(Wesley) Coburn is my 3x great grandfather on
my father’s side of the family. Recently while on Ancestry
I found the 1850 Federal Census Record of “Wesley Coburn”
at the town of Mason, Oxford County, Me. It’s dated on 28th
Aug 1850 and the census taker was named either John
Wilson or Neilson. “Wesley” is listed as being 48 years old,
his occupation as “Miller” and the owner of 500 acres. His
family consisted of:

Lucy 41 F
Louisa 22 F
Melvin 19 M (occupation: Farmer)
Leander 17 M
Moses 15 M
Elizabeth 8 F

(Wesley B. Coburn Household, 1850 U.S. Census
Mason, Oxford, Maine;
Page: 238; Roll: M432_262; Image: 461.)

So I’d found Westley, his wife Lucy(Stow) Coburn and his
children, among whom is his daughter Elizabeth who is my

But wait. There’s more!

I also found this from the 1850 Census for the Town of
Albany, Oxford County, Me., recorded by a H(?) Hutchins Jr.
two days earlier on 26th Aug :

Westley Coburn 48 M Wheelwright 600 acres
Lucy 42 F
Louisa 21 F
Melvin 19 M Farmer
Leander 16 M Farmer
Moses 15 M
Elizabeth 8 F

(Westley Coburn Household, 1850 U.S. Census
Albany, Oxford, Maine;
Page: 28; Roll: M432_262; Image: 59.)

So here’s Westley/Wesley in two different places. It’s
obviously the same person because the families match up,
but he has two different occupations, and the acreage owned
differs as well.

What’s going on?

Albany and Mason, Me. were small towns that bordered each
other. Albany had a population of around 600 in 1870
according to Wikipedia and it seems that neither Albany nor
Mason ever really grew. In fact the towns are now
unincorporated and are part of the unorganized territory of
South Oxford, Maine along with two other former towns.
The total population of South Oxford was 515 citizens on the
2000 census.

My best guess is that Westley owned land that stretched
from one town into the other, with a mill in Mason and a
wheelwright shop in Albany. So both census takers counted
him and his family.

I’m not sure if this was legal or not. Perhaps one of the more
experienced geneabloggers reading this might shed some
light on it? 1850 United States Federal Census
[database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: The Generations
Network, Inc., 2005.

Original data: United States of America, Bureau of the Census.
Seventh Census of the United States, 1850. Washington, D.C.:
National Archives and Records Administration, 1850.
M432, 1,009 rolls.


Craig Manson said...

I think your theory is about as good as any. Consider also that in 1850 (or in 2000, for that matter) the districts of enumerators sometimes weren't necessarily well-defined in some places.

Lidian said...

That is really interesting - sorry I can't really help and in fact am looking forward to your other commenters' advice/input. My Hiram Hicks was enumerated twice in 1870 - once in Brooklyn with his wife and children and then in North Hempstead with brother Henry and family.

Maybe the Coburns were at one property and then the other, within a couple of days, and just happened to catch an enumerator each time?