Refocusing on Benjamin Butler Through His Children

[This was originally posted in 2013, but we’ve cleaned it up a little and reposted it here. Unfortunately I don’t know much more about Benjamin now than I did then.]

Benjamin Butler (probably born about 1819 in New York State) has a been a thorn in my genealogical side for some time. He moved quite a bit and simply cannot be located thus far in the 1860 census.

Benjamin has been located in the following federal censuses:

  • 1850: St. Clair County, Michigan.
  • 1870: Union County, Iowa.
  • 1880: Vernon County, Missouri.

I won’t bog this blog post down with my rationale for why I think these enumerations are the same Benjamin Butler. That’s really not the point of this post. What I’m trying to do is extend the information I have on Benjamin, particularly for the 1850-1870 time frame. That’s a time in his life where I’m hoping that Benjamin left some records somewhere that may provide some clues on his children and perhaps his parents. That’s also a wide span of years to have “blank” in someone’s life.

Benjamin left St. Clair County, Michigan,  for St. Joseph County, Michigan, in the early 1850s and he stayed there until the mid-1850s. This is based upon land and property tax records in both those locations. Then the trail runs cold until 1870 when he shows up in Davis County, Iowa. If all the children enumerated in his 1850 and 1870 household are his and the places of birth are correct, the family traveled quite a bit.

The three census enumerations for Benjamin suggests he had at least fourteen children. It is possible that some of the children living in his 1870 household are actually those of his 1870 and 1880 wife, Nancy Wolfe, who Benjamin married in Nebraska. I’ve created a separate chart with these same individuals summarizing which ones for whom I have found parent-child evidence, what that evidence is and which ones for whom I have been unable to locate such evidence. Just because someone appears in a household with someone (especially before 1880) does not mean they are the child of the head of the household. Locating such evidence and “end of life” information for all of the supposed children may also provide information on their earlier life.
The chart here only summarizes what I know on the children in Benjamin’s household–focusing on their census enumerations. It is not meant to be comprehensive and was created to help me concentrate on the census and my success (or lack thereof) in finding the Butlers in those records. My sources and my analysis are separate. In fact, this chart is one I created only for my own use simply to keep myself organized and that’s why the detail on it is sketchy.

Name Approximate year of birth (source) Location (source) 1850 1870 1880 Know death location?
Alfred 1842 (1850) Canada (1850) yes St. Joseph Co. Michigan
Landen 1844 (1850) Canada (1850) yes
Mary 1846 (1850) Michigan (1850) yes
George 1848 (1850) Michigan (1850) yes Wapello County, Iowa
Ellen 1854 (1870) Iowa (1870) Missouri (1880) Na Yes Yes (with her own family)
Harriet 1856 (1870) Michigan (1870) Na Yes
Charles 1861 (1870) Kansas (1870) Na Yes
Benjamin F. 1865 (1870)

1864 (1880)

Illinois (1870, 1880) Na Yes Yes
Alice 1868 (1870) Michigan (1880) Na Yes
Sarah 1872 (1880) Iowa (1880) Na Na Yes
Lecta 1875 (1880) Iowa (1880) Na Na Yes Kansas
Lila 1879 (1880) Nebraska (1880) Na Na Yes
Rebecca 1882 (1900) Missouri Na Na Na Nodaway County, Missouri

I chose to only indicate the source of the year of birth and place of birth in this chart.

The chart made the gap between George and Ellen (6 years) more evident and reinforced the need to discover more about “the gap.” The gap could have been for several reasons:

  • Benjamin was not married during this time.
  • Benjamin’s wife had several miscarriages.
  • At some point in time the younger children died due to an illness.
  • The younger children were living with another family member (after all, this is an apparently large family).

My thought is that learning more about the children I already have may help me discover more about the gap–so while I’m aware of the gap, I’m not concentrating on it at this point.

A map would also be helpful. Unfortunately at this point, for some of the places of birth (even if they are correct), all I have is a state of birth.

My thought about Benjamin in 1860 is that all of those who would have been living in 1860 cannot have been missed. The hope is that some of the older children were living in other households–or even their own household–and should be enumerated somewhere, even if Benjamin and his household was overlooked. Hopefully.

We’ll have updates as we have them.
Citation reminder: We are a strong believe in citing genealogical source material in the spirit of Evidence ExplainedHowever, we choose not to include properly formatted citations in these blog posts. There’s always enough information in the post to create a citation and full citations are included in my how-to newsletter Casefile Clues.


2 thoughts on “Refocusing on Benjamin Butler Through His Children

  1. Patty Gilbert says:

    That’s an interesting dilemma u have. Could he be out of the country or for some reason in jail? Do u know what he did 4 a living? I’m still new at this so it will be interesting what u find out. Thank u 4 sharing.

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