Is this a William Brown a Tangent?

I haven’t found this as a blog prompt but I’m going to start it anyway. What are you in need of help on? What questions puzzle you as a genealogical researcher? On Wanting Wednesday, I’m posting items that I could use a little guidance on. I hope others will do the same.

My want is to understand if I’m going on a wild goose chase or not. Here’s the story.

I have documented that Samuel Curtis Brown (1821 MD – 1900 OH) is my great-grandfather. His wife is Martha Gordon (1827 OH – 1901 OH). I’ve been having trouble establishing Samuel’s father, or any siblings for that matter.

In the LDS Ancestral File, a father’s name of James Brown of Maryland is given as Samuel’s father. There is no supporting documentation. I’ve searched and and found a family tree with my Samuel on it. It also lists James as the father as well as some potential siblings. One of the potential siblings is Ferdinand Brown (1813 MD). A Ferdinand appeared in the 1870 US Federal Census as the deaf neighbor to my Samuel Brown. In the 1850 Census, Ferdinand is living with his deaf brother Moses, his sister Mary, and his mother Catherine. In the (undocumented) tree, these individuals are connected. I can not find these family members in the 1860 US Census, and I’m not exactly sure why.

In the 1870 US Census, Ferdinand is living in Holland, Illinois with his brother William Brown (1815 MD – 1889 IL). William Brown married Mary Ann Fickle (1820 OH – 1898 IL). Mary Ann is the aunt to Martha Gordon (Samuel’s wife). The question is… are William and Ferdinand related to Samuel aside from Mary-Martha’s connection?

I contacted the Rootsweb Family Tree author. He said he had done the research in the Brown family as a way to track down information for another Brown family relative of his wife’s. William, Ferdinand, and Samuel are too far removed from his main line. He also apologized for not documenting his work for me to trace. He had taken a hunch that Samuel and William were brothers because of too many related coincidences that led him to the conclusion rather than solid genealogical evidence.

Several Geneabloggers have said to beware of the information on I bet they’d say the same thing about undocumented trees of Ancestral File or Rootsweb. However, the question I have is… should I pursue the William & Ferdinand might be Samuel’s brother lead? If so, how would you suggest I go about doing it?

I’ve done a brief search using to find the Census information that I’ve shared above. I can’t find the 1860 Census with these participants in the story. There isn’t an 1840 US Census, is there? The 1820 US Census lists the head of household and tally marks. Not exactly helpful when you have common names like William, Samuel and James Brown.

What do you think?

Devon Noel Lee

Devon Noel Lee

Devon Noel Lee is passionate about capturing and preserving family stories so no one alive today has to be researched, or forgotten, tomorrow. She has authored 6 how-to books, a memoir, two published family history biographies, and over 60 family scrapbooks. She's an enthusiastic speaker who energizes, encourages, and educates at the same time.

3 thoughts on “Is this a William Brown a Tangent?

  1. I would approach it as a "differential diagnosis" … sort of like doctors do when they aren't really sure what the problem is. A "working theory," if you will.

    Just make sure you document every tiny piece of evidence, for and against, and then you'll be able to reach a solid conclusion (and remember how you got there).

  2. If you have the same hunch, I'd say go for it. Research each person trying to find the connection, but keep in the back of your mind (or jotted down somewhere accessible) that you have no proof of the relation. Sometimes you just have to risk "wasting" time on unrelated people to establish a connection (or establishing none exists, which still helps your tree).

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