Digging deeper with Census Records: Part 3

A question solved – many other questions raised.

Finding my great-great-great Grandfather George Henry Roane’s lost relations answered one question: their whereabouts in 1870. However, scanning the census records for Essex Count, VA raised even more questions.

There are quite a number of African-American Roane family groups. And their relationship to one another is anything but clear. I’ll share some of my hypotheses as a glimpse into how this noggin works.  Ascertaining how these individuals might be related to George hinges upon his date of birth (1805) to theirs.

In Line 1 we have a George Roane born 1810 with his wife and son. Is he George Henry Roane’s cousin? During this period it’s not uncommon for siblings to use the same name for their children at the same time. Nicknames and middle names were used to distinguish between them. So for two brothers to both use the name George for their sons within the same generation wouldn’t be unusual. And George was a very popular name in this period. I did note this Roane family group is living quite a distance from other black Roane family groups, which may or may may not be a factor in determining kinship.

Jane Roane in Line 44 is a mystery. She’s either a Roane through birth or marriage. Born in 1840, she belongs to the younger generation of the family, a contemporary of George Henry Roane’s own children. Should marriage records for her children surface, hopefully they will cite the name of their father and this family group’s relationship to other Roanes might become clear.

We have a Toby Roane in Line 61 who could be either be George’s brother or cousin. Born in 1805, he is of George Henry Roane’s generation. Another cousin perhaps?

In Line 86 we have a Susan Roane. Susan is more than likely a Roane through marriage. Born around 1800, she belongs to the same generation of George Henry Roane. Given that she is probably living with her niece, a Waring through marriage, it’s not possible to guess Susan’s maiden name or understand how she and her children are related to neighbouring Roanes.

Randall Roane’s (Line 133) family group follows next. He is Sumer Roane’s (Line 61) uncle (Sumer is living with his brothers and sister/sister-in-law). Marriage and death records indicate these two men are definitely uncle and nephew. Randall Roane (Line 167) and Jerry Roane (1869) are Randall Sr’s sons. Given Randall Sr’s year of birth in 1815, could he be George Henry Roane’s cousin? That’s my hunch at the moment.

Rostlin Roane (Line 217) is listed as the head of her household. At first I thought she was the sister of Campbell Roane (his wife is Catherine). However, that didn’t ring true to me. It just seemed odd for a younger sister to be the head of a household that elder brother was resident in with his wife. So I’ve come to the conclusion that Rostlin is Campbell’s sister-in-law; the widow of some yet unknown brother. While I’m still trying to figure out how this group is related to Randall Roane Sr’s family and George Henry Roane, I believe there is a close kinship with Absalom Roane (Line 235), a hunch based on proximity. Given their respective years of birth, Campbell and Absalom could be siblings or cousins.

Next we come to Divie Roane (Line 254) and his brother William Roane (Line 255). They are live in servants and, at this point, there are no clues to indicate who they are related to. Marriage and death records are proving elusive to find for them online.

There’s Baylor Roane in Line 268. Again, he is either the brother or cousin of Absalom Roane (Line 235) and Charles Roane (Line 290). That would make these three men either the brothers or nephews of George Henry Roane (my hunch is that they are George’s nephews and subsequently cousins to one another).

A fair distance away lives Horace Roane (Line 293) who is probably George Henry Roane’s nephew. He’s certainly a cousin of Absalom, Charles, and Baylor – and perhaps a cousin of Sumer and Randall Roane Jr as well. All of them belong to the same generation.

We find Spencer Roane (Line 317) a small distance from Horance Roane – and a greater distance away from the central Essex Roane group (Randall, Sumer, Charles, Baylor, etc). Marriage and death records show that Spencer and Horace are brothers. Dicey Roane (Line 318) is their mother. Edy is Spencer’s wife and mother of his children Mary and Franklin (Baby John is apparently Nelly Roane’s son). Nelly, Francis and Lindsey are Spencer and Horace’s siblings. While it eventually became clear how this household were related to each other – their relationship to other Roane family groups remains a matter of speculation.

Catherine Roane (Line 349), like Divie and William Roane) is a live-in servant. Her relationship to neighbouring Roanes is unknown.

Sally Roane (Line 366) lives at a great distance from the majority of African American Roanes. She is a contemporary, in terms of age, of Randall Jr, Absalom, Baylor and Charles Roane. In all likelihood she is a Roane by marriage and not birth. Marriage and death records haven’t surfaced for her children. So, at this point, without her husband’s name, their kinship to other Roane’s is impossible to determine.

James Roane (Line 395) and William Roane (Line 399) are living with their respective grandparents. In the case of James, all that can be determined is that his mother was a Sale. William’s mother was a Gardiner. Like Sally and Catherine, they live at a great distance from the core Roane family group. Their relationship to this group, and to George Henry Roane, is unknown. Perhaps they are the children of some unknown first cousins of George Henry Roane.

Further away still is Nelson Roane (Line 495). Born in 1810, he would be of George Henry Roane’s generation. Is he a first cousin or a lost brother?

The last African American Roane family group in Essex County, VA is that of Philip Roane (Line 510) with his son, General Roane (Line 509). Philip is contemporary with Absalom, Baylor, Campbell, Randall Jr and Charles Roane, etc. That’s all that can be said of his for the time being.

Plenty of names…so what does it all mean?

So I’m left with an older generation of Roanes, which includes Toby, George, Spencer, Nelson and Randall Sr whose relationship to one another is unclear. Are they brothers or cousins? And how do they relate to my great-great-great Grandfather George Henry Roane? Some may be George Henry Roane’s brothers while others might be cousins. These are questions that hopefully the Richard A Roane family bible can answer (if the original can ever be located), or a yet-to-be accessed death record or Plain View plantation records (wherever they are!).

The temptation is to force a connection. That is something I try very hard not to do. Every time I have forced a family connection where there’s been an information vacuum…an official record eventually turns up to show that forced connection was wrong. So I’ve learned to be patient – although that isn’t easy sometimes! The simple fact remains that until the names of the parents for this older generation become known, my hypotheses have to remain educated guesses.

One of the exciting aspects of this genealogy adventure is slowly –and at times, painstakingly – putting the pieces to the jigsaw together. I have hypothesis a-plenty. But the chance discovery of a marriage record, a birth record or a death record online can be enough of a piece to put quite a few fragmented bits of information into context.  Somewhere out there is a piece of the jigsaw which will bit a few of these family groups into an overall context. Relationships to each other will be made clear. In the meantime, I have my habit of returning to the information again and again in the hope that some spark of inspiration will give me some new insight into the family groups and the means by which they share kinship.

And we’re not quite finished with this census record just yet. In Part 1 of this post series, I mentioned the aspect of community. Take another look at the Census return for Essex County…and then take a look at the census return for Henrico County (click this link to access the post which contains that census return). See any last names that are similar?

The last post in this series will go over how to recognise relationships between extended family members united through marriage within a community.

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