The second episode of “Who Do You Think You Are” revealed a sad story of her father’s parents and grandparents – he never knew his mother and Christina Applegate set out to try to discover why that happened. Following the show, I joined a Hang Out on Air to discuss the show; one of the topics of discussion was the fact that every family has those stories of people whose life path appears to be less than stellar or honorable. Since that has occasionally been the case in my genealogical search, I decided to record some of those stories.
Two or three years ago I made contact with three distant cousins within the Sanford line – my great-grandmother Mary ‘Mollie’ Monroe Sanford Welch’s parents. In discussing Mollie’s parents, Asa and Martha Jean Sanford, this cousin told me that Asa had kept a mistress for many years and had several children by this woman. When I questioned him about how he knew this information (since most of my life’s experience would tell me these stories are most frequently never mentioned and die with the people involved), he told me it was common knowledge within the family. He told me the Sanford clan has a family reunion every year and the mistress and her children and their descendants participate openly with the whole family – everyone knows!
After I got beyond the fact of the story, I wanted to see if I could verify the story and then I wanted to try to interpret the why of the story as well as the impact of the story. Here’s what I have found to date:
Although Asa was born in Alabama, he migrated to Lincoln County, Tennessee sometime in the middle 1840s where, on April 19, 1846, he married one of the younger daughters of Edmund Jean – Sarah, who was about 15 years old.
There is also an 1850 marriage certificate for Asa showing he married an older sister of Sarah, Martha Ann:
With the higher mortality rates, it is assumed that Sarah has died, possibly in childbirth, and Asa has married a second time. The 1850 census would tend to support that conclusion. Their marriage took place on May 30, 1850 and the 1850 census was effective June 1, 1850, although the enumerator visit didn’t take place until September 11, 1850, three months after the effective date. The people claimed to be in residence as of June 1 were Asa, Martha and two of her siblings, David and Elizabeth.
The 1860 census shows Asa (spelled Asah) and Martha with five children born during the past decade: Sarah (9), William R. (7), Jacob L. (5), Mary M. (3 – my great-grandmother) and John W. (1):
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