52 Ancestors #11 – Sarah A. Farquhar

Finding maiden names of female ancestors is oftentimes a challenge and for my great-great-grandmother, Sarah A. Farquhar, that was definitely true.

To begin with, all I had to go on was the name of my paternal grandmother’s father, William Thomas Welch, who was born in January 1860. I had only been able to find him in censuses after he married in 1879. All searches prior to that netted nothing definitive and only one I thought was possible: Wm T. Welch, four months old. The parents of this Wm. T. Welch were Robert and Sarah Welch and he had three older siblings: Bashuba J. (10), James A. (8), and Mary E (4). Unfortunately, none of those people showed up in any census after the 1860 census except for William Thomas.1850 censusIn the 1850 census, Sarah was listed with the middle initial of ‘A.’, was 26 years old, born about 1834 in Alabama and could not read or write, as was the case for Robert. Due to the ages of the members of the household, it is assumed they are a husband, wife and four children; the 1850 through 1870 censuses did not record the relationships of people in a household. The ‘Do’ (stands for ditto) in the column beside Robert indicates he was a farmer and the numbers next to it list their monetary value at $600 property value and $500 personal property value.

Some states began maintaining birth, death and marriage records at an early time while others either started later or do not make them available outside of paying for an official copy of such records. Other states’ records suffered a huge toll when courthouses were burned during the Civil War. Alabama is one of those states affected by Civil War destruction; the Fayette County courthouse has been burned twice. No records of the marriage of Robert and Sarah Welch has been found; if it had been available, my search for Sarah’s maiden name would have been relatively simple.

With no census records showing up after that 1860 one, the probability was that Robert Welch had died between 1860 and 1870 with the Civil War a possible cause; however, I did not find Civil War records for him. I kept searching but found nothing additional for either Robert or Sarah Welch or any of the Welch children. I knew it was likely that Sarah had remarried but without finding a marriage record I didn’t have a surname to search for and Sarah is way too common a given name to search. To compound the problem, even the children didn’t show up, although Bashuba or some spelling variation should have been findable even if James, Mary and William or Thomas were also very common given names.

When Kay and I made a trip to Fayette County, Alabama in 2010, we found an estate file for a Robert Welch who had, in fact, died prior to December 1861; since it listed his wife as Sarah, and their four children: Jane (10), James Alexander (8), Mary Isabell (4) and William Thomas (2), I was pretty confident I had found that Robert Welch. The administrator for the estate was a James Farquhar. With the youngest child of the 1850 census, Wm T., now being identified in the estate papers as William Thomas, I was reasonably confident I had found the correct family for my great-grandfather. Yet that confidence level didn’t iinclude a maiden name for Sarah.

Then one day I was looking at the before and after census pages for an ancestor and saw an entry with the given name of Basheba. It was an 1880 census for Basheba Farquhar and her husband, James [I had forgotten the name of the above-mentioned administrator and this did not trigger any memory recall]. The name Basheba seemed too much of a coincidence to not follow the trail to see if there might be a connection. The first step was to see if I could find James and Basheba in the 1850 census, prior to Sarah’s marriage, and to learn if they might have had a daughter of appropriate age whose name was Sarah. I found their 1850 census and they did have a daughter named Sarah who was 17 in 1850 compared to Sarah Welch who was 26 in 1860.

I then found James and Basheba in the 1860 and 1870 censuses and in looking at the families surrounding the Farquhar family in the 1870 census, I noted the family next to them was James Jackson and his wife Sarah Jackson (35 or born about 1835) and their four children, named Jane Jackson (18), James Jackson (16), Isabel Jackson (12) and Thomas Jackson (10). There were my answers: Sarah had married James Jackson sometime between 1862 and 1870 and the census enumerator had used the Jackson surname for the whole family, which explained why I had been unable to find either my great-grandfather or any of his siblings [Bashuba was using her middle name of Jane now]. 1870 censusWith the Jackson surname, I was able to search for Sarah in 1880 and found her easily. This time Sarah was listed as 45 and once again was widowed [the tick mark just to the left of her occupation of ‘Keeping house.’ She was still listed as being unable to read or write, was again listed as being born in Alabama. Her father was born in North Carolina and her mother in Alabama. Living in the household with her was her daughter, Bell Jackson 22, and her son, James 27. The tick marks indicate Bell was single and James was widowed. She also had a grandchild  named William (5) living in the household. The listing of William directly below Bell might indicate he was her child. It would have been more logical if James had been the boy’s father to have listed William below James’ name.1880 censusI didn’t find a census record for Sarah in 1900, which might indicate she had died or that she had remarried. A marriage record didn’t immediately surface, nor did a death record or a burial record.

Then again, one day as I was looking at a 1910 census record and noted a Sanford surname [another ancestor – one connected to William Thomas’ wife] at the top of the page. I flipped back a page to see which family he belonged to and I saw he was living with Jahue and Isabel Maddox. I wondered about the relationship between the Sanford and the Maddox families and decided to search to see if Isabel might be a Sanford; additionally, I did have a missing Isabel Welch. When I found the 1900 census for Jahue and Isabel, Jahue’s mother-in-law was living with them; her name was Sara. This time the surname was Edmondson. 1900 censusFurther support to determine that Sara A. Edmondson was the same as Sarah A. Farquhar, Sarah Welch and Sarah Jackson and that Mary Isabella Welch was the same person as Bell Jackson, Isabell Maddox and Mary I. Maddox. This time I was able to find a marriage record for Sarah Jackson to David Edmonson that took place on April 8, 1884, and one for a J.A. Maddox and Mary T. Welch that took place November 12, 1882. In the 1800s, all documents were handwritten and T’s, I’s, and J’s look a great deal alike, which is why the marriage record was transcribed as Mary T. With those combined records, I am confident I have, once again, found a record that lets me know something of the name, age, and relationships of my great-great-grandmother. This record gives her birth as September 1832, her age as 67 and as widowed for the third time.

The 1900 census also adds a new piece of information – she was the mother of five children, four of whom were still living in June 1900. None of the previous records listed a fifth child. With the ages of her children listed in 1860 of 8, 6, 2 and 4 months [with those age relationships remaining consistent in each of the census records], it is probable that her child who had died was one born between 1855 and 1857 who should have filled that missing age spot of 4 at the time of the 1860 census. It would, of course, also be possible she had a child with James Jackson who only lived a short time.

I have not found any other records for Sarah after the 1900 census. She was only 67 in the 1900 census so it is possible another marriage and surname could be responsible for not finding her. It is also possible she died between 1900 and 1910. No marriage record for a Sarah Edmondson has surfaced and no death record in that name has yet been found.

Her parents, grandparents, first husband and several siblings are buried in the Mount Pleasant Baptist Church Cemetery in Fayette County. This cemetery is located adjacent to her family homestead. She is likely buried there but no headstone is visible and no cemetery transcription has listed anyone with the name of Sarah.

I have no family stories, no pictures of her and no specific birth date, death date or burial location. All I know, in summary – my great-great-grandmother, Sarah A. Farquhar, was born in September 1832 to James and Basheba McGuire Farquhar, was married three times [Robert Welch, James Jackson and David Edmondson] and widowed three times. She had five children, four of whom lived to adulthood – Basheba Jane Welch Anderson, James Alexander Welch, Mary Isabella Welch Maddox and William Thomas Welch. She was a grandmother to 18  grandchildren.


This blog was prepared as a part of Amy Johnson Crow’s  No Story Too Small 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks Challenge.