Absalom Wollis Croft Collins, a 42-year-old farmer, of Lindley Township, Mercer County, Missouri, started a new census page. Absalom was earning $4 a day from the U.S. government to ride about his township to collect information about his neighbors and record it on pre-printed census forms. He had begun his appointed task on June 1st and today was the 5th, as he penned in the families of the Oxfords, Craigs, Booths, Stills, Cains, Lushbaughs, Boyds, Elliots, Cramers, and Nicholsons.
As of June 5th, William, 50, and Telitha, 43, Nicholson lived on their farm with their 5 children: Telitha Elizabeth, 15, William Thomas, 12, Charles Beverly, 7, Arminda Belle, 5, and Jeanettie, 2. What Absalom did not record is that Telitha was about 4 months pregnant with another child, who would be born November 12, 1880: Leonard Isaiah Nicholson, my wife's great-grandfather.
The Nicholsons had lived in this area since at least 1870, where they lived a few miles further south, in Harrison Township, and had just started their family. Tracing William Nicholson further back, however, was a challenge. I've posted about this previously, but I've never laid out all the evidence, which I will do now.
It is possible to identify William Nicholson on the following 3 census records because of the names of his wife, Telitha, and children. However, the data on the records is inconsistent, which is fairly typical for census records.
Since his eldest child, Telitha, was born in Missouri about 1865, it makes sense to look for records in Missouri about that time, starting in Mercer County. It doesn't take long to find an 1863 Civil War draft record for a Wm. Nicholson, born about 1831 in North Carolina, married, in Lindley County, Mercer County, Missouri.
This record states that William is exempt from service due to a physical disability. However, it does not specify what disability he may have suffered from or much other information about William.
Unfortunately, I was unable to find any record of a William Nicholson in Mercer County on the 1860 U.S. Census. Looking further abroad, in Indiana and North Carolina, located several men with the name William Nicholson but nothing in the records directly suggested that any were our William Nicholson.
It is time to look at his neighbors.
Next door to William and Telitha on the 1870 U.S. Census lived Ezekiel and Mary Ellen Sexton. The census states Ezekiel was 27 years old and born in Indiana, while Mary Ellen was 48 and born in North Carolina. I believe Ezekiel's and William's ages both experienced some copy errors and that in 1870 Ezekiel was really 47, not 27, and William was really 40, not 30.
On the 1860 U.S. Census, an E.R. and Mary E Sexton with several children of the same names as on the 1870 U.S. Census lived Harrison Township, Mercer County. E.R. Sexton is age 37, which is consistent with the 1870 census if you assume a copy error as I did, and Mary E is 38. However, there is no trace of any Nicholsons near them.
Searching on the 1850 U.S. Census, we find the Sexton family in Jackson Township, Sullivan County, Indiana. Living almost next door to them is a Nicholson family, all born in North Carolina:
This William Nicholson, born about 1831 in North Carolina, looks promising. If this is our William then Charles, Lazarus, William and Sarah are probably relatives, perhaps siblings, and Phoeby may be his mother. Investigating Mary Ellen Sexton some more, the death certificate of her daughter, Nancy Sparks, lists her mother's name as Mary E Nickelson, which suggests that Mary Ellen may be another sibling of William.
When we look for other Nicholsons in Jackson Township, we find this family:
With a Lazarus in this household as well, we could hypothesis that this is a related family. Samuel could be another brother and Lazarus could be his father.
Looking still for more Nicholsons, we find that a Lydia Nicholson married a Samuel House 1850 in Sullivan County. She lives in a neighboring county on the 1850 Census and was recorded as 20 years of age. This may be another relative?
Looking at this area on the 1860 U.S. Census, we find William and Lazarus Sr. gone, a find-a-grave record claims he passed away in 1855, but living next to Lazarus Jr. and Charles Nicholson is another Nicholson family:
There seems to be a strong possibility that John is also related to the family, given the proximity of this family to the others and the similarity of the names with the other Nicholsons, such as Pheba and Lydia.
When we look for Nicholsons on the 1840 U.S. Census, we see the family of Lazarus Nicholson. The 1840 Census only names the head of household, signifying all other members of the household by checkmarks in age and sex based columns.
Adding the names we already have, we can attempt to account for several of those checkmarks.
Charles and Lazarus would provide 2 males in the 10 thru 14 range instead of 1 but this could be an error with age on one of the census. Also, 60-year-old Lazarus from the 1850 Census is a whole 10 years off the Lazarus of the 1840 Census. John is not accounted for here but he would have been 24 and perhaps not living at home.
However, censuses are often not completely accurate and the Nicholsons we find in 1850 largely conform to the counts in 1840 so we can't rule anything out yet.
However, even if this is our William's family, the only evidence we have so far is that Mary Ellen Sexton lived next to William Nicholson in Indiana in 1850 and next to William Nicholson in 1870 in Missouri. The 2 William's are of similar ages, though, and both have reported themselves as being born in North Carolina.
Fortunately, DNA may put the issue to rest. Below, we have four people who claim descent from Lazarus Nicholson, each through a different child.
Comparing their DNA against each other, we have the following matches. I put in the strength of Bill's match with each of them.
Additionally, there are matches with other descendents of Lazarus, Mary Ellen, and Samuel. Given the physical proximity of these Nicholsons and that their descendants form a good DNA network, I feel there is a strong case for suggesting that they are related.
Given one older Nicholson male in the township who shares the name of one of the possible siblings also strongly suggests that he is their father, although the DNA does not yet provide evidence of that. However, Lazarus is definitely worth investigating further.
Looking for Lazarus Nicholson on the 1830 U.S. Census, we find him in Wilkes County, North Carolina:
While there are several children here that I cannot account for, the suggested children all appear to fit within the counts on the census. The ages of Lazarus and Phoeby match the categories here as well.
Also in Wilkes County, we find a 1932 record of an Elizabeth Nicholson marrying Wilborn Squire Kemp. This is interesting because living next to the Nicholsons on both 1860 U.S. censuses is the family of Wilborn and Elizabeth Kemp. This is additional evidence tying together the Lazarus Nicholson of Jackson Township, Sullivan County, Indiana to the Lazarus Nicholson of Wilkes County, North Carolina.
On the 1820 Census, we find him again in Wilkes County:
And again in 1810:
These records place Lazarus and Phoeby back to 1810 in Wilkes County, North Carolina. When we look for additional records regarding them, we find the 1809 marriage record of Lazarus Nicholson and Phoebe Coleman:
At this point, the evidence become thinner. While there is abundant paper and DNA evidence tying the family of Lazarus and Elizabeth to the Coleman family in this area, the Nicholson line is murkier.
Living in Wilkes County at this time are 2 other Nicholson families:
Abel Nicholson appears on the 1800 and 1830 census for this county. Assuming both censuses are accurate, Abel was born between 1771 and 1774. His oldest child appears to have been born as early as 1790, which suggests Abel was born closer to 1771.
Samuel Nicholson appears on the 1830 census, which places his birth year between 1771 and 1780. Interestingly, Samuel has children with the names Lazarus, Lidia, and Samuel.
On the 1800 U.S. Census for Wilkes County, living next door to Abel Nicholson, is an older Samuel Nicholson, who is indicated to have been born earlier than 1755, married to a woman also born earlier than 1755. Additionally, there are 2 males, age 16 to 25, which could be the younger Samuel and Lazarus, along with 3 other male children and 2 other female children.
Wilkes County was formed in 1777 from parts of Surry County, which was formed in 1771 from parts of Rowan County, which was originally a vast territory. There is an August 9th, 1768 record for the marriage of Samuel Nicholson to Lidia Dickhouse.
Perhaps the strongest evidence that this couple are the parents of Lazarus, Samuel, and Abel is the prevalence of the names Samuel and Lidia among their children and grandchildren. However, it could simply be that those names were popular at that time.
Trying to put together the family of Samuel and Lidia is challenging. While Abel and Samuel do not fit any other family, most of the others also fit as the possible children of Abel.
One example is Rebekah Nicholson. Lazarus Nicholson was the bondsman on her December 20th, 1808 marriage bond with Beverly Coleman, the brother of Phoebe Coleman. Less than 3 months later, Beverly was the bondsman on the bond between Lazarus and Phoebe. This seems to suggest that Rebekah may have been Lazarus's sister but she may have also been his niece.
There are some DNA matches which support relationships between Lazarus, Abel, and the younger Samuel. Each of these test takers claim some descent from Samuel Nickelson and Lidia Dickhouse.
However, while these matches may match other descendants of Lazarus, none seem to match each other, denying the relationship a DNA network. Additionally, while I believe Samuel, Abel and Lazarus may be related, the precise nature of the relationship is not known; the paper trail is simply too sketchy to know for certain. For example, Lazarus may be a nephew to these older men, not a brother.
However, while I don't regard this as proven, I believe that the Nicholson line does lead to Samuel Nicholson and Lidia Dickhouse. That this senior Nicholson lived in Wilkes County in 1800 and so many of the younger Nicholsons named their children Samuel and Lidia while being related to each other is too enticing not to strongly consider.
Assuming that Samuel and Lidia are the parents of Lazarus, though, where do we go from here? I have not been able to find a paper trail taking us further. However, many have jumped the Nicholsons from North Carolina back to New Jersey and the Quaker community there. Although there are Nicholsons there, with names such as Samuel and Abel, this feels like a big leap, especially since I haven't yet seen documentary evidence for it. There must be something out there but I haven't yet found yet.
Curiously, though DNA seems to point that way. Bill has many matches with people who claim descent from these New Jersey Nicholsons and other families reportedly on that family tree. It looks very promising. I'll update with more later.
When building my family tree, I do make notes and construct proofs in my head but I rarely write things down. However, I really should write things down.
This is my first attempt at a proof. I suspect it could use more editing and I hope one day to strengthen it with documents that I know are out there... somewhere...
Nelson Simpson Proof