The United States and Canada lured large numbers of immigrants from Europe with offers of incredibly inexpensive land. Consequently, most of our immigrant ancestors made their fortunes as successful farmers. Even if they had other professions, people of the 18th and 19th centuries always aspired to be farmers, which was widely regarded as the most noble profession and even as a source of moral virtue.
As our ancestor's families outgrew the available land to farm, they repeatedly migrated west into new territories, where they could acquire more inexpensive land. For example, over a period of 300 years, the Simpsons migrated constantly in search of new land, progressing through Scotland, Ireland, Delaware, Ohio, Iowa, Nebraska and, at last, Saskatchewan.
Below is a chart the occupations of 5 generations of Kate's and my family. Almost all began as farmers, even much of the family of my New York mother-in-law at the bottom, although they were the first to become urbanites. We would have to go back another 2 generations to see farmers among their number.
The last to leave the farm were my Hungarian-Canadian grandparents, who were part of a very prosperous farming community around Kipling, Saskatchewan. They originally had other professions in Hungary, such as bootmaking, but, in Canada, they were exceedingly prosperous as farmers. However, within a single generation, almost all of their families also left the farm for the city.
In a previous post, I boldly stated that the parents of Levi Ferguson, my wife's 3rd great grandfather, were Robert Ferguson and Rachel Falls.
However, if you were to research Levi Ferguson, born 1826 in Rhea County, Tennessee, you would find that everyone else on the Internet states that Levi's parents are Aaron Ferguson and Catherine Beck. Well, they're wrong and I'm right. Ok, I'm not absolutely sure that I'm right but I am very sure that everyone else is wrong. Am I delusional?
Their mistake seems to go back before 1998, as I can find a post regarding Levi on Rootsweb. And it is not an unreasonable mistake. There is some reason to believe there is a close relationship between Levi and Aaron on the 1865 census, which shows Aaron, Catherine and a horde of their children and grandchildren temporarily relocating from Johnson County, Missouri to Douglas County, Kansas, where Levi lived. This was likely in response to Order 11, which temporarily depopulated the Missouri counties adjacent to Kansas. However, there are too many inconsistencies for that relationship to be parent-child.
1) Aaron Ferguson and Catherine Beck moved from Rhea County to Missouri before 1830, meaning a 3 or 4 year-old Levi would have relocated there as well. Yet there is evidence that Levi continue to live in Rhea County: a marriage to Rachel Collins and service in the 1st Tennessee Mounted Infantry. Also, on the 1850 census and afterwards, Levi's 2 eldest children are noted as being born in Tennessee in 1848 and 1849.
It is possible that Levi could have returned to Rhea County as a young man and done these things but it makes more sense that he lived there all along.
Meanwhile, Aaron's 1st cousin, Robert Ferguson, and Rachel Falls remained in Rhea County. If Levi was their son, it would make perfect sense for him to marry and have children there.
2) The 1930 census of Aaron Ferguson and Catherine Beck state only 1 male under 5. Yet we know for certain that Samuel Huston Ferguson was born to Aaron and Catherine in 1829? Where is Levi's mark on this census? It could have been a mistake but at the very least this is negative evidence that Levi was their son.
Robert Ferguson and Rachel Falls also have a single mark for a male less than 5 years of age. However, we have no evidence that they had any other son in that time period so it could have certainly been Levi.
3) When Rachel Collins died, Levi's daughter, Maggie, went to live with Brinkley and Athelia Hornsby in Johnson County, Missouri. Levi's son, Robert, eventually went to live with a Jas Ferguson, who lived near the Hornsby family.
Why didn’t the children go live with Aaron and Catherine or with a sibling? Aaron and Catherine were both alive and lived only about 15 miles from Hornsby, as did many of their grown children, Levi’s supposed siblings. If Levi needed a home for their children, they would have been the obvious choice.
Instead the children went to live with the Hornsby family. Brinkley Hornsby was the widow of Esther Falls, whose mother was Mary Jane Ferguson. Through this relation, Esther would have been a 2nd cousin once removed, or 3rd cousin of Levi, if he was the son of Aaron. Jas Ferguson was the son of Robert Ferguson and Rachel Falls and would be Levi’s 2nd cousin. It makes little sense that Levi would turn to distant cousins instead of his close family, who was in very close proximity.
However, if Levi were the son of Robert and Rachel then Esther would have been Rachel’s 1st cousin on the Fall side and 2nd cousin on the Ferguson side. Both women would have been about the same age and lived together in Rhea County. James Ferguson would be Levi’s brother. Further, by about the time Rachel Collins died, Levi’s mother would have been already dead and his father living in Tennessee, and possibly not well, considering he died before 1860. This would have been the closest family in Missouri to which he could have turned.
4) Aaron and Catherine and family went to Douglas County after the Civil War, true. However, so did James and his family. If Aaron and Catherine relocating is evidence of a relationship so is James relocating there. As far as evidence goes, this is a wash.
Aaron was the cousin to Robert and the two men were close. On Robert and Rachel's marriage bond, Aaron was the bondsman, which meant that he was willing to put up his property as security on behalf of his cousin. Also, James did live in Johnson County as did Levi's children for many years, so it makes sense that Aaron and Levi were close enough that Aaron would find shelter in Douglas County after Order 11.
None of this yet is unarguable proof that Robert Ferguson and Rachel Falls were Levi's parents but the case for them is reasonably sound. However, to argue that Aaron and Catherine were Levi's parents would involve several unlikely, hard-to-defend scenarios. Unless I can find some as-of-yet unrevealed evidence, I'll stick with Robert and Rachel.