Rewriting the Biography: Sarah SIMS in the U.S. Federal Census

Rewriting the Biography is an ongoing theme for the rough draft notes of a new/updated biography of my 5th great-grandfather James SIMS (1754-1845) of Nicholas County.

Sarah SIMS was the third child of James SIMS and his second wife Elizabeth COTTON. The order of birth cannot be proven as noted in my previous post on her sister Margaret.

The 1810 U.S. Federal Census

Sarah’s year of birth is not known and I estimate it at between 1804-1806 due to the fact that she married in 1825. In 1810 she fit into the under 10 years of age category placing her birth at between 1801-1810. She was found in her father’s household with her mother and siblings James, Margaret, and Mildred as well as five slaves.

1810 U.S. Federal Census of Kanawha County, Virginia including the entry for James Simms (top line)

1810 U.S. Federal Census 1
Kanawha County, (West) Virginia
Kanawha
Sheet 207A, Line 23
Name: James Simms
Free White Persons – Males – Under 10: 1 (James Jr.)
Free White Persons – Males – 45 and over: 1 (James)
Free White Persons – Females – Under 10: 3 (Margaret, Sarah, and Mildred)
Free White Persons – Females – 26 thru 44: 1 (Elizabeth)
Numbers of Slaves: 5 (Isaac, Black Jude, Black Fanny, Robert, and unknown)
Number of Household Members Under 16: 4
Number of Household Members Over 25: 2
Number of Household Members: 11

The 1820 U.S. Federal Census

As mentioned in the previous post for Margaret SIMS, the two oldest daughters’ of James SIMS from his second marriage to Elizabeth COTTON did not live long enough to be included on the 1850 census which would give a more accurate estimate for their births. Also discussed in the previous post was the possible unreliability of the 1820 census due to its appearance. Light and dark writing suggest it was worked over after the original information was gathered. By 1820 the household of James SIMS had grown to include four daughters and two sons. Sarah’s oldest brother was not living at home. There were more slaves in the household than family members.

1820 U.S. Federal Census of Nicholas County, Virginia for James Sims (highlighted)

1820 U.S. Federal Census 2
Nicholas County, (West) Virginia
Page No. 204A, Sheet 152, Line 19
Enumeration Date: 7 August 1820
Name: James Sims
Free White Persons – Males – Under 10: 2 (Dryden and Charles)
Free White Persons – Males – 45 and over: 1 (James)
Free White Persons – Females – Under 10: 2 (Mildred and Jane)
Free White Persons – Females – 10 thru 15: 2 (Margaret and Sarah)
Free White Persons – Females – 26 thru 44: 1 (Elizabeth)
Slaves – Males – Under 14: 2
Slaves – Males – 14 thru 25: 2 (Isaac and Robert)
Slaves – Females – Under 14: 3
Slaves – Females – 14 thru 25: 2 (Black Jude and Black Fanny)
Number of Persons – Engaged in Agriculture: 3
Free White Persons – Under 16: 6
Free White Persons – Over 25: 2
Total Free White Persons: 8
Total Slaves: 9
Total All Persons – White, Slaves, Colored, Other: 17

The 1830 U.S. Federal Census

Sarah gave birth to an illegitimate son Milton SIMS about 1824. The following year on 6 September 1825 she married Peyton FOSTER, a widower, in Nicholas County.

Peyton’s first wife Nancy JOHNSON, daughter of my 5th great-grandparents William JOHNSON and Amy NELSON, had given him two sons per the 1820 census. She may have also given birth to another son after the 1820 census and before her death. This is reflected in there being two males in the 5 thru 9 years age group in 1830. One of these was Sarah’s son Milton SIMS while the other could have been a son from Peyton’s previous marriage. The only known child of Peyton FOSTER and Nancy JOHNSON was Johnson FOSTER, whose given name was his mother’s maiden name. As an aside, Nancy was a sister of my 4th great-grandfather William JOHNSON Jr. who married Nancy Ann SIMS, Sarah’s half-sister.

Sarah and Peyton had a daughter Mariah born about 1828. There was also an unknown male in the household. We will get to him later.

1830 U.S. Federal Census of Nicholas County, Virginia for Peyton Foster

1830 U.S. Federal Census3
Nicholas County, (West) Virginia
Name: Peyton Foster
Free White Persons – Males – Under 5: 2 (marked out and not included in total)
Free White Persons – Males – 5 thru 9: 2 (Sarah’s son Milton and unknown)
Free White Persons – Males – 10 thru 14: 1 (son Johnson from Peyton’s first marriage)
Free White Persons – Males – 20 thru 29: 2 (marked out and not included in total)
Free White Persons – Males – 30 thru 39: 2 (Peyton Foster and unknown)
Free White Persons – Females – Under 5: 1 (Mariah)
Free White Persons – Females – 20 thru 29: 1 (Sarah)
Free White Persons – Under 20: 4
Free White Persons – 20 thru 49: 5
Total Free White Persons: 7
Total – All Persons (Free White, Slaves, Free Colored): 7
Note: There were two columns on the census which were marked out and not included in the total.

The 1840 U.S. Federal Census

No trace of Peyton FOSTER was found in the 1840 census. Was he deceased? Was Sarah living with her children in the household of another relative? I suspect both Peyton and Sarah were deceased by 1840. But can this be proven?

Peyton FOSTER did not leave a will in Nicholas or Fayette counties which might include the names of his children or which might infer his wife Sarah pre-deceased him. It is known that she died before 1848 when the partition suit was filed for James SIMS’ land and her children were named:

…also the children of Sarah Foster, formerly Sarah Sims, to-wit, Jordan Hickson and Mariah his wife; James Foster, Peyton Foster, Charles Foster, and Milton Sims, the last three but one are infants…

There are several factors which make finding the FOSTER children in 1840 difficult. The most obvious being the pre-1850 census did not include names of persons other than the head of household. Changing county border lines also cause a problem. Sarah lived in an area of Nicholas County which became Fayette County in 1831 and family was on both sides of the county line. The size of the family Sarah came from also makes it difficult to figure out who her children may have been living with in 1840.

Milton SIMS and Charles FOSTER

Milton SIMS was the one son who was no longer an infant in 1848. James, Peyton, and Charles were infants in 1848. From later census years it is known that James was born about 1830, Peyton about 1833, and Charles about 1837. There are three households in 1840 in which I believe Sarah’s three infant sons may be found. As I have already worked through the pre-1850 census listings for the SIMS families I have an idea of which families have people living in the household who did not fit into the family group.

Sarah’s father James SIMS was still living in 1840 and had two unknown young males in his home. It is likely they were the 3 years old Charles and one of the two older sons, Milton SIMS about 15 or James about 9. As the age range is 10 thru 14, I am leaning more to this being Milton.

1840 U.S. Federal Census of Nicholas County, Virginia for James Sims Sr. (highlighted)

1840 U.S. Federal Census4
Nicholas County, Virginia
Enumeration Date: 1 June 1840
Name: James Sims Sr.
Free White Persons – Males – Under 5: 1 (poss. Charles, son of Sarah)
Free White Persons – Males – 10 thru 14: 1 (poss. Milton or James, sons of Sarah)
Free White Persons – Males – 15 thru 19: 1 (George W.)
Free White Persons – Males – 80 thru 89: 1 (James)
Free White Persons – Females – 50 thru 59: 1 (Elizabeth)
Slaves – Males – 10 thru 23: 1 (unknown)
Persons Employed in Agriculture: 4
Free White Persons – Under 20: 3
Total Free White Persons: 5
Total Slaves: 1
Total All Persons – Free White, Free Colored, Slaves: 6

Peyton FOSTER

I suspect young Peyton who was about 7 was living with Cyrus WEDGE as he was with him in 1850 as will be seen below. Cyrus WEDGE is a piece of the puzzle which appears to fit due to his location and the persons in his 1850 household however how he fits into the story of the FOSTER and SIMS family is still a mystery.

1840 U.S. Federal Census of Fayette County, Virginia for Cyrus Wedge

1840 U.S. Federal Census5
Fayette County, (West) Virginia
Page 147, Line
Name: Cyrus Wedge
Free White Persons – Males – 5 thru 9: 1 (poss. Peyton, son of Sarah)
Free White Persons – Males – 50 thru 59: 1 (Cyrus)
Free White Persons – Females – 30 thru 39: 1 (Jane)
Persons Employed in Agriculture: 1
No. White Persons over 20 Who Cannot Read and Write: 1
Free White Persons – Under 20: 1
Free White Persons – 20 thru 49: 1
Total Free White Persons: 3
Total All Persons – Free White, Free Colored, Slaves: 3

Mariah and James FOSTER

Dryden SIMS, the 7th child of James SIMS and his second wife, had in his household in 1840 three children who did not fit into his known family group. Dryden will be discussed in a later post.

In order to follow my reasoning, the reader needs to know he married in 1837 and had only a son Alfred by 1840. As no other full siblings of Sarah had individuals in their household who would fit, I would like to deduce that the children in Dryden’s household may be Sarah’s son James about 9 and her daughter Mariah about 13.

This leaves a young girl 5 thru 9 in the Dryden SIMS household who could have been a child of Sarah but who would have died by 1848 as no other child is mentioned in the partition suit. These unknown persons in Dryden’s household were not seen with him in 1850.

1840 U.S. Federal Census of Nicholas County, Virginia for Dryden Sims

1840 U.S. Federal Census6
Nicholas County, (West) Virginia
Sheet 9, Line 30
Enumeration Date: 1 June 1840
Name: Dryden Sims
Free White Persons – Males – Under 5: 1 (Alfred)
Free White Persons – Males – 5 thru 9: 1 (not a son, could this be Sarah’s son James?)
Free White Persons – Males – 20 thru 29: 1 (Dryden)
Free White Persons – Females – 5 thru 9: 1 (not a daughter)
Free White Persons – Females – 10 thru 14: 1 (not a daughter, could this be Sarah’s daughter Mariah?)
Free White Persons – Females – 15 thru 19: 1 (Rebecca)
Persons Employed in Agriculture: 1
Free White Persons – Under 20: 5
Free White Persons – 20 thru 49: 1
Total Free White Persons: 6
Total All Persons – Free White, Free Colored, Slaves: 6

The 1850 U.S. Federal Census

All of Sarah’s five children were found in the 1850 census.

Mariah FOSTER

Mariah had married Jordan HUDSON in 1846. His name was incorrectly seen (or transcribed) as HICKSON in the partition suit. Jordan and Mariah went to Washington County, Indiana, sometime before the 1850 census. Three of Jordan’s siblings were with them in 1850. Jordan and Mariah did not have children at this time.

1850 U.S. Federal Census of Washington Township, Washington County, Indiana for Jordan Hudson household

1850 U.S. Federal Census7
Washington County, Indiana
Washington Township
Enumerated the 17th day of September 1850
Sheet No. 335A, Lines 5-9, HH #195-205
Jordan Hudson 28 male Farmer born in Virginia
Maria Hudson 22 female born in Virginia
Calvin B. Hudson 23 male Farmer born in Virginia
Creptha Hudson 21 female born in Virginia
Rebecca Hudson 12 female born in Virginia

Milton SIMS

Milton SIMS, Sarah’s son from a relationship prior to her marriage to Peyton FOSTER, had married Selina L. STEELE in 1847. They had a son Samuel B. born about 1849. His wife Selina may have brought a child into the marriage. Victoria STEELE age 9 was living with them. She was too young to be her sister (as will be seen in the section following the 1850 census) but could have been a daughter or niece.

1850 U.S. Federal Census of Fayette County, Virginia for Milton Sims, Cyrus Wedge with James and Peyton Foster, and Johnson Foster (half-brother)

1850 U.S. Federal Census8
Fayette County, Virginia
The 14th District
Enumerated on the 1st day of August 1850
Sheet No. 342A, Lines 25-28, HH #158-158
Milton Sims 26 M Farmer Virginia
S. L. Sims 31 F Virginia
Victoria Steele 9 F Virginia
Saml B. Sims 1 M Virginia

In the household following Milton’s, we find Cyrus WEDGE, the mystery man who was born in Vermont per the 1850 census or in Connecticut per the 1860 and 1870 census. Cyrus married Anna PETTIT in Kanawha County in 1824. Was he widowed by 1830 and was he the other adult male in the household of Peyton FOSTER in 1830? Cyrus married Jane HALEY in 1838 in Fayette County. The age range for the female in the 1840 census for Cyrus WEDGE (above) does not fit the age seen (below) for his wife Jane. The first name of the wife in 1850 matches the name on the 1838 marriage record. No other marriage has been found for him after 1840 and before 1850.

James and Peyton FOSTER

The FOSTER boys, James and Peyton, are in the WEDGE household in 1850 as well as a third child, Octavia YOUNG. Octavia would marry John HUGHES in 1860 and they would be living next door to the WEDGE couple in 1860. John was discovered to be the son of Matthew HUGHES and Margaret SIMS (Sarah’s sister) in my last post.

1850 U.S. Federal Census9 (See image above)
Fayette County, Virginia
The 14th District
Enumerated on the 1st day of August 1850
Sheet No. 342A, Lines 29-33, HH #159-159
Cyrus Wedge 60 M Farmer Vermont
Jane Wedge 66 F Ireland cannot read & write
James Foster 19 M Laborer Virginia
Peyton Foster 17 M Virginia
Octava Young 11 F Virginia

Johnson FOSTER (step-son)

Johnson FOSTER, Sarah’s step-son remained close to his half-brothers. He married Mary “Polly” HUGHES, daughter of Thomas HUGHES Jr. and Mary “Polly” SIMS (half-sister of Sarah) before 1844. He was found in the household following Cyrus WEDGE in 1850. Johnson would die in 1855 and his widow Mary would remain on the land along with the newlyweds Octavia YOUNG and John HUGHES in 1860.

1850 U.S. Federal Census10 (See image above)
The 14th District
Fayette County, Virginia
Enumerated on the 1st day of August 1850
Sheet No. 342A, Lines 34-39, HH #160-160
Johnson Foster 33 M Farmer Virginia
Mary Foster 26 F Virginia cannot read & write
Thomas Foster 6 M Virginia
James Foster 5 M Virginia
Johnson Foster 2 M Virginia
Mary E. Foster 2/12 F Virginia

Charles FOSTER

The youngest son of Sarah SIMS and Peyton FOSTER, Charles was living with his uncle Charles SIMS. He was the 6th child of James SIMS and his second wife and will be discussed in a later post.

1850 U.S. Federal Census of Fayette County, Virginia for Charles Sims household including Charles Foster

1850 U.S. Federal Census11
Fayette County, Virginia
The 14th District
Sheets 343A+B, Lines 40-42 and 1-4, HH #174-174
Charles Sims 37 M Farmer $500 Virginia
Manerva J. Sims 26 F Virginia
Mary J. Sims 7 F Virginia
E. K. Sims 5 F Virginia
E. L. Sims 3 F Virginia
Lydia Sims 1/12 F Virginia
Charles Foster 13 M Virginia

After The 1850 U.S. Federal Census

Milton SIMS and his wife Selina L. STEELE had three more sons by 1860. Victoria STEELE was still in the household. Milton was widowed after the 1870 census and remarried in 1876 to Mary Salinas WOOD, a daughter of my 3rd great-grandparents Elijah WOOD and Rachel HONAKER. She was widowed twice and had McGRAW and ARBAUGH children. Milton died after the 1880 census and did not have children with his second wife who wrote her last will and testament in 1897. It was recorded in 1901 following her death.

Mariah FOSTER returned with her husband Jordan HUDSON to Fayette County soon after the 1850 census. They had two children born in 1851 and 1854 before Jordan died, likely between 1854-1857. Mariah, seen as widowed in the marriage register, then married her first cousin Alfred Hansford SIMS, son of Dryden SIMS and Rebecca BAYS, on 5 January 1858 in Fayette. They had seven children by 1874 before Alfred disappeared. Mariah was listed as widowed in 1880, missed in 1900 and 1910, and found with her youngest daughter in 1920. She was enumerated as widowed and 95 years old in 1920. A death record has not been found. What happened to her second husband A. H. SIMS? The answer will have to wait until Dryden SIMS’ census records are analyzed.

James FOSTER married a young lady named Eliza Jane before 1853. They had four sons in the 1850s and three daughters in the 1860s. James and Eliza Jane likely died by 1880 when the children were found spread around in different households. Birth, marriage, and deaths records of the children were searched for any record with the maiden name of Eliza Jane. Only one death record was found with the name of the mother, Eliza Jane SEAL. This is a very unusual surname for the area. It’s possible she was Eliza Jane STEELE, seen in 1850 age 14 with the family of Selina L. STEELE. In 1965 Alexander Napoleon Rippetoe STEELE (91 years old at the time), recounted to Allen STEELE and Kitty Steele BARRERA that his father Jeffrey Oliver STEELE Jr. was the youngest child of Jeffrey Oliver STEELE Sr., father of Selina. Jeffrey Jr. was 18 on the 1850 census. Could this mean Victoria was a grandchild of one of the older STEELE children?

Peyton FOSTER married Margaret HARRAH, daughter of Daniel HARRAH and Rachel Ann SMITH, in 1855. Their entry in the marriage register of Fayette County has her maiden name spelled O’HARROW. They had five known children. They named one son Cyrus, after Cyrus WEDGE and a daughter Rachel Ann after Margaret’s mother. Margaret died before 1880 and Peyton was last seen in 1900 in Kanawha County with his son Cyrus’ family.

Charles FOSTER married Antonietta E. COPELAND on 25 December 1857 in Fayette County. They had five known children born between 1859 and 1872. Charles died sometime after 1872 and before 1877. His widow remarried on 27 December 1877 to William KINCAID. By 1880 she was seen as widowed. Antonietta lived with her youngest daughter Mary Ann in 1920 and died in August that year at the age of 83.

Remaining to be analyzed are the census listings of two daughters and three sons of James SIMS and Elizabeth COTTON. All five lived at least until the 1880 census which will make them a bit easier and more interesting to study, research, and write about. Next up is Mildred “Milly” SIMS, the wife of Joel Dixon SETTLE Jr.

© 2018, copyright Cathy Meder-Dempsey. All rights reserved.

Rewriting the Biography: Sarah Sims in the U.S. Federal Census

  1. 1810 U.S. Federal Census, (index and images), Ancestry, citing Third Census of the United States, 1810 population schedule, National Archives and Records Administration, Washington D.C. NARA microfilm publication M252, 71 rolls, FHL 0181429, roll 69, image 405, Virginia, Kanawha, Kanawha, page 129, sheet 207A, line 23, James Simms (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 6 February 2018). 
  2. 1820 U.S. Federal Census, (index and images), Ancestry, citing Fourth Census of the United States, 1820 population schedule, National Archives and Records Administration, Washington D.C., NARA microfilm publication M33, 142 rolls, NARA Roll M33_130, image 388, Virginia, Nicholas, page 204A, line 19, James Sims. (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 21 February 2018). 
  3. 1830 U.S. Federal Census, (index and images), Ancestry, citing Fifth Census of the United States, 1830 population schedule, National Archives and Records Administration, Washington D.C. NARA microfilm publication M19, 201 rolls, FHL Film 0029677, NARA Roll M19_198, Virginia, Nicholas, image 11+12 of 42, page 177A+B, line 24, Peyton Foster. (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 3 March 2018). 
  4. 1840 U.S. Federal Census, (index and images), Ancestry, citing Sixth Census of the United States, 1840 population schedule, National Archives and Records Administration, Washington D.C., NARA microfilm publication M704, 580 rolls, FHL Film 0029690, NARA Roll M704_571, Virginia, Nicholas, image 26+27 of 67, page 10, line 8, James Sims. ‎(http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 5 March 2018). 
  5. Ibid., NARA microfilm publication M704, 580 rolls, FHL Film 0029685, NARA Roll M704_555, Virginia, Fayette, images 17+18 of 54, page 147A+B, line 22, Cyrus Wedge. ‎(http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 5 March 2018). 
  6. Ibid., NARA microfilm publication M704, 580 rolls, FHL Film 0029690, NARA Roll M704_571, Virginia, Nicholas, image 24+25 of 67, page 9, line 30, Dryden Sims. ‎(http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 5 March 2018). 
  7. 1850 U.S. Federal Census, (index and images), Ancestry, citing Seventh Census of the United States, 1850 population schedule, National Archives and Records Administration,Washington D.C., NARA microfilm publication M432, 1009 rolls, Roll: M432_179; Images: 498; Indiana, Wahington, Washington, image 31 of 52, Sheet No. 335A, Lines 5-9, HH #195-205, Jordan Hudson household. (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 8 July 2018). 
  8. Ibid., NARA microfilm publication M432, 1009 rolls, Roll: M432_943; Image: 289; Virginia, Fayette, District 14, image 25 of 91, Sheet No. 342A, Lines 25-28, HH #158-158, Milton Sims household. “.” (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 11 July 2018). 
  9. Ibid., Lines 29-33, HH #159-159, Cyrus Wedge. (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 3 July 2018). 
  10. Ibid., Lines 34-39, HH #160-160, Johnson Foster household. (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 11 July 2018). 
  11. 1850 U.S. Cesnsus, Virginia, Fayette, District 14, image 27+28 of 91, Sheets 343A+B, Lines 40-42 and 1-4, HH #174-174, Charles Sims household. (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 3 July 2018). 

Author: Cathy Meder-Dempsey

When I’m not doing genealogy and blogging, I spend time riding my racing bike with my husband through the wonderful Luxembourg countryside.

11 thoughts on “Rewriting the Biography: Sarah SIMS in the U.S. Federal Census”

  1. Cathy,
    There are many folks out there that don’t realize what it really takes to follow an ancestor that’s pre-1850. You really have to dig into those early censuses and pull out every morsel you can. Luckily, with some ancestors, their surnames aren’t usually the stumbling blocks (not that it can’t happen with more common surnames). Also, I love using the “neighbor next door” approach (when you can), and I say “when you can” due to some of the early censuses were rewritten and put into alphabetical order, which totally negates using that approach. As always, nice job!
    Brian

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Brian. I have gotten a few comments from people who say they don’t even try to make sense of them. I think they are missing out on so many questions they could ask about their ancestors. You are right about the rewritten census sheets during the pre-1850 years. 😦 I love it when I find one which was written by visit and then see the same order ten years later. Makes it so much easier.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I love all the “Rewriting the Biography” posts that you are doing. This family has lots of loose ends to trace, but you are doing a great job.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Those poor children—to have lost both parents so young and to be living with different families. I love your logic here. It all makes sense, yet it must be frustrating to know that you can not prove it with certainty.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. When so many of your ancestors have lived in the same area since 1800 you get a much clearer picture of their lives through the interaction with their neighbors who are or will become family over time. I found it very unusual that my 2nd great-grandfather and his siblings (this is my Dempsey line) were “farmed out” after the death of his father when I first began researching the West Virginia half of my tree. But working with the collateral families I am seeing this was not an unusual practice. There were well off folk in the area but some of the families I am related to were barely making it from one year to the next. They also had poor houses but none of the children I’ve researched ended up there. So even when it is sad that they lost their parents, the unity in the community and their willingness to take in the children is something to be happy about. It felt good to read you thought my logic in the situation made sense. Kind of makes up for the frustrations of not being able to prove it. Thank you, Amy.

      Liked by 1 person

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