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Home: Surnames: Benthall Family Genealogy Forum

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Re: Benthall Family in Madison Co., TN
Posted by: Rev. Matt Underwood Date: July 26, 2000 at 08:04:53
In Reply to: Re: Benthall Family in Madison Co., TN by Elizabeth of 169

Dear Elizabeth,

Thank you for your reply. I wish I could tell you more about the direct offspring of Alexander and Rhoda.

As to their marriage date, I would believe it to be more reliable than the Census dates, especially in the certain parts of the South.

People were rather notorious for giving estimated ages for themselves in the Censuses, due to not being able to calculate very fast in front of the Census taker. They would sometimes just say, "Well, we're both in our fifties," and the Census taker, depending on his diligence, would sometimes either fill in numbers or suggest ages "Y'mean like 52, 53?" "Yeah that's about right." Also, there were some notable Census takers who were notorious for being very sloppy in their enumerations, name spelling, and so forth. You'll come across some censuses which have nothing but initials for the people's names. They weren't supposed to do this, and it drives most genealogist bananas. That is, unless they are sure that this is their family, then they might pick up some middle initials for some names.

Also, many people didn't figure it was any of the government's "danged" business about personal stuff like that, and the Census takers were sometimes viewed as pests. Quick guesstimates were made. Sometimes a Census taker would be a county official of some sort, and sometimes the Census taker would be held in local contempt for this if he was unliked or thought of as unfair in his local dealings. Consequently, the Census record suffered for it. Census demographics were almost unknown to the average person, and most Censuses were viewed strictly as getting a head count for voting and district boundary purposes. Details like exact ages were sometimes treated with casual carelessness.

Probably in most Census enumerations, people were happy to cooperate or were at least reasonably cooperative. But in certain areas and eras of political tension---often involving issues which were fought over in the Civil War---sometimes being a Census taker was plum dangerous.

Two of my Benthall ancestors, Jesse BENTHALL and his wife Sabrina (HEWITT), are enumerated in every Madison Co., TN, Census between 1850 and 1880, with differing year dates that sometimes are widely divergent. This is not simply due to one census being taken in June and one in September, but more likely to quick and poorly thought out answers. I believe that they may have both been illiterate, at least for part of their lives. But we have independent family information which places their births both in the year 1802 in Northampton Co., NC.

The marriage copyist which typed the Sumner County Marriage Records may have made an error, but the best way to know is to contact the Circuit Clerks office and have them look up the original, and see if it falls inbetween other 1809 dates or if it is in the midst of 1819 dates. If I'm not mistaken, the typed and published abstracts are also in order of date, not alphabetically.

Also, I think your Rhoda (and thus by mere inference your Alexander's date can be calculated here) is listed as the second child of four in her father Laben's "Deed of Gifts" made in 1798, the supposed year of her birth according to the 1850 Census. Truly I suppose it could be, and it could be that Laben didn't list his children in birth order. However, two major patterns can usually be seen in most Wills or documents which were effectively the same as a Will, such as this one. The first pattern is to name all the sons first, then the daughters. Occasionally this will also just happen to follow the actual birth order, but not likely. Also, an oldest son may be omitted because he's already been given his inheritance or other reason, and may be mentioned at the end or in a distinct capacity to set him apart. The other pattern is to list the children in birth order, which would usually have daughters intermixed with sons.

I believe this last one may be the case for Laben. I'll have to check. If so, then Rhoda---having two younger siblings in 1798---was probably born in at least 1796 and probably in 1794 or 95. That would make her 14 or 15 when married, which is still very young, but not ridiculously young. If Alexander was, in fact, about the same age or a year older as the Census may hint at---regardless of its other inacurracies---then that would maybe make him 15 or 16. Again, not unreasonable in those days.

As to your Enos B. Carter, the only thing I could tell you is that it sounds like you're on the right track. Does he live next door or near by Alex and Rhoda? What about in the earlier Censuses? Are there any land or property transactions between them, or between Enos and any of his siblings? Does Enos have any involvement in settling Alexander's estate? I honestly never got far enough into these Carters to pursue anything. My primary concern at the time was to fit all the Benthalls together until each male died out or each daughter married and acquired a different surname. Either way, by gradual elimination of each one being accounted for, I had a better idea of who belonged to who.

As far as the name Enos goes in relation to Carters, perhaps you could work it the other way around and find out if any other older Carter relatives were named Enos, or if they married anyone by that name. By this you may eliminate any and all other possible sources for the deriving of the name Enos B. for a Carter. Then again, he could have been named after a family friend or public figure. Either way that is not really proof, but it does build a stronger circumstantial case to help you feel sure that you are not just chasing rabbits.

I don't have any listing that I know of for the children of Alexander and Rhoda Benthall Carter. However, I will check more thoroughly. Meanwhile, I'll try to get back to you on some of Rhoda's aunts, ancles and cousins who married Carters. It may help give you some leads back into North Carolina.

My wife Kara has the interesting distinction of having both of her grandmothers with the maiden name Carter, but no known relation, though it may in fact go back to Virginia or someplace. I have traced one line back to William Carter (b: 1811, I believe) who m: Malinda Jane Dodson, both from Middle Tennessee, and I have the Dodsons back several generations more. I think I have a possible family that William might belong to, maybe in East Tennessee (a Henry Carter?---I'll check). Her other Carter ancestors are through southern Indiana and Kentucky, back to a James Carter (b: 1800 - Virginia). I also believe that I had a possible family for this James to fit in.

The last suggestion that I can think of, is that there may be other Benthall researchers who have this family tracked down already. There were two or three that I knew of who were once working on the Benthalls and at least two of those in Sumner Co. and the Cumberland Settlements of upper Middle Tennessee. I'll try to get you their addresses that they had about 6 or 7 years ago. There also is a Dave Benthal on this GenForum who seems to have also amassed a large database on the Benthalls and their allied families. I haven't yet corresponded with him, but I intend to as soon as I can. Have you contacted him?

Well, I'm sorry I couldn't be of more help to you, but I'll keep lookin through my large folder on Sumner County Benthalls and see what I can find. Look for a posting here on this forum or look for an E-mail from me in the next few days, hopefully.

In Christ,


P.S.-I am descended from other Sumner County people on my mother's side, including SUMMERS and LILLY, and a bit more to the East of there I would include WITCHER, HARPER, KIRBY, and KEY. On my dad's mother's side (Eddyville and Grand Rivers, KY people), I am descended from people in Sumner and Robertson Counties and nearby areas, namely, BROWNING and BENTON. Just North into Logan Co. and Warren Co., KY, I am descended from McPHERSON. My wife Kara has some BARNETT ancstors that I believe came through the upper Middle Tennessee area as well. There are, I'm sure, a few other surnames that I've omitted.

Any connections?


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