Saturday, April 23, 2016

Finding a Family for Elizabeth: Part 3, 1850 and 1860 Census


This is an ongoing series on establishing the family of Elizabeth Disney who married William Adkins of Anderson County, Tennessee. If you missed them, you can read Part 1 and Part 2.

After examining Nancy's death certificate, I began searching the census records for William Adkins with  a wife named Betsy and daughters Nancy and Martha. I didn't have the names of other siblings for Nancy and Martha, so I started with the 1860 census, which was the first one that would have both of the girls enumerated with their parents.

1860 Census

In 1860, the Adkins family was enumerated at Wallace's Crossroads, Anderson, Tennessee1:
  • William Adkins, 29, M, farmer, real estate $450, personal estate $450, cannot read or write
  • Elizabeth Adkins, 26, F, cannot read or write
  • Nancy, 12, F
  • Mary, 10, F
  • Katharine, 8, F
  • Martha, 6, F
  • James, 4, M
  • John, 2, M
  • one not named, 3 months, F
All members of this household were born in Tennessee. The family lives next door to Elisha and Nancy Disney (ages 65 & 58), and three houses away from Elisha and Nancy Disney (ages 22 & 25).

William and Elizabeth Adkins, 1860 census, Anderson County, Tennessee

1850 Census

In 1850, the William and Elizabeth are in Subdivision 16, Anderson, Tennessee2:

  • William Adkins, 22, M, Farmer, Tenn
  • Elizabeth Adkins, 24, F, Tennessee, cannot read
  • Mary E, 1, F, Tennessee
This time they are living next door to Elijah and Kindness Dizney, both age 28.

William and Elizabeth Adkins, 1850, Anderson County, Tennessee


  • The 1860 census implies Nancy was born about 1848, while her death certificate implies she was born in 1855, providing conflicting dates. Since she is not enumerated in the 1850 census, but her sister Mary is, I believe whoever the informant was for the 1860 census mixed up the ages of Mary and Nancy.
  • Based on ages in the 1860 census, William should have been 19 and Elizabeth 16 in the 1850 census. This clearly was not the case, but all of the other William Adkins in this area of Tennessee are too young and still living at home, so this is the only family that fits. Age inconsistencies across census records are not uncommon.
  • At this time it was easy to speculate that Elizabeth Disney Adkins was related to the Disney families that she lived next to in 1850 and 1860. The elder Elisha and Nancy are candidates to be her parents, while the younger Elisha and Elijah are possibly brothers. Numerous family trees at Ancestry certainly listed these relationships, but no sources were provided. I wanted more evidence to connect my Elizabeth "Betsy" Jane Disney Adkins with Elisha and Nancy.

  1. 1850 U.S. census, Anderson County, Tennessee, population schedule, Subdivision 16, p. 30B, dwelling 423, family 423, William Adkins; digital images, ( : accessed 10 Mar 2015); citing National Archives and Records Administration microfilm M432, roll 869.
  2. 1860 U.S. census, Anderson County, Tennessee, population schedule, Wallaces Crossroads, p. 59, dwelling 845, family 845, William Adkins; digital images, Ancestry ( : accessed 11 Mar 2015); citing National Archives and Records Administration microfilm M653, roll 1239. 

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