Monday, April 16, 2018

AmericaGen Chapter 4: When did Sarah Smith Marry Laban Price?

AmericaGen Study Group
Chapter 4 Homework 
Marceline Beem

Reference: Greenwood, Val D. “Evidence.” In The Researcher’s Guide to American Genealogy, 4th ed., 79-98-78. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing, 2017.

This chapter discusses the various classifications of evidence used in genealogy research, as well as the need to resolve conflicting evidence in order to meet the Genealogical Proof Standard (GPS).  It covers a lot of ground, but is well worth reading, especially if you are unfamiliar with how to identify and analyze evidence.  

Laban and Sarah Price moved from South Carolina to Putnam County, Florida before the 1860 census was taken.  Establishing a marriage date for Laban and Sarah is challenging because South Carolina did not require marriages to be registered at the courthouse until 1911.  No marriage record for Laban and Sarah has been found in South Carolina, so they either did not register at the courthouse, or the record no longer exists.

Laban served in the Florida 9thInfantry during the Civil War, and Sarah filed for a widow’s pension in 1903.  To  qualify for new benefits established in 1909 she gave sworn testimony that she married Laban Price “under the name of Sarah Ann Smith” in Marion County, South Carolina on 26 April 1848.1

This testimony is direct evidence given by the bride, making it a slam dunk, right? Um, not so fast, my friend! This testimony was given to establish Sarah’s right to a widow’s pension, and money can be a powerful motivator to give incorrect facts. Or maybe, 60 years later, she couldn’t remember the exact date and gave an approximate date. Or maybe the person recording the testimony wrote in the wrong date. In the absence of publicly available records to establish the marriage date, what other records corroborate the claim?

Sarah Smith Price, enumerated in her father's household in the 1850 census

Laban and Sarah should be enumerated together in the 1850 census, probably in South Carolina. Instead, we find Sarah enumerated in her father’s household under the name Sarah Smith.2Laban and their oldest daughter, Margaretann, are not listed as part of the household. To date, neither Laban nor Margaretann have been located in the 1850 census.

Why is Sarah enumerated with her father, under the Smith surname? Where are Laban and Margaretann? This census record conflicts with Sarah’s 1909 testimony, and cannot be ignored. Even though the testimony is direct evidence, the research is not complete – and thus the research question is not answered - because this conflict needs to be resolved in order to meet the Genealogical Proof Standard.  


1Florida Confederate Pension Applications, Application Number A00698 (1903), Laban Price; Florida Memory, digital images ( accessed 16 April 16, 2018).

21850 U.S. Census, population schedule, Marion County, South Carolina, page 51B, dwelling 770, household 774, James D. Smith; digital images, Ancestry ( accessed 16 April 2018).

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