My Huff/Pharis/Carter cousin Barbara challenged me to research 15 families living in close proximity on the 1850 census of Jackson County, Tennessee. This is the third family in the series: Caleb Roberts, his wife Sally Huff, and their children, Simon, Nancy, Nathan, James (Polk), Amy/Anna, and Lucinda. The families enumerated on either side of them are William and Elizabeth (Pharis) Lambert and Samuel and Lucinda (Hardcastle) Huff.
|1850 census, Jackson County TN|
This family is of particular interest to me because Caleb Roberts was the brother of my 2nd great-grandfather Stephen Roberts, and Sally Huff is thought to be the sister of my 2nd great-grandmother Elzina Huff. As I research this family, let’s see if I can find documents that support those conclusions.
First, what information can I cull from the 1850 census? Caleb Roberts is generally given a birth year of 1810. On this census he is age 42, making his birth year about 1808. His occupation is farming. Sarah (Sally) is 34 and has indicated that she cannot read or write. Simon, age 10, has attended school in the past year, but that column is not marked for any of the other children. Nancy is age 9, Nathan is 7, James is 5, Amy is 3, and Lucinda is 8 months. All were born in Tennessee.
Comparing families from census to census is always enlightening and sometimes confusing. Sometimes the names and dates are so different that you wonder if you have the right family. However, once I found the 1840 census for Caleb’s family, it was pretty straightforward. (I almost didn’t find it and wouldn’t have if I hadn’t been scrolling through the District 15 enumeration for Jackson County. Because Caleb’s name was abbreviated as “Robts,” he didn’t show up in a search of the 1840 census for Jackson County.) Caleb’s family in 1840 consisted of 1 male age 20-30, 1 female age 20-30, and 1 male under 5.
|1840 census, Jackson County TN|
By 1860 Caleb and Sally had added two more children to their family and lost two. This time Caleb was 58 and Sally was 44. Simon was 20, Nathan was 16, Polk (James) was 15, Anna (Amy?) was 13. The two additions to the family were Caleb, age 6, and Joshua, age 3. Missing are the oldest daughter, Nancy, and the youngest from the 1850 census, Lucinda. While it appears that Lucinda must have died, I think that Nancy had married and was still living in Jackson County.
A search in Jackson County for a Nancy, born about 1841, turned up one result in District 15 in 1860: Family #114 consisted of Mat J. Anderson, age 26, his wife Nancy D., age 19, and daughter Arcadia, 2 months. In 1870 M.J. Anderson with wife Nancy is again enumerated in District 15, Jackson County, as Family #120. Children enumerated are Aaron B., age 10; A.B. (female), age 8 (Arcadia?); Elizabeth, age 6; William, age 4; and Mat J., age 2. Family #121 is Mat’s father Jubal, age 78. Family #122 is Samuel and Lucinda (Hardcastle) Huff.
|1870 census, Jackson Co. TN,|
Mat & Nancy (Roberts) Anderson
1870 census is one of those ones that make you wonder if you are even talking about the same family. The head of household is L.C., age 60. His wife Sarah is 55—amazing how they get closer in age as the years go by! They are living in District 3. Nathaniel (Nathan?), age 25, and wife Leah, and J.P. (James Polk), age 23, and wife Mary, had both married within the year and were living with the young men’s parents, along with their brother Josiah (Joshua?), age 12. (Nathan married Leah Spurlock, and James Polk married Mary Ann Haley, so this is no doubt the right family, even with the discrepancies in birth dates and names.)
|1870 census, Jackson County TN|
L.C. & Sarah Roberts
The 1880 census shows five related Roberts (enumerated “Roberds”) families living right in a row in District 11. Josiah, age 22, has married Penelope (Hargis), and they have a 1-year-old daughter Dora. Nathan and Leah have two children, Drury and Lee. Living with them is their ne’er-do-well uncle (my 2nd great-grandfather), Stephen Roberts. (Fairly definitive proof that Caleb and Stephen were, in fact, brothers.) Caleb, age 69, and Sarah, age 61, are living alone. Simon, with his wife California, have 5 daughters and 1 son, ranging in age from 13 to 3. James K. (Polk) and Mary also have 6 children, ages 9 to 2 months.
Amazingly enough, Caleb was still living when the 1900 census was taken. He was 90 years old (I guess he finally settled on a birth year of 1810) and resided with his oldest son Simon, still in Jackson County.
Since lack of records and DNA evidence have brought into question the parents of Elzina Huff, I have begun to question everything that has been said about the Huff sisters. Most researchers of the family have accepted the fact that Roberts brothers (Caleb and Stephen) married Huff sisters (Sally and Elzina), but I’ve never found evidence for the common parents of Sally and Elzina, or even the fact that Huff was their last name.
That’s why I was pleased to find the death certificate of Nathan A. Roberts on Family Search, the LDS site. He died on 9 July 1920 at the age of 76. The death certificate lists his parents as Calab Roberts and Sallie Huff.
|Death certificate of Nathan A. Roberts|
Then I found a death certificate for “Joe Sire” Roberts. Surely this is supposed to be Josiah. (You have to love our ancestors, their hillbilly drawls, and lack of spelling skills!) The certificate states that he was born on 3 September 1852 in Jackson County and died 23 April 1943. The informant for the certificate was Cora Roberts, who was a daughter of Josiah Roberts, according to the 1910 census in Jackson Co. On this census Josiah’s wife is not the Penelope of the 1880 census, but a woman named Dona Denson whom he married in 1888. According to Joe Sire’s death certificate, his father was “Kaylep” Roberts and his mother was Sallie Holleman! What the heck?
|Death certificate of Josiah "Joe Sire" Roberts|
Just for the record, I have absolutely no DNA matches with Holleman descendants. My matches with the Huffs have to come from somewhere. For now I’m choosing to believe that Sally Huff was Caleb’s wife and that she and my Elzina had some kind of connection—either as sisters, half-sisters, or even cousins. So, until I find out differently, Elzina was a Huff married to Stephen Roberts, who was definitely the brother of Caleb.
And, you know what? I do have a large DNA match to Brenda, who is a descendant of James K. (Polk) Roberts, son of Caleb and Sally. And I have another large DNA match to Ed, who is a descendant of Nathan A. Roberts, son of Caleb and Sally. Because some of those segments match those of Huff descendants not related to the Roberts, I know that I have Huff DNA. Now if I could just figure out how Elzina got that name.
|James K. "Polk" and Mary Ann (Haley) Roberts|
photo borrowed from my Brenda cousins