The Stephen Townsend Family

I’m taking a brief side trip today, based on the report of Laura Denman Booth (as last posted) about stopping to visit, stay for awhile, with her relatives in Illinois outside Chicago.  This was the Stephen and Ann Denman Townsend family.

When I read that portion of Laura’s memoir and figured out who the family had to be, I went looking on the Bureau of Land Management website to see if I could find them buying land in Illinois and, voila!, there they were.  By looking for original patents, which are the first sale by the federal government to an individual, I found Stephen Townsend purchasing 4 pieces of land in township 41N in Dekalb County, Illinois, between September 1845 and December 1850.  He ended up with 160 acres, buying 40 acres at a time.  Townships were squares, approximately 6 miles on a side, divided into 36 sections one mile on a side.  This article on describes the Illinois system.  When Stephen had purchased his 4 parcels he had the equivalent of a quarter section, spanning 2 different sections.  This map shows the location of the first quarter of a quarter he purchased:  Townsend, Stephen - 1845 purchase IL

A biographical sketch of the Townsends contained in a book titled Past and Present of Dekalb County, found on, recorded that most of the Townsends migrated to Dekalb County in 1840.  Since both Stephen and his father Joshua Townsend were enumerated in Neversink, Sullivan, New York for the 1840 federal population census, they must have left after June 1, 1840.  Stephen’s brother Charles was said to have gone first, in 1837.  (Charles is found in the 1840 census in Illinois with a wife and young daughter.)  In 1840 Stephen and his wife Ann and their 5 children, along with father Joshua and mother Phebe, headed West.  They traveled in wagons pulled by teams and the trip is said to have taken several weeks, given slow speeds and often-poor roads.  Thus, Laura’s description of them as being pioneers and as having experienced the difficulties of taming new land rings true.

What isn’t clear yet is what drew them to move when they did and to where they did.  Certainly the federal government was willing to sell some of its land.  In 1830 Congress had passed a Pre-emption Act which granted settlers the right to purchase at $1.25 per acre 160 acres of public land which they have cultivated for at least 12 months (protecting squatters to some extent but also setting a price and amount of land).  This, with the opening of the Erie Canal, opened the Illinois priarie lands to easier access.  A map of the land cover of Dekalb County in the early days seems to show that the Townsends found rich bottom-land to buy, which supported their agricultural efforts.

This is a family I wish I knew more about.  It seems that they settled into Dekalb County, Illinois and contributed to their communities.  If there are any Townsend/Denman relatives who know additional details, I would love to hear from you!

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September Genealogy To-Do

As I begin this post it continues to be hot and humid and very, very dry in the North East of the US.  I’ve had a vacation and come back with a summer cold.  I did little or nothing of what I thought I would do on my family history projects in August.  That all said:

I’m starting September with 2 goals, both of which are time-limited by external factors.

1.  I will figure out what I might be able to find in Washington DC at the NARA and the DAR Research Library.  I will also find out the details of what I can expect at the DAR Library, hours, availability of records, scanning files, costs, etc.  Judy and I have already scheduled our flights to DC, so I have to do this before I go.  Otherwise I take the chance of wasting some valuable research time in the Archives and the Research Library.  An expensive waste!

2.  My second goal, noted before during this summer, is to produce the graphic of a new family tree that is being made formal or official in October in the family with a wedding.  Since the wedding is the beginning of October and I want to print this tree for the couple before that, I *have* to finish it.

Between these two things and the rest of life that goes on, I will be happy to actually accomplish the 2.  Time speeds up and I slow down with age.

Posted in Miscellaneous

A Pioneer Story: Pioneer Days, Part 1, the Move West Begins

I’m returning to the memoir written by Laura Denman Booth in her later years, that covered her early life in Ohio and then her married life and moves West starting in the mid-1850s.  I was listening to a history podcast, on my commute a month or so ago, which was interviewing an author of a book about his present-day trip on the Oregon Trail.  This discussion reminded me that I had not completed Laura Denman Booth’s memoir and that the last half or more of it was actually all about her family’s migration across the West in the early days.

To set the scene: Laura Denman married Joseph W. Booth on November 7 1854, presumably at her parents’ home.  She noted that they were married by Professor Munrow with about 40 friends and relatives present.  As she remembered at the end of Part I of her memories: “Our honey-moon was enjoyed in fitting up our cozy little home in Columbus, where we spent one year of happiness before entering upon our pioneer life” noting that the following chapters of her writing would give the reader some idea of what they faced and endured as they made their way “toward the setting sun.”.  This is the part of Laura’s memoir that justifies her title of A Pioneer’s Story.

By the Fall of 1855 land fever had gripped many in Ohio (as well as many other places), and Joseph and Laura started looking into moving West.  Although Joseph would have liked to go to Kansas, it was very unsettled and dangerous at that time, due to the struggles growing in the country to make slavery legal there.  As Laura described it, “John Brown was stirring up the people on the subject on slavery  and consequently great excitement prevailed, especially as the immigrants to the new territory came from both sections of the country, the North and the South.”  Because of the pleadings of friends not to choose to go to Kansas, the young couple decided to investigate Iowa as an option.  The northern and western parts of Iowa were still wilderness and it was “a mammoth undertaking to emigrate from Ohio to Iowa” given the possibilities for travel but they persisted and left on “a bright October day”.

Although Laura didn’t say explicitly in her memoir, it seems very likely that the first legs of their travels were by rail.  She also didn’t say anything about what furnishings and possessions they took with them from Ohio.  By 1855 the railroads had developed into a very usable form of transportation at least in the East and as far West as Chicago.  The young couple said goodbye to his family members in Columbus and then visited some of hers “near Cleveland” (I assume it was her parents and some of her siblings) before leaving for Chicago.  There they visited an old college friend of Laura’s briefly and then her aunt and uncle Townsend in Sycamore Illinois.

None of these people were named in the memoir but my research shows me that the aunt and uncle were Ann Denman Townsend and her husband Stephen Townsend.  The Townsends who had migrated West from the Neversink, New York, “knew something of the pioneer life…having many years before made the journey by wagons…to the wilds of Illinois”.  This family was now said to be “living in prosperity, surrounded by the comforts and luxuries of life.  They were reaping the reward of their courage and foresight in coming to this new country when land was cheap and purchasing from the government.”   By 1855 the Stephen Townsend owned more than 100 acres in DeKalb County, Illinois about 50 miles to the west of Chicago.  I discovered 4 land patents for Stephen Townsend from between 1845 and 1850 on the Bureau of Land Management website.

It is with her aunt and uncle that we will leave Laura at this point.  As she described, it was at the suggestion of these relatives that “my husband was induced to leave me to enjoy a more extended visit while he went to spy out the land and make such a location for a home as he thought suitable.”

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August Genealogy To-Do

Well, the family reunion in July came and went, and was a great time.  There is new information and there are new pictures to integrate into the family tree.  The bonus is that I re-connected with a cousin who is very interested in the family genealogy, and we have a day planned to get together to share files, pictures, information, etc.  What fun!

The newest family tree is coming along nicely, and I have found some good additional information, but it didn’t get quite finalized.  How surprised am I?!  Not!  However, in August that will have to happen, and I need to push on the parents to get pictures to go with the people.  I’m already developing a list for each side, and think I’ll try to make them into checkbox lists for ease of following what I have and get from them.  There is a shower coming up for the couple, and that may allow me to move this project forward.

One of my goals, to start on in August, is to continue indexing for familysearch.  I joined the 3-day marathon in July and enjoyed getting reacquainted with the process even though I didn’t get much done.  I still find using my 25-minute timer and goals a useful strategy and I’m going to try to commit myself to doing one 25-minute period on 3 days a week.  This won’t happen the 2 weeks we are on vacation, but I can work to do it the rest of the month.

Since I have a genealogy play-day planned with our local cousin for a couple of weeks from now, I will also be spending time pulling together the information and documents I want to take to share.  That whould give me plenty to work on for August!

I’ll see you in September!

Posted in Bits and Pieces

William Boorman, Wheelwright of Staplehurst

This is an exact (insofar as I can make it and with many thanks to cousin Claudia for her help) transcription of the last will and testament of William Boorman.  It was written the 6th of February 1819 and the handwritten version was not always easy to read.  In addition, given the time it was written. some of the spelling and writing includes such anachronisms as “fs” where there is a double-s in a word, or “ff” for a capital F.  Punctuation was also done differently than we would today.  With these caveats, here is the will as it was recorded:

Left margin: William Boorman. 9.

This is the Last Will and Testament of me

William Boorman of Staplehurst in the county of Kent Wheelwright made

this sixth day of ffebruary in the year of our Lord 1819 ffirst I constitute and

appoint my wife Ann Boorman John Love of Wick ffarm in the parish of

Headcorn in the said County ffarmer and Jefore Chainey of Staplehurst aforesaid

ffarmer joint Executors of this my Will and I direct my said Executors in the first

place out of my personal Estate and Effects to pay all my just Debts which I

shall owe at the time of my decease and also my ffuneral Testamentary and

other expenses incident to the execution of this my will and I give to my said

Wife the Sum of ffive pounds to be paid to her by my said Executors in three

Calendar months next after my decease and I give and bequeath to my said

Wife the use and enjoyment of all my household Goods and ffurniture plate

Linen and China during her life also I give to my said Wife the Interest &

Dividends and annual produce of all the Residue of my Monies and Securities

for Money Goods Chattels Estates and Effects whatsoever and wheresoever for

her own use and benefit during the term of her natural life and from and

immediately after the decease of my said Wife I give and bequeath to my

Sons William Boorman David Boorman and Thomas Boorman the Sum

of ffive pounds each and no more they having already had a considerable

share of my property also I give and bequeath to my Daughter Ann Denman

Wife of William Denman now in North America the Sum of Thirty pounds

to be paid by my said Executors in twelve Calendar months next after the

decease of my said Wife and it is my particular wish and desire that my Son

Edward Boorman who now has the half part of my businefs of a Wheelwright

should take the whole of the same at the decease of my said Wife or sooner

if she shall be disposed to relinquish the same I do hereby direct my said

Executors to put off my half part of my said businefs to my said Son Edward

but upon such terms as my said Executors would put off the same to any &

indifferent person also I give to each of my Executors the Sum of ffive pounds

for their trouble in the execution of this my Will over and above all reasonable

charges and expenses which they shall incur in the execution thereof and

as to the remainder of my Goods Chattels monies and securities for money debts due

to me and personal Estate and Effects I direct my said Executors after the decease

of my said Wife to divide the same into six equal parts or shares and pay

and divide five equal sixth parts or shares thereof unto and amongst my

five Children next hereinafter named in manner following that is to say

one equal sixth part of such residue unto my Daughter the said Anne

Denman one other sixth part thereof to my Daughter Susanna Tamkin

the Widow of William Tamkin one other sixth part thereof to my Daughter

Jane Terry the Wife of William Terry and ^one other sixth part thereof to my Son

Edward Boorman and one other sixth part thereof to my Daughter Elizabeth

Boorman and to pay and divide the remaining sixth part thereof equally

between Sarah Boorman and John Boorman the two Children of my late

Brother ^Son John Boorman deceased to be paid to them as they ^shall respectively arrive

at the age of twenty one years and I do hereby direct that my said Executors

shall not be answerable or accountable for any lofs which may happen of

my said Estate and Effects or any part thereof by bad or insufficient Security

or otherwise provided such lofs be not occasioned by their or either of their

wilful neglect or mismanagement In Witnefs whereof I the said William

Boorman the Testator have to this my last Will and Testament contained in

two sheets of paper set my hand and seal that is to say my hand to the first

sheet and my hand and seal to this last sheet thereof the day and year first

above written. Wm Boorman [initials LS surround by a circle] Signed Sealed published and Declared by

the said William Boorman the Testator as and for his last Will and Testament

in the presence of us who have subscribed our names as witnefses. Jas Ottaway

Staplehurst # Jas Muddle Clerk to Mr. Ottaway://.

Proved at London 10th July 1824 before the Judge by the oaths of

Ann Boorman Widow the Relict John Love and Jefry Chainey the Executors

to whom admon was granted being first sworn (by Comon) duly to administer.//.

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