It’s not surprising that Samuel Chamblin shouild appear in the 19th century U.S. census under many guises, but I didn’t expect him to appear under an alias during his lifetime as well.
Moving back through time, census records for my great-great-grandfather, Samuel Chamblin, husband of Mercy Winsor, seemed to begin with the 1885 U.S. population schedule where he appeared, age 35, with his wife and three children (ages 14, 10, 8) living in Grasshopper Township, Kansas. He did not appear in any earlier census – at least not under the name Samuel Chamblin.
In 1880, he is listed as Samuel Clin, age 32. The indexer dutifully recorded what appears to be a hasty census-taker’s abbreviation. At least he fully recorded the name below, that of wife, Mercy Chamblin. The family of five (three children of the correct names and ages 9, 8, and 4) were again living in Grasshopper Township, Kansas.
Ten years prior, in 1870, Samuel would have been 20 or 22, depending on which age date was more accurate, however, Samuel Chamblin or Samuel Clin, does not appear in the census in the state of Kansas, Illinois, or Missouri. The children would not have been born in 1870, and a search for Mercy Chamblin finds only Charles Chamblin, age 29, living with Mary Chamblin, age 20, with 8-year old Edward Galen and 24-year-old William Chamblin. Is this the missing Samuel Chamblin?
Another census search reveals a young Charles Chamblin, age 5, living with his parents, Samuel and Carolin Chamblin, in 1850 and with Samuel and Caroline Chambler in 1860 in Illinois. Among the many brothers and sisters is an older brother William Chamblin (age 16) and sister (age 13). A little math shows that this Mary Chamblin could not be the same Mary Chamblin living in Kansas in 1870, as the Illinois Mary would then be 33 years old. William, however, could be represented as 24; perhaps he was working when the census-taker called and Mary did not know his exact age.
Could “Charles” actually be “Samuel” and “Mary” actually be “Mercy”? Perhaps the best supporting evidence is the fact that the household is found living directly next-door to the Henry M. Winsor family, parents and siblings of my ancestor, Mercy Winsor Chamblin. But why is Mercy’s husband here called “Charles” and in later census reports named as “Samuel”?
One possibility is apparent in the 1880 and 1885 census reports where Samuel/Charles and Mercy/Mary name their son as “Norman Chamblin.” Family photographs and letters bear witness to the name of this son as “Samuel N. Chamblin” not Norman, although the initial may indicate that this was his middle name. Perhaps family naming traditions held that the youngest son was named after his father but used a middle name while the father was living.
Death records from the Missouri State Archives show that Samuel Chamberlain (yet another name variant) died in Kansas City, Missouri on 18 September 1889. This naming theory might be proven if records were discovered showing that Sam [Junior] began using the name Samuel rather than Norman about this time.
In addition, the eldest Samuel Chamblin, born about 1813 in Virginia, appears in the Illinois census with his wife and family in 1850 and in 1860 and on the IRS Tax Assessment lists for 1864 and 1865. He and his wife, Caroline, are not found in the 1870 census. More research in newspaper obituaries and state death records may result in finding his death record. Could Samuel/Charles name use indicate a year of death for his own father?
Another, less innocent reason why Charles may have started using the name Samuel might have to do with his military service record. In 1864 a Charles Chamblin, living in Leavenworth, Kansas enlisted as a Private in the Union Army. He deserted his regiment one year and seven months later. Could Charles have been avoiding the Army?
Further research may reveal the true identity of Samuel/Charles Chamblin, but for now, I am building a growing list of aliases to use in the search:
- Surnames: Clin, Chamblin, Chamberlain, Chambler
- Given Names: Charles/Samuel, Norman/Samuel, Mary/Mercy