I’ve been focusing on finding tax records for Polly Stephens. When did she appear in Russell County and who was she listed near? Can I determine the family groups and find out when migration to other counties began?

So I’ve been going through the microfilms and scanning appropriate documents. Not the most exciting information on a tax record…numbers for acres of land (she had none), cattle (she had 2), mules (none), carriages (none), children….wait, what? Does that word really say “children”? Why yes it does! Why do they care about the number of children on a tax record? What else do those teeny tiny words say?

Well, in 1838, it’s handwritten and it says “Male children”, “Females” and “Total”. Hmm…Polly has 1 female child.

So, what do I know about Polly’s children?  In the 1850 census, Polly (Mary) is listed with 3 children: Elizabeth – born @1830, Lucy – born in 1842 and Andy – born @1844. Other than the 1838 tax list that I found, each year asks for the number of children between certain ages.  For example:

  • beginning in 1840, the list asks for the number of children between 7 & 17.
  • In 1844, this changed to the number of children between 5 & 16.
  • In 1853, it asks for the number of children between 6 & 18.

All of the information that I see for Polly matches well – EXCEPT for an unaccounted for child. From the years 1840-1845, Polly indicates that she has 2 children of the correct ages. Assuming that Elizabeth is one of these children, she would be 10 years old in 1840, but neither of the other children would have been born yet. Even if the birth dates that I have are off by a couple of years, Lucy would not be any where near 7 years old by 1840. I suppose this extra child might not have been her own child, but I’ve never seen anything indicating that Polly had the resources to care for extra children. In fact, I’m not convinced that Polly lived on her own around this time. The tax records indicate that she owned nothing other than a couple of cows.

So this brings 2 questions to mind. What records can I find that might help me find this child? How can I find out what happened to him/her? If the information in the tax listings is accurate, than this child was born between 1829 and 1831. If the child was born in 1829, they would have been 17 in 1846, a year in which I cannot find Polly in the tax list. A 17 year old is old enough to get married, so perhaps I can find a marriage record to give me a hint. If the child was born in 1831, they would have been 17 years old in 1848, the year in which Polly indicates that she has 1 child between 5 & 16. The child could still be living with Polly, but not show up in the tax count. By 1850, the child is not living with Polly, so I will look at potential marriages between 1846 and 1850.

Up until now, I’ve just gathered tax records as a way of keeping track where an ancestor was living. But now, I’ll be using my magnifying glass and will examine those records more closely!