Given Name(s) Last Name

From the Ancestry Daily News
  Michael John Neill – 2/20/2003

Traveling the Rhodes Road

Ideally, the genealogist works from the known to the unknown. However, sometimes it is simply not possible. There are times when we have gaps at the beginning and the ending of an ancestor's life and may have knowledge of their life from approximately their marriage until their last child is born. I have several ancestors for whom the first and last twenty years of their life are a mystery.

A typical reason for not knowing anything about an ancestor's early years is not knowing their parents' names. However, there are several reasons why the last decades of an ancestor's life may be a mystery. Frequently in my research, an ancestor will disappear in the last few decades of their life because they have moved in with a child I am unable to locate.

Such is the case with one of my wife's forebears--William Rhodes. The middle years of his life are somewhat known, the beginning and the end are a pretty much a mystery. William Rhodes or Rhodus married Lucretia Jones in Macon County, Missouri, in March of 1860. The marriage record was the first documentation of William's existence. William and his family were easily located in the 1870 Macon County and 1880 Chariton County Missouri federal census. I knew I had the right family as the family structure matched information obtained from other records and family sources. These census entries indicated William was born ca. 1830 in Tennessee. Since I did not have his date of death, I was uncertain if the 1880 enumeration was William's last. However, he should be enumerated by name in 1850 and 1860, even if he is not heading his own household.

William's 1870 and 1880 census entries both indicate a ca.1839 birth date in Tennessee.

I knew that William's wife, Lucretia Matilda Jones died in the 1880s. There is a tombstone for her in the rural Corinth cemetery in Musselfork Township, Chariton County, Missouri. There is no stone for William in the cemetery. It is possible William was buried there in what is now an unmarked grave. However, I was wondering if he were really buried somewhere else. He would have been in his fifties when his wife died. He could have easily have married again or have moved to live near one of his grown children.

1900 — To The Soundex
A family source indicated that some of William's children had migrated to Oklahoma, including a son George. Maybe if I find George, I'll find William lurking nearby. A little searching of the 1900 Soundex for Oklahoma revealed a William Rhodus and a George Rhodus living in Olive Township, Garfield County, Oklahoma in 1900. The greater coincidence is that when the actual census records were viewed the ages and places of birth of the William and George Rhodus in the 1900 Oklahoma census matched exactly the ages and place of birth for father William and son George Rhodus in the 1880 Missouri Census. It seemed like I had located William in 1900. This was significant as it extended what I knew of his lifespan by twenty years. I know need to follow up with records in Garfield County, Oklahoma.

Before 1860?
Locating William in any pre-1860 census records will require initial speculation. Fortunately, the 1850 census enumerates all household members. Without having the name of William's parents, I'll have to perform a broad search.

Start With The Beginning
William was married in March 1860 in Macon County, Missouri. My working theory is that William's family was still in the area when the census was taken later that year. There are many situations that could have brought William Rhodes to Macon County without his family. Until evidence suggests otherwise, I'm going to start by looking at Rhodes/Rhodus families near the area where William married.

Various members of later generations of this family had lived in both Macon and Chariton Counties. A quick check of a map indicated that, based upon where the family lived, Randolph and Linn Counties should be checked as well. I would look for families in the four-county area.

The 1860 census index was searched for index entries surnamed Rhodes, Rhodus, and Soundex equivalents in the four counties mentioned. The census indexes were accessed at and the results were copied from the Web browser into an open Word document. Notes were taken in this document (particularly related to the age of the head of household and their birthplace and the places of birth of all residents of the household). The resulting file was printed out for future reference.

Each census index entry was analyzed for any possible connection to William Rhodes. The problem was that William would not likely be listed with any of these families in 1860. The only real clue I had was based upon William's 1870-1900 census enumerations: a strong Tennessee connection (based upon the entries that said William and at least one of his parents were born in Tennessee). Only one of the Rhodes/Rhodus index entries in the four counties searched in 1860 had a Tennessee connection. None of the other index entries had even one household member born in Tennessee. The household with a Tennessee connection was that of Levi Rhodes in Russell Township, Macon County, Missouri (page 118). A sixty-six year old Tennessee native in 1860, Levi was of an age to be William's father.

The household contained:

Levi Rhodes, aged 66, born Tennessee
Jane Rhodes, aged 60, born Tennessee
Geo Rhodes, aged 20, born Missouri
Francis Rhodes, aged 17, born Missouri
Isiah Rhodes, aged 11, born Missouri
James Rhodes, aged 9, born Missouri
Gabrilla Rhodes, aged 6, born Missouri

Fortunately there was no William listed. Some of the children appear to be a little young to be Jane's (if her census age is correct). At this point though, speculation is really not necessary and remaining focused is important. Remember: We are trying to determine if there is a connection between this Levi and our William. If the connection is established I can worry about what is going on with this family in 1860.

Levi In 1850?
Locating Levi in the 1850 census was my next step, hoping to find a William in the household. A search was conducted of the 1850 census indexes at for a Levi Rhodes in Missouri. It appeared that the family had resided in Mount Pleasant Township, Scotland County, Missouri.

The 1850 entry:

Levi Rhodes, aged 55, born Tennessee
Jane Rhodes, aged 48, born Tennessee
James Rhodes, aged 27, born Tennessee
Mary I? Rhodes, aged 25, born Tennessee
Thomas G., Rhodes, aged 22, born Tennessee
William Rhodes, aged 17, born Tennessee
Elizabeth Rhodes, aged 14, born Missouri
Adaline Rhodes, aged 12, born Missouri
George Rhodes, aged 10, born Missouri
Margaret Rhodes, aged 8, born Missouri
Francis M. Rhodes, aged 7, born Missouri
Alfred Rhodes, aged 1, born Missouri
Stephen Rhodes, aged 21, born Missouri

Age discrepancies with adults from one census to another are not typically a concern. If this is the same couple, then the husband aged 11 years and the wife aged 12 years during a 10-year period. Not a significant difference. What is more crucial is that Levi is still older than Jane. In 1850 he is 7 years older than Jane and in 1860 he is 6 years older. Some of this difference may be due to the dates of the census, but the key is he is still approximately the same age difference from Jane. George and Francis are both still in the household in 1860 and they have aged 11 and 10 years respectively. Another good sign. The 1850 Alfred (aged 1 year) does not appear in 1860, but there is an 11-year old Isiah in 1860. Obviously some of the children in 1850 will be out of the household in 1860, due to marriage or death. It appears this is the same family.

How Far Have They Moved from 1850 to 1860?
Scotland County is a couple of counties to the north of Macon County. Not so far removed as to make the move unlikely. Missouri county maps are available at several sites, including quickfacts and rootsweb.
If Scotland County had been in the Missouri bootheel, I might have questioned the likelihood that the family was the same.

What About William in 1850?
There is a William Rhodes in the 1850 entry for the household of Levi Rhodes, but I wanted to determine I had the correct family before I focused on the William entry.

The listing of a William in Levi's 1850 census entry is definitely a good sign that there is a connection between Levi and William. In 1850, William is aged 17. These ages are only a few years different from his 1870-1900 census entries.

1850 probably William is aged 17, born ca. 1833
1870-William is aged 39, born ca. 1831
1880-William is aged 49, born ca. 1831
1900-William is aged 69, born ca. 1831

What Now?
More of a connection needs to be established between Levi and William. I am going to:

--- Follow Levi in later census records to determine where he likely died.
--- Attempt to locate probate, land, and court records in the area where Levi died in the hopes that these records will mention a connection between William and Levi.

If these plans are unsuccessful, attempts will be made to locate information on other children of Levi Rhodes to see if a connection to my William can be made.

William's Other Children
I know what happened to William's one daughter, Clara Ettie Rhodes Lake, great-grandmother of my wife. William and his wife had three other children, including the George already mentioned. Researching the lives of these children more completely may provide more information on William and his parents.

Trace Levi's Ancestors?
This is a tad bit premature. Firming up the connection to Levi and my wife's William must come first. I can't worry about searching for Levi's genes until I've made a more solid connection.

Where is William in 1860?
I think I've found William in the 1860 census, but it is not as clear as one might think. Later this month we'll discuss William's entry in the 1860 census and why locating him in 1860 was not as simple as typing his name in a search box.

EDITOR'S NOTE: has images of the U.S. Federal Censuses, 1790-1930 available online and indexes for much of the collection. Links to both images and indexes are available here.

Michael John Neill, is the Course I Coordinator at the Genealogical Institute of Mid America (GIMA) held annually in Springfield, Illinois, and is also on the faculty of Carl Sandburg College in Galesburg, Illinois. Michael is the Web columnist for the FGS FORUM and is on the editorial board of the Illinois State Genealogical Society Quarterly. He conducts seminars and lectures on a wide variety of genealogical and computer topics and contributes to several genealogical publications, including Ancestry and Genealogical Computing. You can e-mail him at: or visit his website at:, but he regrets that he is unable to assist with personal research.

Copyright 2003,
Used by the author on his web site with permission.

Articles in this series:

Articles by Michael John Neill

Genealogy Section of Ebay

---type in your surname or county and state in the search box that comes up on the left hand side of your screen. I've found and purchased several books this way!