Thursday, March 18, 2010

Thomas Henry - Man in the Shadows

It is difficult to get a mental picture of someone when there are few records to provide clues. I would so like to find a deed or will or estate settlement for Thomas Henry, a free person of color. He first appears in Livingston County records on the 1840 census. Enumerated in his household are one male between the ages of 10 and 24, 3 females under 10 years of age, one male between 36 and 55 (probably Thomas himself) and one female, also between the ages of 36 and 55. If Thomas is the male between ages 36 and 55, he was born between 1785 and 1804. Was the female of the same age his wife?

There are several other records that do shed some light on Thomas Henry. He appears on the 1844 tax list with one town lot, but there is no deed with Thomas Henry as the grantor or grantee. Was he renting the town lot or had he bought it, but the deed had not been recorded?

Most free persons of color settled in towns and cities as it was safer. Unscrupulous men were known to capture persons of color and sell them into slavery, no matter if they were free or not. If living in a town or city, it was necessary to have a trade to support the family. There is no indication that Thomas Henry had a trade or what it was.

The most helpful record is a tombstone in Smithland Cemetery. Because the tombstone stands at a 45 degree angle, it had to be photographed from a reclining position.

Thomas Henry
May 18th 1846
Aged 61 years

So, we know when he died and he was 61 years old, making his year of birth 1785. This fits with his age on the 1840 census. But what happened to the other people in his household in 1840? The 1850 Livingston County census shows Anne Henry, age 43, Liddy Henry, age 16 and Jane Henry, age 14, living in the household of Jacob and Mary Fairbush [Forbush], all being free persons of color. Was Anne the widow of Thomas Henry and were Liddy and Jane their children? If so, another daughter and possibly a son died or disappeared between 1840 and 1850.

On the 1850 census, Anne, Liddy and Jane are listed as mulattoes. I've been in touch with a descendant of Anne Henry's daughter, Jane, and he tells me Jane and her sister, Lidia, moved to Nashville, Tennessee before 1860. By 1880, the family is listed as white in the census and eventually ended up in California.

I've made a start on putting the pieces together on Thomas Henry's life, but there is still much to learn. If you have any knowledge of Thomas Henry and his family, please let me know.

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