It seems like more of my husband’s ancestors just disappeared compared to mine. I think part of the reason for that is that mine mostly lived in places where the records were well kept and didn’t burn, while his moved around the South, where many records either weren’t kept until later in time or they burned in a courthouse fire.
Today’s disappearing ancestor is Henry Nations. The only reason I was able to find him after 1850 – in one more census – was because he was the only Henry born in 1814 in Ohio living in Arkansas or Missouri. More on that find in a bit.
Henry was born about 1814, probably in Preble County, Ohio, where his parents, Isaac Nations and Margaret Tillman, married on 27 February 1812. The Nations remained in Ohio through the births of their first three children, William, Henry and Isaac. Between 1815-1820, they migrated to Tennessee, first settling about 300 miles due south in Overton County.
The 1830 census of Isaac Nations has an adult female aged 20-29 in his household. She is likely a second wife. There is a gap between the births of daughter Catherine in September 1824 and a son born before 1830; Margaret likely died sometime between 1824 and 1829 and Isaac remarried. (Land records are extant from 1801, but other records not until after the Civil War.)
Isaac’s unknown second wife died soon and he married Jane Tillman about 1834. They had four children, Isaac Jackson, Margaret, Mary and Vina A. Family lore is that the Nations headed to the Peters Colony (today, Carrollton, next to Dallas) in Texas about 1848. Isaac caught smallpox along the way and was buried on 28 August 1848 on the banks of Duck Creek at the east fork of the Trinity River.
I have no idea of the source of that information, but with that much detail, it sounds plausible. Wife Jane is not found in the 1850 census. She may also have died or remarried.
In any case, Henry Nations was head of his own 1840 household next door to Overton County, living in Fentress County. The adult male was 20-29, as was the adult female. This first wife has never been identified. There were three young children, a male 5-9, a female 5-9 and a male under 5 years old. (Henry’s father, Isaac, was living nine doors away and is the last name on the census page.)
By 1850, we have some more disappearing people. Henry is still in Fentress County. However, his wife is Mary Riddle. My husband’s great great grandfather, Joseph Michael Nation is 14 years old so he was likely the male under 5 in the previous census. Two other children are in the household – Thomas, aged 6 and Nancy, who was one year old.
Mary Riddle may or may not be the mother of any of these children since no marriage record exists. She was enumerated on 13 September 1850 in her father’s household, three doors away from Henry Nations, as “Polly Ridley” (Riddle) and as Mary Nations in her husband’s household.
I can see the scenario where Mary was over helping her mother. The census taker arrived at Henry’s house and asked who lived there. Henry said himself, his wife Mary, and the three children. Then he moved on to Isaac Riddle’s house. He asked Isaac who the people were in the house. Isaac named himself, wife Catherine and then said “These are my children. . . .”
As to who the mother of Thomas and Nancy was, I don’t know. My feeling is that Mary may be the mother of Nancy and Henry’s first wife died giving birth to Thomas. However, Mary is certainly old enough to be Thomas’s mother. It also doesn’t answer the question of where the 1840 male and female aged 5-9 and the other male under 5 was in 1850. They all might have died in an epidemic or perhaps Henry and his first wife divorced and she took the other children. There are several possibilities and no records to support or disprove any idea.
By the 1860 census, Joseph Michael Nations was living about 60 miles northwest of Fentress County, Tennessee in Cumberland County, Kentucky with wife Annie (Christianna Riddle and sister of his stepmother, Mary Riddle) and was enumerated as “M. Nations.”
For many years, I could not find Henry Nations in the census and assumed he had died. However, I couldn’t find Mary Riddle Nations either and I know she was living as late as the 1890s because I have a family photo of Annie, Mary and their adult surviving siblings taken about that time.
How did I find him? I mentioned earlier that Henry being born in 1814 in Ohio was the lucky piece of information. I started searching different states in the 1860 census for a Henry born 1814 in Ohio. Nothing came up in Missouri, but when I tried Arkansas, up came “Henry Nathans” born 1814 in Ohio. With him were wife Mary, born Kentucky and children Isaac S., 7 and Zarelda, 3, both born in Tennessee and baby Sarah E. under a year old, born in Arkansas.
About 1858 or 1859, the family left Tennessee and moved to Crockett Township, Arkansas County, Arkansas. By tracking Mary and the children forward, I was able to determine that this was “my” Henry Nations.
However, this is the last record found for Henry. He disappeared during the Civil War years, although there is no evidence that he served or died because of the war. Some have linked Henry to the Henry Nations who served in the Civil War from OH and who is found in Wisconsin after the war. However, that Henry was 20 years old when he enlisted in 1864 and is found in his parents’ household in 1850 and 1860. They were two different men.
Mary Riddle Nations is next found in the household of James Conkin (Konkins) in 1870 in Scott County, Missouri. No marriage record has been found for them, either. They likely married closer to 1870 than 1860 because they don’t appear as a couple to have any children together.
James Conkin is the next to go MIA. In 1880, there is no sign of him or his children and Mary Nations, widow, is living with daughter Sarah Emiline Stratton’s family in Richland Township, Scott County, Missouri:
If she was a widow, I’m not sure why she is Mary Nations instead of Mary Conkin; it is possible James Conkin and Mary divorced. The census taker did note that Mary had lung disease.
Mary Riddle Nations isn’t found with any of her children in the 1900 census, nor is she found in back home in Cumberland County, Kentucky. Her brother, Phillip, in the top right corner of the siblings’ photo died in 1906, first of the group to pass away with the possible exception of Mary. I believe she might have gone back home in the 1890’s and died sometime before 1900.
To sum up, we have the following family members MIA:
Jane Robbins Nation
Mary Riddle Nation
That isn’t even including Mary’s daughter, Sarah Emiline, who married George W. Stratton. They both disappear after the 1880 census.
It took years to pick up the trail of Henry and Mary Nations, so I haven’t given up hope of finding more definitive documents about their deaths.