The original title for this post was going to be “What Happened to Margaret?” I was going to write about how female ancestors can be more difficult to trace than males. However, in the course of writing, I came upon new (to me) data sources. With the new information, some more puzzle pieces have slid into place. So now, instead of my original purpose, I will use this post to summarize what I know about Margaret Casbon.
Before I had any records, I knew from word of mouth that James Casbon (~1814–1884) brought a daughter named Margaret with him when he came to Indiana from England in 1870. I was later able to confirm this when I found James’ entry in the 1880 U.S. census.
The census lists James, his wife Mary, Margaret, age 16, Amos, age 10, and Alice, age 8. The careful reader will note that the birthplace for all three children is written as “Ind” for Indiana. In fact, only Alice was born in Indiana. Census reports frequently contain errors, and incorrect birth place is a common one.
In addition to the census, in time, I was able to locate the passenger list of the ship that carried James and his family to America. This also showed that he traveled with Mary, Margaret, and Amos.
You can see that their surname was misspelled as “Custon.” This made locating the passenger list especially challenging! You can also see that Margaret’s age is listed as six. This is consistent with the age given 10 years later in the 1880 census. Therefore, I knew that she was probably born within a year or so of 1864.
Unfortunately, when I tried to find a birth or baptismal record for Margaret, my searches kept coming up with no results. At that point in my research, I still did not know when or where James and Mary had been married, nor did I know Mary’s maiden name. Early this year (2017) I acquired transcripts of various parish records from Cambridgeshire. From these records I learned that James Casben married Mary Jackson in Stretham, Cambridgeshire, October 1866.
But wait, that was two years after Margaret’s presumed birth date! Either the estimated birth year was wrong or Margaret was born before James and Mary became man and wife. This offered a possible explanation why I couldn’t find a birth record for Margaret Casbon. I searched again, this time looking for a birth record for Margaret Jackson. This time I was successful. I learned that Margaret’s birth had been recorded in Ely during the second quarter of 1864.
But was this the right Margaret? To find out, I ordered a copy of the birth registration from the General Register Office (as described in two previous posts). Here is the record I received.
Margaret was born in Stretham on March 26, 1864 to Mary Jackson. The father’s name is not given, so presumably Margaret was born out of wedlock. The location, date and mother’s name are all consistent with the information I already had about Margaret and her mother, so I’m confident this is the right birth record.
Margaret was about 2 ½ years old when her mother married James Casbon. Was James her father? There isn’t enough evidence to know for sure. Regardless, she became part of the family. Her brother (or half-brother?) Amos was born when Margaret was 5 years old.
What happened to Margaret after she came to America? I’ll try to answer that with the rest of this post.
First, let’s return to the 1880 census. I need to point out that James’ wife Mary in that census was not Margaret’s mother. Mary (Jackson) Casbon died sometime after their arrival in America, date unknown. James remarried, this time to Mary Payne, in 1876. Margaret lost her mother at a fairly early age. What impact did that have on future events?
It also turns out that the census record shown at the beginning of this post is not the only census entry for Margaret that year.
This entry shows “Maggie” Casbon, age 17, listed as “At School” and a boarder in the household of Lucinda Waub, in Valparaiso, Indiana. Maggie is a common diminutive of Margaret. The entry shows that she and her parents were born in England. The age is not quite correct for our Margaret (17 vs. 16), but all the other facts line up. There is no evidence to suggest there was another person with this name in Indiana at the time. Margaret and “Maggie” must be the same person; she was counted twice in the 1880 census.
How did this happen? It turns out that being counted twice in a census is not that uncommon. There are many possible reasons. Census enumerators were instructed to enter “the name of every person whose ‘usual place of abode’ on the 1st day of June, 1880, was in that family.” This instruction created an opportunity for duplications to occur, especially when a person did not reside full-time with their own family. Margaret might have been boarding with Mrs. Waub, but she probably spent weekends and school vacations with her family. The two censuses were recorded by different enumerators, probably on different days. Whatever the reason, Margaret was reported twice.
It’s interesting to me that Margaret was a student and boarding with someone other than her family. Why was she still a student at age 16, when most girls had no more than an eighth-grade education? My guess is that Margaret was “catching up” from the lack of formal education in England. I think it’s unlikely that James could afford to pay boarding fees. I suspect that he was getting financial support from his brother Thomas, or one of Thomas’ sons, all of whom were well-settled and better off than James.
The first information I had about Margaret’s whereabouts after the 1880 census was this intriguing snippet extracted from the February 9, 1882 Porter County Vidette: “Married – Joseph Quinn – Viola Beard (Baird penciled in); Mrs J. Meyer of Mo.; Died – Wm Dye; Married – Kimberlin – Vita Pennock; Died – Lena Wulf; Maggie Casbum living with Ben Woodard.” What an interesting thing to print in the newspaper! It seems a bit scandalous. Margaret would have been just under 18 years old at the time. [UPDATE, 16 Jan 2020: “living with” did not mean she had an intimate relationship with Ben Woodward. See “More About Maggie.”]
Apparently, the relationship with Ben Woodard did not last long, as revealed by this marriage record from September of the same year.
How long this marriage lasted is unknown. There is another marriage record of Samuel Bastel to Eva Sharp in 1887. However, there is evidence that more than one man named Samuel Bastel was living in Porter County at the time, so it is unknown whether Margaret and Eva married the same man.
Regardless, it is certain that Margaret and Samuel Bastel did not remain married, since there is another marriage record, to William Biederstadt, dated July 22, 1899.
The fact that “Maggie’s” name was given as Casbon and not Bastel makes me think that her previous marriage was short lived. But, there is a gap of almost 17 years between the two marriages, and Margaret’s whereabouts during that time are a mystery. The 1890 census records were lost in a fire, so they cannot be used to locate her. There is a family story that she might have become a “mail-order bride” in Seattle, but I’ve found no evidence to support or deny that.
I should also point out that Margaret’s father (or step-father?), James, was murdered in 1884. So, by the age of 20, she had lost both parents. It’s unknown what kind of relationship she had with her step-mother or with her brother Amos and sister Alice, both of whom were quite a few years younger.
At this point in my research, the information I had about Margaret was clouded in uncertainty. Because of the incomplete marriage certification, it was unclear to me whether Margaret and William Biederstadt had actually been married. My confusion was compounded by the fact that I could not find Margaret in the 1900 census. I found an entry for William Biederstadt in nearby Michigan City, but in that record, he is listed as being single, and living in his parents’ household.
I should add that I also I had a possible death record for Margaret. The record was only a brief extract, showing that Maggie Biederstedt, age 31, died in Michigan City April 30, 1903. The extract did not include the name of her husband or parents. Was this the same Maggie who married William? The age was wrong – Margaret would have been 39 in April 1903. I needed stronger evidence before I could say that Margaret Casbon and this Maggie Biederstedt were the same person.
The breakthrough came when I located the death certificate on Ancestry (when I was well into writing this post).
The certificate confirm’s that Maggie’s Biederstedt’s husband was named William. It gives her date of birth as January 1, 1872. This is significantly different than Margaret Casbon’s confirmed birth year of 1864. However, the birthplace is correctly shown as England. The incorrect birth date is puzzling, but given the fact that her father’s name is given as Casborn (also from England), there can be little doubt that this was Margaret Casbon. Note that William Biederstedt was the informant for the death certificate. “Don’t Know” is written for Margaret’s mother’s name. This isn’t surprising given that her mother had died more than twenty years earlier. The cause of death was “Uterine Carcinoma Duration Indefinite” (I’m not sure about the last word – doctors’ handwriting was no better then than it is now). The disease took her at a young age.
Given the knowledge that Margaret really was married to William Biederstadt, I decided to try to find her in the 1900 census one more time. Reasoning that the surname might have been misspelled or transcribed incorrectly, I searched in FamilySearch [link] for Maggie, no last name, born between 1862 and 1873 in England, residing in Indiana, with husband’s first name William. This search yielded 12 names, one of which caught my eye. It was for Maggie Reedlstead, born January 1873, and living in Michigan City.
If you examine the census entry closely, you can see that the first letter of the surname is really a “B,” with an incomplete bottom loop (compare to “Peters” a few lines above). In addition, the spelling has been mangled pretty badly, looking something like “Beedlstear.” Census enumerators weren’t hired for the spelling ability (or handwriting!), and once that’s understood, it’s fairly easy to see that this is the correct census record for William and Maggie Biederstadt.
There are two discrepancies in Maggie’s entry: her birth date, January 1873, and her year of immigration, 1880. There may be an innocent reason why the birth date is wrong, but the fact that her husband also gave an incorrect birth date on the death certificate makes me wonder if Margaret led him to believe she was younger than her true age. Since the claimed year of birth was later than the actual year she immigrated (1870) to America, it would only make sense to change this date as well.
The census shows that William and Maggie Biederstadt were childless in 1900. I haven’t found any evidence that they had children before Maggie’s death. Nor have I found any records suggesting that Margaret had children while married to Samuel Bastel.
“What Happened to Margaret?” is still a valid question, but unless new records turn up or a distant cousin can help fill in the blanks, this is as close as I can come to an answer.