My Grand-Uncle, Charles W. Thomas, and His Possible Brother

He was actually my great-great grand uncle.  Brother to my great-great-grandfather Horace Luther Thomas.  He shared my name, Charles Thomas, although his middle initial was W… I’m guessing it was for Warren, since his younger brother was named Warren Thomas.

He lived to the age of only 4 months, according to his tombstone.  Although… is that true?  Let’s start with the tombstone.  This was recently taken at my request at the Burke Center Cemetery in Burke, Franklin County, New York by Dawn LaShomb (thanks, Dawn!):

Grave of Charles W. Thomas

It says “Charles W. son of C.H. & L. Thomas.  Died July 17, 1851.  Aged 4 mo’s.  Suffer little children to / Come Unto Me / And forbid them not”

The last is an oddly-formatted version of Mark 10:14 .  (Posthumous points are deducted for using apostrophe-s to indicate plural on “mo’s”.)

The tombstone matches information I had obtained from the burial record sent by Carol Poole, Genealogy Coordinator for the Franklin Historical Society:

I did find a burial record for Charles W. Thomas, four month old son of Charles H. and L. Thomas dated July 17, 1851.  Apparently Caroline’s brother lost an infant son.  He is buried in West Side Cemetery in Burke.

But there is a mystery here (isn’t there always?).  Here is the 1850 census record taken July 13th, 1850 in Burke, NY:

1850 Census, Burke, NY

We can see Charles H. Thomas and his wife Louisa “Lois” Pond.  After that is my grandfather Horace, his sister Louisa, and then Charles Thomas, age 4 months, which puts his birthdate about March of 1850.  Unless he was a time-traveller, it’s not likely he died at four months of age on July 17 of 1851.

It’s an interesting situation.  I feel like there are only a few plausible scenarios:

1) The family had two sons, both of which died young.  If a 4-month-old child died July 17 1851, Lois would have to have given birth in March, 1851, which means she would have had to have conceived about June of 1850.  The Charles from the census was born in March 1850.  It’s possible she conceived in June, 1850, was 1 month pregnant at the time of the census, that the first Charles died before she gave birth, then when she gave birth to another son in March, 1851 they named it Charles also, and then it died in infancy at four months of age in July, 1851.  Possible.

[By the way, if this is the situation, then the family named a child Charles in 1850, it died, they named another child Charles in 1851, it also died, then they named a third son Charles (Charles Frank Thomas, who was born in 1854).  That’s some dedication to having a son named Charles!  You gotta respect that.]

2) The burial record and tombstone are wrong and the child was actually 1 year and four months old, or they got the year wrong and it should say 1850, not 1851.  However implausible #1 above seems, this seems perhaps more unlikely… that grieving parents would go to the graveyard and be ok with a tombstone with the wrong information on it?  I’m not sure that makes sense.  And it certainly doesn’t make a lot of sense that a gravestone carver would put the year 1851 on a stone he was carving IN THE YEAR 1850.

I think the only thing to do is to look for baptism records.  The Burke Methodist Church may have them, so I’ll try calling them today.  I’m going to put my money on two infants, two deaths, three boys named Charles Thomas.


About cthomas1967

Seeking to bring my ancestors out of the shadows of history and into the light. I have always been interested in history, and at a few different times I tried to do a family tree, but wasn't able to do it with the technology that was available then. On a business trip I visited the World War I Museum in Kansas City, MO and it was a very impressive establishment. While I was there I remember thinking, "Didn't my great-grandfather father fight in World War I? And wasn't his brother killed alongside him in some famous battle? I wonder if I can find out where he died." That's what started it all. View all posts by cthomas1967

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