I still need to go back and stick my bibliographic info in the comments for the previous post.
But OK, possibilities. I see a few, but the core question boils down to trusting what we see vs. what we don’t.
- The Cornelius Durant who moves to Indiana was born in Berkshire and left no record of his birth, baptism, or marriage, despite being in a state (though on the western edge) that catalogues those things religiously (and civilly).
- The Cornelius Durant who moves to Indiana was actually born just over the line in New York, not Massachusetts (as claimed), and his records are lost to the black hole that is that state.
- The Cornelius Durant baptized in 1787 is disowned by his father, leading to the latter’s specifying Maria Cornelia Durant Ritchie as his “only child.”
- The Cornelius Durant who moves to Indiana was actually from somewhere completely different, and it’s a lie or possibly a typo.
- The Cornelius Durant who moves to Indiana is from Massachusetts but is not actually Cornelius Durant, but someone who adopted that name for some reason.
In some ways, the problem is that we have to decide whether to believe that a man whose existence is recorded (Cornelius v.1787) doesn’t actually exist while arguing that a man whose existence is not recorded does (Cornelius v.Berkshire/Mass).
There’s a part of me that really really really wants to believe that it’s #3 — it would be so much easier to believe that the man whose existence is recorded did exist (despite his father’s denial) and left Massachusetts because there was nothing more there for him.
When Cornelius Durant first appears in Indiana in the 1820 Census, his household has five occupants — a free white male 26-44 (presumably Cornelius), a free white female 16-25 (presumably his wife), a free white male and a free white female both under 10 (presumably Henry and a sister), and a free white male over 45 (father? father-in-law? renter?).
In 1830, there are six people — a free white male 10-14, a free white male 30-39, a free white female under 5, two free white females 5-9, and one free white female 30-39. If the man of the house was between 26 and 44 in 1820, he should be between 36 and 54 in 1830, give or take a “year” for differences in when the Census was taken, so we know the man of the house, presumably Cornelius, was approximately 35-40 in 1830, suggesting a birthdate between 1785 and 1790.
The 1840 Census shows 7 people, a fee white male 50-59, a free white female under 5, two free white females 5-9, two free white females 10-14, and one free white female 50-59. If Cornelius was 50 that year, that would make sense, consistent from the prior decade. While the 1855 Illinois Census (Cornelius moves there) records a free white male 10-20, a free white male 70-80, and a free white female 50-60, if Cornelius were recorded as being 70, that’s still consistent with the older end of the range. It could just as easily have been the case that the censustaker marked the wrong column, as five years later the 1860 federal Census lists Cornelius Durant at 71 years old, roughly consistent with his having been listed at 50 in 1840 and 39 in 1830. (What doesn’t make sense is the 1850 Census, which lists him at 52 years old, approximately 10 years out of step with the others.)
So with a consensus birth range for Cornelius Durant of Indiana/Illinois as 1785-1790, the only documented Cornelius Durant I can find in all of Massachusetts born in that range is Cornelius v.1787, and I can find no other Cornelius and Mary (besides v.1732 and Maria/Mary Fenno) to have been his parents in Medford at that time.
I’ve been doing nearly 6 months straight of research in Massachusetts Town and Vital Records, and unless the explanation is that Berkshire just didn’t keep good records or that he was born in New York but grew up in Massachusetts, I find it really hard to believe that a Cornelius Durant was born in Massachusetts at that time without having his birth documented. I also find it hard to believe there would have been no documentation of the death of an infant Cornelius if v.1787 had died. In that respect, I rate possibilities #4 and #5 at a lower likelihood than #3, but I have a hard time rating it higher than #1 or #2 just because it directly contradicts the last will and testament of the alleged Cornelius’s ostensible father. But I really want to believe that’s the easiest explanation.
In my next post, I examine the related mystery of Betsey Hawley. But not before I add bibliography to this post and my previous one. 🙂
(Bibliographic information in the comments.)