By J. L. Starkey
The secret to staying young is to live honestly, eat slowly, and lie about your age.– Lucille Ball
“You’re dating him? But he must be…”
“…yes,” I answered the naysayers over and over again. “He’s four years younger than I am.”
Reactions ranged from skepticism to predictions that it would never last, but my husband and I have been together for 25 years (and have been married for 21 of those years). Take that, Judgey McJudgerson & Company.
I never did take kindly to being called a cradle robber, and maybe that’s why I feel an odd sort of camaraderie with my third-great-grandmother, Ann Eliza Bass. Did she endure snide comments and gossip when she married Everett Baugh? After all, she was six years older than he was.
Wasn’t she? Well…maybe.
Researching Ann was a challenge from the start. Some records indicated that she was older than Everett, but then there were those other records. You know the ones.
Other records are the source of many a genealogical challenge, aren’t they?
Ann One and Ann Two?
I felt like the Cesar Millan of genealogy when I found Everett Baugh’s parents, but the feeling didn’t last, thanks to his wife.
If an ancestor could laugh at a descendant, that is probably what Ann did as I tried – again and again – to figure her out. I wasn’t sure if Everett had married one woman named Ann or two, because the records contained some pretty glaring age discrepancies. Sure, my ancestors didn’t always tell the truth, but Everett’s wife took it to a new level. According to census records, Ann E. Baugh was 30 years old in 1860.
She was also 30 years old in 1880.
I had two theories to explain the age discrepancy: 1) There were actually two women named Ann E. Baugh; or 2) There was only one Ann, and her anti-aging regimen was the result of census errors and alternate facts.
Which theory was correct? Grab some coffee and get comfortable, because this could take a while.
Who was Ann Eliza Bass Baugh?
In 1860, 29 year-old Everett Baugh and 30-year-old Ann Eliza Bass had been married for at least five years. At the time of the census, they had two children and were also raising Everett’s orphaned niece and nephews in Manchester, Virginia .
By 1870, Everett was married to a woman named Ann E., but that woman was 34 years old, according to the census .
In 1880, Everett was still married to Ann E., but she was thirty years old . Further complicating the age discrepancy was the six-year gap between Everett and Ann’s two youngest children. Did those children have different mothers named Ann?
Something was not right in those documents, so I decided to turn the page for more information.
Next Stop: The 1850 Census
In 1850, 19-year-old Everett was living with his mother, Ann, in Chesterfield County, Virginia. Their census entry was on page 80 in the Lower Chesterfield Township records .
Everett married Ann E. Bass sometime after 1850. Since he was not a man who moved around a great deal during his lifetime, I assumed that Ann lived near him at the time of the 1850 census. But where was she?
It’s one of those genealogy tricks that works more often than not, at least in mid-1800’s Richmond. If you can’t find a missing ancestor, simply turn the page – or turn several pages – of the census. Quite often, you’ll find the ancestor living close to his or her future spouse. But would that trick work with the age-defying Ann E. Bass?
Indeed, it would…but again, there is a “maybe” involved.
Page 72 of Lower Chesterfield Township contains a listing for 24-year-old Ann E. Bass, who was living with (presumably) her parents, James and Ann . (Note: If you’re keeping track, the number of women named Ann has now reached the level of “too many” for this branch of the family.)
Due to an indexing error, the family’s surname was listed as “Sulla,” which made a page-by-page search of census documents absolutely crucial in finding the correct record.
There were no other women named Ann Bass living nearby that were in the correct age range, so it was probable that this woman was Everett’s future wife. But how could I be sure? I could not find a marriage record (or a news article) that listed Ann’s parents, so this was – at best – a shaky-leaf situation.
It was time to pay a virtual visit to the Powhatan County Courthouse.
Gold Mine at the Courthouse
A search of chancery court documents led to Powhatan County case 1872-024, Mary Mann v. William Mann Etc. . The case, a lengthy dispute over land once owned by Powhatan County resident William Bass, contained a gold mine of clues for this genealogical mystery.
The case included a list of William Bass’s children, all of whom were heirs to his estate. If a child died prior to the initial case date of 1854, then that individual’s children were listed as heirs. Such was the case for William’s son James. Surprisingly, the list of James Bass’s children was a spot-on match with the Bass family on page 72 of the 1850 Lower Chesterfield Township census!
Heir number three in particular caught my attention, because she was none other than Ann E. Bass, who “…intermarried with Everard [sic] Baugh, both of whom now live in Manchester.”
That was “my” Ann, wasn’t it? But wait…there were more clues hiding in that list!
I rechecked Everett Baugh’s 1850 census listing, and sure enough, he was living next door to Ann’s sister and brother-in-law, John and Harriett (Bass) Adams. It was a small world – at least in that corner of Chesterfield County!
I had found “my” Ann Eliza. But was she the only Ann, or had Everett married more than once? Based on the 1850 census, I knew that Ann E. Bass was born around 1826 and was six years older than Everett. The age difference made me wonder if she lied about her age because she was older than her husband.
She may have done just that, and my favorite resource held the final answer.
Clues in the News
A woman named Ann E. Baugh died in Richmond on 16 May 1888. A Powhatan County native, she was 61 at the time of her death, which put her birth year at 1826 or 1827 . Those details matched the Ann of the 1850 and 1860 census, but not the Ann of 1870 and 1880, unless her age was incorrect in those documents.
Was this Ann the wife of Everett, and my third-great-grandmother?
The answer was found in Ann’s obituary . The article reported her husband’s name and included a poem in tribute to a woman who was loved and missed.
Yes, she was definitely my third-great-grandmother. Everett Baugh was only married once, to the apparently ageless Ann Eliza Bass. According to the death register, she died from “cancer of the face.” Her parents were not listed on the register, but I had already found that information in chancery court documents and census records.
Why were there so many discrepancies with Ann’s age? Was it due to data entry errors, or did she consciously shave a few years off to appear younger than Everett? I wish I knew the answer to that question, but I will have to keep wondering for now.
However, I don’t have to wonder about the names of Ann’s parents, or her grandparents. Or her great-grandparents, come to think of it. Because as challenging as it was to discover the real Ann Eliza Bass, finding the stories of her ancestors turned out to be pretty darn easy. Some of them were even on television!
But that’s a story for another time. Stay tuned…
- “United States Federal Census, 1860,” Census Place: Manchester Northern District, Chesterfield, Virginia; Roll: M653_1340; Page: 446; FHL Film: 805340. Retrieved from ancestry.com. (See also: Death certificate for Baugh, George Shackelford, Virginia Department of Health; Richmond, Virginia; Virginia Deaths, 1912-2014, Ancestry.com. Virginia, Death Records, 1912-2014 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2015.)
- “United States Federal Census, 1870,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:S3HT-6QVB-S2?cc=1438024&wc=92KW-T3L%3A518656301%2C519031901%2C519146401 : 11 June 2019), Virginia>Chesterfield>Revenue District 2, Manchester>image 15 of 38; citing NARA microfilm publication M593 (Washington, D.C.: NARA, n.d.).
- “United States Federal Census, 1880,” Census Place: Manchester, Chesterfield, Virginia; Roll: 1361; FHL Film: 1255361; Page: 162D; Enumeration District: 071. Retrieved from ancestry.com.
- Ancestry.com, 1850 United States Federal Census (Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2009), Year: 1850; Census Place: Lower, Chesterfield, Virginia; Roll: M432_940; Page: 153B; Image: 311.
- Ancestry.com, 1850 United States Federal Census (Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2009), Census Place: Lower, Chesterfield, Virginia; Roll: M432_940; Page: 149B; Image: 303.
- Powhatan County (Va.) Chancery Causes, 1782-1938, case no. 1872-024, Mary Mann Widow v. William H. Mann Etc., Local Government Records Collection, Powhatan County Court Records. The Library of Virginia, Richmond, Virginia. Retrieved from https://www.lva.virginia.gov/chancery/default.asp#res.
- “Virginia Deaths and Burials, 1853-1912,” database, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:X5B8-H65 : 10 March 2018), Ann E. Baugh, 16 May 1888; citing Richmond City, Virginia, reference p 5 cn 149; FHL Film 2,048,592.
- “Deaths,” Richmond Dispatch, Richmond, Virginia, 18 May 1888, p. 1. col. 8. Retrieved from newspapers.com.