Dissecting the Identity of William Russell

In my post for Ebenezer Russell and Phebe Freeman, I pondered on the parentage of Ebenezer. As mentioned, many public trees assign a man named William Russell and his wife, Submit Fosget, as the parents of Ebenezer Sr. Posted source citations are minimal and don’t clearly explain how William is the father of Ebenezer, so I looked a little closer at what was available.

In Ebenezer Sr’s post I identified four connections other researchers appear to use to support William as the father of Ebenezer Sr. All four are based on the proximity of time and place between the two men.

  1. In 1840, a man named William Russell (aged 70-80) is the head of the household in Guilford Township, Medina County, Ohio. This is the same year that Ebenezer Sr is enumerated in Guilford Township, but they are listed several pages apart.
  2. A veteran of the War of 1812 named William Russell died in 1853 and is buried in Seville, Medina County, Ohio. Seville is located in Guilford Township.  
  3. In 1850, a man named William Russell (aged 80) lived in the household of a woman named Orphana Powers and her child in Guilford Township, Medina County, Ohio. William is reported to have been born in Connecticut. 
  4. In The genealogy of the Cleveland and Cleaveland families, illustrated in three volumes, Vol 1 (Cleveland & Cleveland, 1899), a woman named Elizabeth Russell who married Ira Cleveland in Salem, Washington County, New York was recorded as the daughter of William Russell and Submit Fosget. Ira Cleveland died in Medina County, Ohio.  

Connection Number 4

Working my way backwards, a closer review of The genealogy of the Cleveland and Cleaveland families, reveals an annotation that identifies the informant as Elizabeth Russell Cleveland (Ira’s wife) for the details published about Ira’s family, therefore the fact that she is the daughter of William Russell and Submit Fosget is direct, primary evidence.

Fact: William Russell and Submit Fosget were living in Salem, Washington County, New York when Elizabeth was born on 10 October 1799. She married Ira in Salem, New York in 1821 before coming to Medina County, Ohio.

Connection Number 3

According to the correlating headstone inscriptions for Orphana Powers, she was “Orphana Russell wife of Isaac Powers.” The headstone is shared by three people and are listed out-of-order by death date. This gave me pause for concern about the reliability of the information, however, the condition and material of the monument give me the impression that it is an old stone that has not been erected by modern descendants. It is possible that the stone was erected in or shortly after 1865 when Orphana died (years after the other two names were inscribed), and whoever ordered it (maybe Orphana herself) set the inscriptions in order of husband, wife, then child regardless of the order of deaths.

Orphana is recorded in several censuses post-1840, and all consistently record her birthplace as New York and year as 1795. William only appears in the 1850 census (the first census to record year and place of birth) and his birthplace and age is recorded as 80, Connecticut.  

Fact: Orphan’s maiden name was Russell. Orphana was born in New York in 1795. William Russell of Seville, Guilford Township, Medina County, Ohio is estimated as 80 years old, born about 1770 maybe in Connecticut or New York. 

 Theory: Based on the age of Orphana and William in the 1850 census they could be father and daughter. 

Connection Number 2

Moving on to the War of 1812 veteran who was buried in Seville, Medina County, Ohio in 1853. Ohio death records report his date of death as 9 February 1853, no age transcribed and no county given (the actual image of the record is not digitized, just transcribed). A U.S. Veterans grave registration card records William, who died on the same date and was buried in Seville, as a Lieutenant in Capt. Robert Russell’s Company, having served during the War of 1812. This card records a year of birth as 1771. A matching headstone for William Russell with the exact same death date is recorded on Find-a-grave complete with a picture for validation. The headstone inscription reports his age as 82 (calculated year of birth is 1771). His headstone is very old and nearly faded, but beneath his inscribed name and dates is “Submit” and her date of death.  

Military records are hard to track down. We have some conflict here. The grave registration for William who died on 9 February 1853 states he enlisted on 28 July 1813 and was discharged on 22 August 1813. And there are two roster rolls for Captain Robert Russell — recorded in the Roster of Ohio soldiers in the War of 1812. In one roll, Robert Russell’s company served from 28 July 1813 to 8 September 1813 from an unrecorded Ohio county. The Lieutenant is Samuel Davidson, not William Russell. The second roster for Captain Robert Russell reports that his company served from 28 July (no year) to 22 August 1811 probably from Scioto County. This list does report his Lieutenant as William Russell.

While the burial in Seville is clearly the William Russell, husband of Submit Fosgit, and established father of Orphana and Elizabeth, I question whether he is the same man who served as a Lieutenant under Captain Robert Russell in Ohio between 1811 and 1813. Given their start in New York and the marriages of children (Ebenezer and Elizabeth) in New York in the 1820s, I would expect to find military service for William in New York, not Ohio. This military roster is the only record that places William in Ohio this early. And in 1812 William would have been about 42 years old. Not a show stopper, but wartime military enlistment with no known prior military service is a young, single, man’s game. The grave registrations may have been created separately from the death event many years later and may have made unproven connections. No pensions have been found or shared, and no land records support the correlation. Clerical error or erroneous correlation?

So, the William who died in 1853 and is buried in Seville, Ohio is highly likely the same William, husband of Submit Fosget, and father of Elizabeth Russell Cleveland. But, is this the same William who was found in Orphana’s 1850 household?

There are only two males named William Russell enumerated in Medina County, Ohio in 1850. One was a 12-year-old boy, and one is the 80-year-old man living with Orphana. There is a William in Allen County in 1850, but he is a 16-year-old teenager. There are no Williams in Paulding County.  

Bonus round, after reading some notes posted by the other Russell researchers, they point to church records published in The History of Medina County & Ohio (Baskin & Battey, 1881) which names Mrs. Submit Russell as a founding member of the Congregational Church in 1838.

Fact: William Russell and his wife, Submit Fosget moved from Salem, Washington County, New York to Medina County, Ohio as early as 1838.

 Plausible Theory: It is highly likely that this William is the same man in Orphana’s 1850 household; therefore, is the father of both Elizabeth and Orphana. His F.A.N. club is starting to support the proximity. (For those who forgot, Family/Friends, Associations, and Neighbors, also known as cluster research) 

Connection Number 1

Saving number 1 for last. In 1840, a man named William Russell (aged 70-80) is the head of the household in Guilford Township, Medina County, Ohio. This is the same year that Ebenezer Sr is in Guilford Township, but they are enumerated several pages apart. Is William in Orphan’s 1850 household the same man who was the head of household in the same county in 1840?

There are only two Williams in Medina County, one was age 70-79, and the other was age 30-39. There are at least eight more Williams all around Ohio but are all younger than the 70-79 age bracket.  

Plausible Theory: Assuming there are no clerical errors relating to all of the William Russells (of various spellings), the 1840 head of household could be the same William living in Orphan’s 1850 household.

Where does Ebenezer fit in?

The source citations analyzed above support the fact that a man named William Russell and his wife, Submit Fosget came from Salem, Washington County, New York to Medina County, Ohio around the same time as Ebenezer Sr. This couple were the parents of Orphana Russell Powers and Elizabeth Russell Cleveland. But is this William the father of Ebenezer Sr.?

According to collaborative research in FamilySearch, William should have at least twelve children (including Orphana and Elizabeth), but none of their source citations directly support William as their father. There is no entry for William Russell in the digitized Probate Court indexes for Medina County. No known property records have been found for William in Medina County. No military pension records appear to have been filed. He was 82 and living with Orphana, I would expect a military pension record if he had no other income besides his widowed daughter. So no known ancillary records that could quickly and easily identify any other children of William. 

What I do have are DNA matches. We have five atDNA matches to three of these other twelve probable children of William. And none of them descend from Orphana or Elizabeth. Because there are five to six generations between these DNA matches and William Russell of Salem, Washington County, New York, there are two to three generational connections that could be wrong (I assume these matches are confident on who their parent and grandparent are). I’ll just have to trust by verify…smh.

I also still have to complete a census analysis to determine the plausibility (or eliminate possibilities). Stay tuned.


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