Whole Number 180
by Russell E. Bidlack
When instructions were prepared for the assistant marshals (as the census takers were called) for the 1850 census of the United States, they were not only directed to gather information on the individuals comprising each household, but also to record the deaths that had occurred in their districts during the previous twelve months. Specifically, the census taker was instructed to ask, during his interview in each household, "the name of every person who died during the year ending on June 1, 1850, whose usual place of abode at the time of his death was in this family.
This record was to include the name of the deceased individual, the month he/she had died, his/her age at death, his/her place of birth (state or country), the cause of death, and the number of days ill before death. In the reproduction of these records from which we have worked in compiling the following list, this latter item was often omitted. (This same information was gathered for the 1860, 1870, and 1880 censuses. )
The official date that the 1850 census was supposed to represent was June 1, 1850. That is, all questions asked by the census taker were supposed to be as of June 1st, even though it might have been days, or weeks, later when he actually called on a given household. In recording ages, for example, his question was supposed to be:
"How old were you on June 1, 1850?" In recording the age of a baby under one year, he was supposed to calculate the age, in months, which that child had reached by June 1, 1850. We can be sure that errors were sometimes made in that calculation.
The deaths that were reported for the 1850 census were supposed to be those who had died between June 1, 1849, and June 1, 1850. It is difficult to speculate how complete the "mortality schedule" for 1850 actually was, for we can be sure that on some occasions a census taker forgot to make the inquiry.
The geographical distribution of Sparkses across the country was uneven, of course, as was also the death rate. For example, there was a fairly large number of Sparkses in Indiana in 1850, but, also, the death rate was unusually high in Indiana during 1849/1850 because of the rapid spread of a new disease, the Asiatic Cholera, which was especially fatal to small children. No fewer than nine Sparks deaths were reported in Indiana, while there was none in a number of states.
Because the "mortality schedules," i.e., printed sheets on which the information was recorded, were separate from the actual "census schedules," it was easy for the census taker to overlook them. Anyone who has had experience searching census records is aware that there were some meticulous census takers who could spell and write in a legible hand, and who placed high importance on accuracy and completeness, while there were others who were poorly educated and/or were careless. There were many who were between these extremes, of course.
An example of a meticulous census taker, noted by this writer in his research, was a man named R. G. Tomkins who was responsible for the 1850 census of Vicksburg in Warren County, Mississippi. In his mortality schedule, in which he recorded one Sparks death, (that of four-year-old Fanny B. Sparks, who had died in May 1850 from dysentery), he wrote at the end: "The diseases that pervaded most during this year in Warren County were cholera, pneumonia, congestive fever, and measles.
The deaths were much more numerous during the past year than usual, the usual number would amount to about one half of what this return shows."
It is interesting to note the manner in which census takers were paid in 1850 for their services. The Genealogical Helper of Nov/December 1989, p. 18, published a notice that had appeared in an 1850 newspaper called the Illinois State Journal, as follows:
Assistant Marshals - The marshals employed to assist in taking the census, are to be allowed as compensation for services, after the rate of two cents for each person enumerated, ten cents a mile for necessary travel: Ten cents for each farm family returned; fifteen cents for each establishment of productive industry fully taken and returned; two cents for each name of a deceased person returned; and for social statistics, two per cent upon the amount allowed for the enumeration of population. The Assistant Marshall is to visit each family personally.
Unfortunately, whereas a nearly complete set of the regular census schedules for 1850 has been preserved at the National Archives in Washington, D.C., most of the mortality schedules are to be found, if at all, in state archives. Many seem to have been lost.
The 1850, 1860, 1870, and 1880 mortality schedules for a number of states have been filmed by the Family History Library at Salt Lake City. Here we publish the Sparks entries from the 1850 schedules for eleven states. We will continue this project in future issues of the Quarterly.
Alabama -- Fayette County
Mary Sparks Died in June 1849. Age: 2 months. Place of birth: Alabama.
Cause of death: "Brain influenza."
[Editorial Note:] It seems highly likely that this Mary Sparks was a daughter of Russell and Nancy Sparks who appeared on 1850 census of Fayette County with five-year-old Sarah Sparks and three-year-old Barshaba Sparks. (See p. 352 of the Quarterly of December 1958, Whole No. 24.) Russell Sparks was a son of William J. Sparks, also shown on the 1850 census of Fayette County, Alabama. (See the Quarterly of March 1967, Whole No. 57, pp. 1041-43 for information on this branch of the Sparks family.)
Arkansas -- Ashley County
William L. Sparks Died in March 1850. Age: 2 months. Place of birth: Louisiana. Cause of death: "Whooping cfr."
[Editorial Note:] William L. Sparks was a son (the 9th child) of Samuel and Sarah (Deal) Sparks. Samuel Sparks, born July 7, 1803, was a son of Millington Sparks, III. A lengthy article devoted to Millington Sparks, III and many of his descendants appeared in the Quarterly of June 1995, Whole No. 170, pp. 4454-4480. Specific mention of the above William L. Sparks appears on p. 4479.
California -- Santa Barbara County
Maria Rosa Sparks Died in April 1850. Age: 3 months. Place of birth: California. Cause of death: "Teething."
[Editorial Note:] See the Quarterly of March 1979, Whole No. 105, p. 2084, where this baby's name was given as Rosa Ynnocenta Sparks, daughter of Isaac
J. and Maria (Eayrs) Sparks, born January 28, 1850, died April 22, 1850. This baby's sister, Maria Rosa Sparks, was born February 3, 1851, and lived until May 28, 1933. The census taker obviously recorded the wrong name, or perhaps the parents reversed the names after Rosa Ynnocenta died.
Connecticut -- Hartford County, Town of Gkstonbury
Emeline Sparks Died in April 1850. Age: 44. Place of birth: Connecticut.
Cause of death: "Dropsy."
[Editorial Note:] As shown on pp. 2309-10 of the Quarterly of June 1981, Whole
No. 114, there were three Sparks families living in Glastonbury, Connecticut, in
1850. One of these was headed by William C. Sparks, 45 years old, and a native of Connecticut. He appears to have been a widower. Thus, it seems probable that the above Emiline had been his wife. In his household was a ten-year-old girl named Emeline, whom we suspect had been named for her mother.
Georgia -- Fayette County
[Editorial Note:] A published index to the mortality schedule for Georgia shows a Trimble Sparks having died in Fayette County, age 29, in September 1849. An examination of the original record, however, reveals that this man's name was actually Sparks Trimble. We can guess that he had been given the forename "Sparks" for a relative or family friend.
Georgia -- Washington County
Benjamin L. F. Sparks Died in April 1850. Age: 3. Place of birth: Georgia.
Cause of death: "Fall and fever." Ill for 7 days.
James A. Sparks Died in September 1849. Age: 1 year. Place of birth: Georgia. Cause of death: "Diarhea.11 Ill for 42 days.
[Editorial Note:] Two Sparks families were shown on the 1850 census of Washington County, Georgia. (See page 2482 of the December 1982 issue of the Quarterly, Whole No. 120, for this record.) Thomas A. Sparks, age 51, a native of Georgia, was shown with his wife, Ann, age 39, and their nine children. Also shown was Morgan M. Sparks, age 33, a native of Georgia, with wife, Emily G., age 23, and no children. Morgan M. Sparks was a son of Benjamin and Sarah Sparks; he and Emily Collins had been married in Washington County, Georgia, on October 19, 1845. (See p. 3386 of the Quarterly of March 1989, Whole No. 145.) Perhaps these two children belonged to Morgan and Emily Sparks.
Illinois -- Fulton County, City of Canton
Virginia Sparks Died in July 1849. Age: 1 month. Place of birth: Illinois.
Cause of death: "Diarrhea." Ill for 11 days.
[Editorial Note:] Two Sparks families were living in Fulton County when the 1850 census was taken. (See the Quarterly of March 1983, Whole No. 121, pp. 2505-06 for this record.) The only Sparks living in Canton, where little Virginia had died, however, was a Nancy Sparks, age 16, who was living in the household of a merchant named John W. Shiner.
Illinois -- Macoupin County
John B. Sparks Died in August 1849. Age: 7. Place of birth: Missouri.
Cause of death: "Cough & chills." Ill for 3 days.
[Editorial Note:] A record of Sparkses found on the 1850 census of Macoupin County, Illinois, appears in the Quarterly of March 1983, Whole No. 121, pp.2507-08. There seems little doubt from this listing that the above John B. Sparks was a son of John Sparks, age 39, a native of Virginia, and a resident of Chesterfield Township; his wife's name appears to have been Elizabeth Sparks, age 36, and a native of Tennessee. Five children were listed in this family in 1850, including a son named Rial Sparks, age 5, who, like the above John B. Sparks, had been born in Missouri.
Illinois -- Madison County
Delilah Sparks Died in February 1850. Age: 20. Place of birth: Connecticut; Cause of death: "Cholera. 11 Ill for 4 days.
[Editorial Note:] Eight Sparks families were shown on the 1850 census of Madison County, Illinois. (See the Quarterly of March 1983, Whole No. 121, pp.2508-09, for a listing of these households.) We have no clue regarding where among these families Delilah may have belonged. No other Sparks listed in the 1850 census of Madison County had been born in Connecticut.
Illinois -- Woodford County
Leonidas Sparks Died in March 1850. Age: 3 months. Place of birth: Illinois. Cause of death: "Diarrhea." Ill for 8 days.
[Editorial Note:] Leonidas was a son of Asa Egbert and Amanda (Van Scyoc) Sparks, who had moved to Woodford County, Illinois, from Indiana in 1843. (See the Quarterly of March 1962, Whole No. 37, pp. 621-31, for a record of this family.
Indiana -- Daviess County
Almira Sparks Died in August 1849. Age: 47.Place of birth: New York.
Cause of death: "Consumption." Ill for 180 days.
[Editorial Note:] The Sparks families appearing on the 1850 census of Daviess County, Indiana, were published in the Quarterly of June 1959, Whole No. 26, p. 404. We have puzzled over these Daviess County families for many years, but we cannot, even now, make a reasonable guess as to where the above Almira Sparks belongs.'
Nancy Sparks Died in May 1850. Age: 23. Birth place: Virginia. Cause of death: "unknown." Ill 28 days.
[Editorial Note:] As stated earlier, the 1850 census of Daviess County included a number of Sparkses as shown in the Quarterly of June 1959, Whole No. 26, p. 404. Living in Barr Township, with the large family of James Moore, aged 49, a native of Virginia, was a James Sparks, age 26, a native of Indiana, with a six- month-old child named William Sparks. We believe that this Nancy Sparks had been his wife, and probably had been a daughter of William Moore, who had come from Virginia to Indiana about 1830-32, judging from the places of birth of his children. (Emily Moore, 22, and William Moore, 20, were still living at home in 1850.) This James Sparks was married, second, to Dorcas Allen on October 20, 1851, in Daviess County. James Sparks died in Van Buren County, Iowa, on February 10, 1883.
Hester Sparks Died in July 1849. Age: 16.Place of birth: Indiana. Cause of death: "Flux."
[Editorial Note:] Hester Sparks was the eldest child of the Rev. Jeremiah B. and Eliza B. (Rockafellar) Sparks. According to his family Bible record, Hester was born April 8, 1833, and died on July 25, 1849. See the obituary of her mother in the present issue of the Quarterly, p. 4914.
Margaretta Sparks Died in July 1849. Age: 72. Place of birth: Maryland. Cause of death: "Flux."
[Editorial Note:] This was Margaret (Burris) Sparks, wife of Jesse R. Sparks.
See her obituary in the current issue of the Quarterly, p. 4899, which is followed with information regarding her husband and family. Jesse R. Sparks was living with his son, Jeremiah Sparks, in Brookville Township, Franklin County, Indiana, when the 1850 census was taken. Margaret Sparks may, also, have been living with her son, Jeremiah Sparks, when she died.
Susan Jane Sparks Died in April 1850. Age : 1 month. Place of birth: Indiana. Cause of death: "Unknown.
[Editorial Note:] Although there were five different households enumerated on the 1850 census of Johnson County, Indiana, that were headed by Sparkses, in terms of the ages of the possible females in those households who might have been the mother of this infant, Susan Jane Sparks, the most likely candidate was Mildred Sparks, age 28, whose husband was Richard W. Sparks, age 35. (See the Quarterly of December 1959, Whole No. 28, pp. 446-47, misprinted as 346-47.) Both Richard and Mildred were natives of Kentucky. They were shown with three children in 1850: James H. Sparks, age 10; John W. Sparks, age 8; and William B. Sparks, age 2. Richard W. Sparks, born ca. 1816 in Kentucky, was a son of 32.1.8 Walter and Susan (Prewitt) Sparks. (See the Quarterly of March 1983, Whole No. 121, pp. 2490-95 for an article on Walter and Susan Sparks and their children; also pp. 2499-2501 for an abstract of the Civil War pension file of Richard W. Sparks, with biographical notes added; and pp. 4769-71 of the March 1997 issue of the Quarterly, Whole No. 197, for further information about Richard W. Sparks.)
Malinda Sparks Died in January 1850.Age: 2 years. Place of birth:Indiana. Cause of death: "Croup." Ill 3-5 days.
[Editorial Note:] Malinda was a daughter of Solomon and Malinda (Caudill) Sparks who were living in Owen County, Indiana, when the 1850 census was taken. (See the Quarterly of March 1960, Whole No. 29, p. 467.) An article about this branch of the Sparks family appeared in the Quarterly of March 1988, Whole No. 141. Malinda is mentioned on p. 3192 of that article.
Emily J. Sparks Died in November 1849. Age: 2 years. Place of birth: Indiana. Cause of death: "Typhoid fever." Ill 16 days.
[Editorial Note:] Based on census records, it appears that Emily J. Sparks was a daughter of either Noah Sparks (born January 11, 1807) whose wife was Sarah Woodward, or of Benjamin A. Sparks (born November 16, 1815) whose wife was Mary Imhuff. Noah and Benjamin were brothers, sons of Amos and Nancy (Borough) Sparks. (See the Quarterly of March 1962, Whole No. 37, pp. 618-621, for an article on this branch of the Sparks family.) Noah Sparks and Benjamin A. Sparks were living with their families in Addison Township, Shelby County, Indiana, when the 1850 census was taken. (See the Quarterly of June 1960, Whole No. 30, p. 484; see also p. 4908 of the present issue of the Quarterly.)
Washington Sparks Died in July 1849. Age 5 years. Place of birth: Indiana. Cause of death: "Cholera."
[Editorial Note:] There is a tombstone for Washington Sparks in the Lafayette City Grave Yard which gives his date of death as July 23, 1849, aged 31 years. The inscription indicates that his place of birth was Ohio, not Indiana as appears on the mortality schedule. This strongly suggests that he was a son of Emily (Chartres) Sparks, a 39-year-old widow living in the 4th Ward of Lafayette when the 1850 census was taken there. Living with her were her four sons: Charles H. Sparks, age 16; Francis Sparks, age 14; Orange (or Orrin) Sparks, age 10; and Warren Sparks, age 9. The first three had been born in New York according to the census; the youngest, Warren, had been born in Ohio, as had Washington Sparks according to his gravestone. This family had come from Rochester, New York, to Michigan, then to Ohio, and then to Indiana, according to a descendant. The father may have been Mathias B. Sparks who had died soon after moving to Lafayette.
Joseph Sparks Died in December 1849. Age: 22. Place of birth: New Jersey. Cause of death: "Accident."
[Editorial Note:] Joseph Sparks was a son of Joel and Lydia Sparks. He died on December 1, 1849. His obituary was published in the Western Christian Advocate and has been copied in the present issue of the Quarterly, p. 4900-01.
Sarah Sparks Died in April 1850. Age: 3 months. Place of birth: Michigan. Cause of death: "Sudden fit."
[Editorial Note:] There were four Sparks households enumerated on the 1850 census of Jackson County, Michigan. In Columbia Township, however, there was only one, headed by Norman Sparks (age 30, born in Massachusetts); his wife was Sarah Sparks (age 20, born in New York). We can be quite certain that the infant, Sarah, had been their child.
Dick Sparkes Died in July 1849. Age: 35.Place of birth: [blank]. Cause of death: "Dropsey.11
[Editorial Note:] We have not succeeded in identifying this "Dick Sparkes." It can be assumed that "Dick" was a nickname for Richard. Whoever was interviewed by the census taker (E. B. McGuire) regarding his death may not have been a family member since Dick's place of birth was omitted. There was only one Sparks household enumerated on the 1850 census of Monroe County, Mississippi, this being headed by John T. Sparks, age 50, and a native of Maryland. His occupation was given as "Planter," and his real estate was valued at $9,960; he owned a total of 51 slaves in 1850. John T. Sparks was a son of Francis and Cassandra (Wright) Sparks of Baltimore County, Maryland. (A brother of Francis Sparks was Matthew Sparks, born August 14, 1762, whose obituary appears on pp. 4897-98 of the present issue of the Quarterly.) Dick Sparkes may have been related in some manner to John T. Sparks. (See the Quarterly of March 1968, Whole No. 61, p. 1129 [misnumbered 1111] for the 1850 census record of John T. Sparks and his household.)
Fanny B. Sparks Died in May 1850. Age: 4 years. Place of birth: [blank]. Cause of death: "Dysentary."
[Editorial Note:] Fanny B. Sparks was a daughter of William H. Sparks (or Sparke), a native of New York. Her mother was Mary (Stevens) Sparks who had died on October 10, 1847, leaving William A. Sparks with five children: Ann C. Sparks, born ca. 1834; Walter Sparks, born ca. 1837; Henrietta Sparks, born 1841; John Stevens Sparks, born 1843; and Frances ["Fanny"] Bartlett Sparks, born 1845. William H. Sparks then married Eliza Withers Perrin. (See pp. 840-41 of the September 1964 issue of the Quarterly, Whole No. 47, for further details regarding this family.)
A. Sparks (female) Died in May 1850. Age: 39. Place of birth: Maryland. Cause of death: "Chill fever."
[Editorial Note:] Only one Sparks household has been found on the 1850 census of Holmes County, Ohio. This family was headed by J. B. Sparks, age 40, a native of Ohio, and a cooper by occupation. His first name was Jeremiah, and he was a son of Amos and Nancy Ann (Borough) Sparks. Jeremiah B. Sparks was born November 16, 1808. He married Ann Hughes (sometimes spelled "Hughs") in Butler County, Ohio, on November 6, 1837. Ann (Hughes) Sparks was the "A. Sparks" of this mortality record. (See a sketch of the Rev. Amos Sparks and his family on pp. 4907-08 of the present issue of the Quarterly.)
Sidney Sparks Died in May 1850. Age: 41. Place of birth: Ohio. Cause of death: "Consumption."
[Editorial Note:] The daughter of William and Frances Cunningham, Sidney was born in Guernsey County, Ohio, on March 17, 1809. She married William Sparks on March 17, 1827; he was a son of Stephen and Ann (Carman) Sparks. (See pp. 4902-03 of the present issue of the Quarterly for her obituary that had appeared in the Western Christian Advocate.)