Thursday, April 14, 2011

Is this William R. Seaver, son of the murdered William Seaver?

In Some Records for the William Seaver Family Members, I found records for the wife and two daughters of William Seaver of Washington DC, who was murdered in 1821 in Virginia.

What about the son of William and Martha (Davis) Seaver?  Do these records refer to him?

1)  In the 1850 U.S. census, W.R. Seaver resided with the Benjamin Budd family in South Brunswick, Middlesex County, New Jersey (Page 189B, Dwelling #481, Family #481, National Archives Microfilm Publication M432, Roll 455, accessed on

* W. R. Seaver - age 35, male, a farmer, born Maryland

2)  I was unable to find William R. or W.R. Seaver in the 1860 and 1870 censuses.

3)  In the 1880 United States census, William R. Seaver resided in Millburn, Essex County, New Jersey (Dwelling #241, Family #270, Enumeration District 103, Page 593C, accessed on

* William R. Seaver - white, male, age 65, single, merchant, born Maryland, parents born Mass./Mass.

4)  An obituary for William R. Seaver was published in the New York Herald Tribune newspaper dated 28 April 1896 (accessed on It reads;

"Short Hills, April 27 (Special). -- William R. Seaver, one of the oldest and wealthiest residents of Short Hills, died at his residence, on Taylor Road, at 1 o'clock yesterday morning, from paralysis. Mr. Seaver was born in Baltimore about eighty-five years ago. His father was an officer in the United States Army, and was killed in the battle at North Point, Va., in 1814. After leaving college, young Seaver moved to Philadelphia, and afterward to New York, where he engaged in the tea importing business. He made several trips to China and Japan. He moved to Short Hills thirty-six years ago, and at that time he owned nearly the entire village. Mr. Seaver was a great fancier of horses, and some years ago built a half-mile track on his property. About five years ago he retired from active business. He was never married, and leaves a sister, who lives in Baltimore. The body will be taken to that city to-morrow and will be buried there, in Green Mount Cemetery."

I'm sure that I could find more resources in books and microfilm (especially land and probate records) from the Essex County, New Jersey area.

Why do I think that this William R. Seaver is the son of William and Martha (Davis) Seaver?  The clues are:

1)  He was born in the 1810 (age 85 in 1896) to 1815 (age 35 in 1850, age 65 in 1880) time frame in Maryland;  this is after the marriage of his parents.

2)  The birthplace of his parents is given as Massachusetts in the 1880 census; this matches all of the other records I have for the parents.  There were no other male Seaver persons in the 1880 census who were born in Maryland with parents born in Massachusetts.   

3)  The obituary in 1896 refers to an unnamed sister who lives in Baltimore.  And he is to be buried in Baltimore.  Information I have from my correspondent is that the unmarried sister Martha died in 1886, and that his unmarried sister Sarah died in 1900.  I need to find the grave in Green Mount Cemetery in Baltimore.  If he is buried with his mother and sisters, then that would be convincing evidence of the relationships.

What are the evidence conflicts?  The only one I see to date is this from the obituary:  "His father was an officer in the United States Army, and was killed in the battle at North Point, Va., in 1814."

That doesn't match the reality of the death of William Seaver (1782-1821).  Young William was old enough in 1821 (between ages 6 and 10) to remember vividly the death of his father.  Perhaps he told a romantic story about his father death in the War of 1812, rather than the reality.  Who provided the information to the newspaper on 27 April 1896, one day after his death?  Nobody can know the answer to this; it was likely a servant or family friend rather than his sister. 

One research avenue is to search for a Seaver that died in the War of 1812 in 1814.  I haven't done that yet, but I will!  I'm still having lots of fun with this research problem - not my ancestors, but a cousin!

Does any reader have any comments or ideas about this case?  Does any reader have access to Green Mount Cemetery in Baltimore and can check the records or gravestones there?


John Van Essen said...

The Green Mount Cemetery website genealogy page has a request form that you can submit to find out more information. There are some potential fees involved.

Cousin Russ said...


Since I have folk resting in Green Mount, I thought I would check my notes.

Here is a link to their website with a link to a Form for information.

I am very close to your New Jersey ancestors as well. I will print this Blog posting and take it with me when I am out researching in that area.


Sharon said...

Very interesting story! I've been following it just like a murder mystery.

William R. Seaver's NJ Death certificate should provide more info: parents, name of informant etc. By 1896 NJ death certificates were quite detailed.