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Questions From Early Pennsylvania

 

by James E. Punches

 

    During my research into my family origins I have found some data which I have puzzled over, data which I can’t resolve using published information from  the Pontius Family Association (PFA), of which I am a member. I am hoping that by presenting it here one or more members of the association may be able to resolve my puzzlement.

 

    I will refer to census data from the state of Pennsylvania for the census years of 1800, 1810, and 1820 in this article. My puzzlement stems from the discovery of a seeming contradiction between what has been published by the PFA in The Bridge Builder [a PFA publication] and the contents of the census records. I will begin the examination and discussion of the data starting with the census of 1800 and then following in order, 1810 and 1820. Reference sources will be indicated as numbers enclosed within parenthesis.

 

1800 CENSUS  (1)

 

    There are only six recognized Peters who should be living during this census according to the Bridge Builder (8). Those Peters are:

 

1. Peter (J1-3)        1747-1835        b. Berks Co., PA  d. Snyder Co., PA

2. Peter (Ni-4)        1759/61-1785     killed by Indians

3. Peter (J1-18)       1783-1862        d. Union Co., PA

4. Peter (J1-35)       1783-1850

5. Peter (Ni-42)       1785-1851        d. Stark Co., OH

6. Peter (J1-12-3)     1801-1882        d. Stark Co., PA

 

    In the listing for Penns Twp., Northumberland Co., we find, in the middle of the ‘’P’s’’, in this order, the names of Peter Pounteous, John Pounteous, Simon Pickel, Peter Pounteous and Nicholas Pounteous. It is no mistake, there are two Peters listed on microfilm page 139. A cursory examinations reveals that both Peters are at least 45 years of age. Can we determine if both are accounted for by the PFA, especially as the table above shows only one Peter should be alive and over 45 years of age in the year 1800. To aid in seeing the data, I’ll do a tabular listing of the members of each household. Each family will be assigned a number for ease of discussion. The reference number shall be listed first, separated by a dash from a family number, i.e., [1-1], [1-2], etc.

 

     Head-of-Household         Member status              Birth Occurred

 

[1-1]  John Pounteous        1 male under 10                1791-1800

                             1 male of 10 and under 16      1785-1790

                             1 male of 16 and under 26      1775-1784

                             1 male of 45 and over          before 1756

                             1 female under 10              1791-1800

                             2 females of 10 and under 16   1785-1790

                             1 female of 45 and over        before 1756

 

 

[1-2]  Nicholas Pounteous    5 males under 10               1791-1800

                             1 male of 10 and under 16      1785-1790

                             1 male of 26 and under 45      1756-1774

                             3 females under 10             1791-1800

                             1 female of 10 and under 16    1785-1790

                             1 female of 26 and under 45    1756-1774

 

[1-3]  Peter Pounteous       1 male under 10                1791-1800

                             1 male of 10 and under 16      1785-1790

                             2 males of 16 and under 26     1775-1784

                             1 male of 45 and over          before 1756

                             2 females under 10             1791-1800

                             1 female of 10 and under 16    1785-1790

                             1 female of 16 and under 26    1775-1784

                             1 female of 45 and over        before 1756

 

[1-4]  Peter Pounteous       1 male of 10 and under 16      1785-1790

                             1 male of 16 and under 26      1775-1784

                             1 male of 26 and under 45      1756-1774

                             1 male of 45 and over          before 1756

                             2 females under 10             1791-1800

                             2 females of 16 and under 26   1775-1784

                             1 female of 45 and over        before 1756

 

    The above listings show the existence of two Peters, both born before 1756 while PFA published data shows only one born before 1756 and still living in 1800. We will examine the next census to see if we can learn anything new in support of the above data.

 

1810 CENSUS  (2)

 

    We find Pontius families of interest in Miles Twp., Centre Co., Centre Township, Northumberland Co., and in Penns Twp., Northumberland Co., Pennsylvania in the census of 1810.

 

Miles Township, Centre County

 

     Head-of-Household         Member status               Birth Occurred

 

[2-1]  Peter Punch           1 male of 26 and under 45      1766-1784

                             1 female of 16 and under 26    1785-1794

 

The Peter listed here appears to be the person who purchased land in Lake Township, Stark County, Ohio on 18 October 1810, according to available records from the Steubenville, Ohio land office which identify the purchaser as Peter Pontius of Centre Co., Pennsylvania.

 

Centre Township, Northumberland County

 

     Head-of-Household         Member Status               Birth Occurred

 

[2-2]  Joseph Pontious       1 male of 16 and under 26      1785-1794

         -farmer-            1 female under 10              1801-1810

                             1 female of 16 and under 26    1785-1794

 

[2-3]  Peter Pontious        2 males under 10               1801-1810                

        -farmer-             2 males of 16 and under 26     1785-1794

                             1 male of 45 and over          before 1766

                             5 females of 16 and under 26   1785-1794

                             1 female of 45 and over        before 1766

 

[2-4]  Peter Pontious        1 male under 10                1801-1810

         -miller-            1 male of 16 and under 26      1785-1794

                             1 female of 16 and under 26    1785-1794

 

 

Penns Township, Northumberland County

 

    Head-of Household          Member Status               Birth Occurred

 

[2-5]  Henry Pontious        2 males under 10               1801-1810

         -farmer-            1 male of 26 and under 45      1766-1784

                             3 females under 10             1801-1810

                             1 female of 26 and under 45    1766-1784

 

[2-6]  Peter Pontious        3 males of 10 and under 16     1795-1800

         -laborer-           1 male of 45 and over          before 1766

                             2 females of 10 and under 16   1795-1800

                             1 female of 16 and under 26    1785-1794

                             1 female of 45 and over        before 1766

 

    It can’t be helped but to notice that we still have two Peters who were born in the generation of the children of Johannes (J1) and Nicholas (Ni).

 

1820 CENSUS (3)

 

    In the census of 1820 we have a number of entries which are interesting. We note that there are no more Pontius families in Centre County and that Northumberland County has again been split with Centre Township and Penns Township going to the new Union County. Since our Pontius families are in Centre and Penns townships, we concentrate on Union County.

    This particular census is itself very interesting because having recently gone through the War of 1812, federal authorities wanted to know how many young men were coming to military age. This census was modified in order to achieve this count by the inclusion of an extra column for males of age 16 and under 18. The result was that young men of that criterion were counted twice in the enumerations, once in the normal category of, ‘’of 16 and under 26," and again in the new category. For the sake of brevity, I will list only the new category data where there is the overlap just described.

 

CENTRE TOWNSHIP, UNION COUNTY

 

    Head-of-Household          Member Status               Birth Occurred

 

[3-1]  Peter Ponticis        1 male of 10 and under 16      1805-1810

                             1 male of 16 and under 18      1803-1804

                             1 male of 45 and over          before 1776

                             1 female under 10              1811-1820

                             1 female of 16 and under 26    1795-1804

                             1 female of 45 and over        before 1776

 

WEST BUFFALO TOWNSHIP, UNION COUNTY

 

    Head-of-Household          Member Status               Birth Occurred

 

[3-2]  Andrew Pantius        1 male of 16 and under 26      1795-1804

                             1 male of 26 and under 45      1776-1794

                             1 male of 45 and over          before 1776

                             2 females of 10 and under 16   1805-1810

                             1 female of 16 and under 26    1795-1804

                             1 female of 45 and over        before 1776

 

[3-3]  Peter Pantius         1 male of 10 and under 16      1805-1810

                             1 male of 26 and under 45      1776-1794

                             3 females under 10             1811-1820

                             1 female of 16 and under 26    1795-1804

 

BUFFALO TOWNSHIP, UNION COUNTY

 

    Head-of-Household          Member Status               Birth Occurred

 

[3-4]  Frederick Pontius     1 male of 16 and under 18      1803-1804

                             1 male of 26 and under 45      1776-1794

                             1 female under 10              1811-1820

                             3 females of 16 and under 26   1795-1804

 

[3-5]  Henry Pontius         1 male of 10 and under 16      1805-1810

                             1 male of 45 and over          before 1776

                             2 females of 26 and under 45   1776-1794

                             1 female of 45 and over        before 1776

 

[3-6]  Philip Pontius        1 male under 10                1811-1820

                             1 male of 10 and under 16      1805-1810

                             1 male of 16 and under 26      1795-1804

                             1 male of 26 and under 45      1776-1794

                             2 females under 10             1811-1820

                             1 female of 26 and under 45    1776-1794

 

PENNS TOWNSHIP, UNION COUNTY

 

    Head-of-Household          Member Status               Birth Occurred

 

[3-7]  Henry Pontius         4 males under 10               1811-1820

                             3 males of 10 and under 16     1805-1810

                             1 male of 16 and under 18      1803-1804

                             1 male of 45 and over          before 1776

                             1 female of 10 and under 16    1805-1810

                             1 female of 45 and over        before 1776

 

[3-8]  Joseph Ponteus        3 males under 10               1811-1820

                             1 male of 26 and under 45      1776-1794

                             3 females under 10             1811-1820

                             1 female of 10 and under 16    1805-1810

                             1 female of 26 and under 45    1776-1794

 

    The entries for Henry Pontius and Joseph Ponteus are badly faded but readable. The Stemmons Index to the 1820 Pennsylvania census gives Joseph’s surname as Pontrees, but in my own reading of the entry, I read it as Ponteus.

 

DISCUSSION OF THE ABOVE ENTRIES

 

    The PFA current 3-generation charts will be used as an aid in examining the data from the three census enumerations.  The people listed in these charts have birth years which fall primarily in years before 1820 and it may be possible therefore to directly identify an entry family from the published data.

    As seen already, there are two Peters 45 or older recorded in the census enumerations for 1800 and 1810 where the PFA data says there should only be one older than 45 in census 1800. The one who should be there is Peter J1-3. While this is very interesting, we will first look at the other families who live nearby and who have the same surname. It is worth noting that these families were on the same page as the Peters.

    Entry 1-1, John Pounteus gives the probable as being before 1756. This narrows the number of possible matches in the Johannes charts to Johannes J1 and John Jr. J1-5. These people have been, to the best of my knowledge, the only chart members to commonly use the given name of John for themselves in that historical period. Johannes J1 can be eliminated by virtue of his passing in the year 1792, leaving only John Jr. as a viable candidate from the PFA chart. John Jr. is said to have been born in 1751 (4, page 5). This date falls into the period given from the census data. The Johannes generational charts however, show only five children as being offspring of John Jr. and his wife, Barbara Katterman:

 

                        J1-51 Catherine   born 1777

                        J1-52 John        born 1779

                        J1-53 Esther      born 1781

                        J1-54 Jacob       born 1783

                        J1-55 Susann      born 1790

 

and the census listing shows six children, three males and three females.

    If we reconstruct the known offspring of John Jr. into a format consistent with the census listing, we achieve:

 

                        J1-51 Catherine    of 16 and under 26

                        J1-52 John         of 16 and under 26

                        J1-53 Esther       of 16 and under 26

                        J1-54 Jacob        of 16 and under 26

                        J1-55 Susann       of 10 and under 16

 

    It is obvious that in comparing the census listing, 1-1, with the above reconstruction, only two of the known children will fit into the census data. We might conclude that the three oldest children may have been married or otherwise living apart from their parents in 1800, leaving only 17 year old Jacob and 10 year old Susann still living with the parents. But how can we resolve the problem of the other two girls under 16 years of age? On the basis of the above data we are forced to conclude that either, John Jr. J1-5 had more children than are currently acknowledged or that there is another family headed by another John who is not in the PFA listings, and who co-temporally existed with that of the identified personage of John Jr. J1-5. If the latter conclusion is correct, which one is the true John Jr.?

 

     In entry 1-2, we have Nicholas Pounteus. The census listing requires his birth to have occurred during the 1756 through 1774 time period. The author examined the remote possibility that this entry could be Nicholas J1-14. However, he can be eliminated because of (1) his birth year being 1775; (2) the number of children he would have had to sire before turning 25; and (3) his third child per PFA records, David J1-143, was born after the 1800 census. Comparing entry 1-2 with the PFA charts, this is most likely Nicholas Ni-6. Nicholas was born in 1763, which falls into the required time frame of the census data. We will list the acknowledged children of Nicholas with both their birth years and in census format for consideration.

 

           Ni-61 Benjamin   born 1787    of 10 and under 16

           Ni-62 Elizabeth  born 1788    of 10 and under 16

           Ni-63 Gabriel    born 1790    of 10 and under 16

           Ni-64 John       born 1790    of 10 and under 16

           Ni-65 Soloman    born 1793    under 10

           Ni-66 Magdalene  born c1794   under 10

           Ni-67 Mary       born 1796    under 10

           Ni-68 Margaret   born 1797    under 10

           Ni-69 Nicholas   born 1797    under 10

           Ni-6-10 Samuel   born 1808    not yet born

           Ni-6-11 Sally    born c1816   not yet born

           Ni-6-12 Anne     born c1818   not yet born

 

It can be immediately seen that Benjamin fills the requirement for one male of 10 and under 16, and likewise with Elizabeth for the females. The three girls, Magdalene, Mary, and Margaret fit the requirement for three females under 10. Four of the five males under 10 years of age can be filled by the remaining boys, if we include Gabriel and John in the group. Despite the discrepancy of a missing male child under 10 years of age, we can probably say with a high degree of confidence, that this family is the one identified as belonging to the PFA’s Nicholas Ni-6.

    Now we come to the most interesting of the 1800 entries, those of 1-3 and 1-4; both headed by men named Peter Pounteus. Both have required birth years before 1756, which presents a problem when considering the PFA data and charts. PFA published data and charts only show one Peter as meeting the requirements of being born prior to 1756 and continuing to survive beyond 1790. That is Peter J1-3 in the charts. Another Peter, Ni-4, is said to have been killed by Indians in 1785, leaving two children, William and Peter, as orphans.

    As before, we will list the acknowledged children of this man identified as Peter J1-3, both with birth years, and in census format, comparing the results with the actual census listings to see if there is any correlation with one of them.

 

           J1-31 Henry      born 1773    of 26 and under 45              

           J1-32 Elizabeth  born 1776    of 16 and under 26

           J1-33 Catherine  born 1778    of 16 and under 26

           J1-34 Margaret   born 1780    of 16 and under 26

           J1-35 Peter      born 1783/5  of 16 and under 26

           J1-36 Joseph     born 1787    of 10 and under 16

           J1-37 Rosanna   

           J1-38 Anna Maria                          

           J1-39 Barbara    born 1794    under 10

           J1-3-10 George   born 178?    of 10 and under 16?

 

    This offspring listing can cause problems because of the three birth uncertainties in the PFA data. However, if the proper household can be reasonably identified, we may be able to put some year limits in, in place of no data and uncertain data.

    Examination of entry 1-3 shows that two males are required of 16 and under 26. The child listing for Peter J1-3 does not strictly meet this requirement. Examination of 1-4, on the other hand, shows two females of 16 and under 26 in the household. It is not unreasonable to expect and argue that one or two of the daughters have married and are no longer living with the parents. The same argument can be used for 1-3 also, as the daughters were 24, 22 and 20 respectively, and marriage for any of the daughters is not out of the question.

    We must enter the realm of reasonable conjecture at this point in our examination of 1-3, 1-4 and the family of Peter J1-3. If we assume that the birth of George probably occurred in 1780-1784, the requirement of 1-3 for 2 males of 16 and under 26, is fulfilled. Since the published data on Peter J1-35 (8, pg.6 and 9, pg.33) have differing birthdates, the earlier date seems best to fit the other assumed data points and so has been chosen as the more probable one. The conclusion, after all the preceding considerations, leads to a strong sense that entry 1-3 is the family of Peter J1-3, as currently held in the PFA records, and that the census enumeration can be reconstructed as follows:

 

           1 male under 10                   unknown    

           1 male of 10 and under 16         Joseph

           2 males of 16 and under 26        George, Peter

           1 male of 45 and over             Peter J1-3

           2 females under 10                Anna Maria, Barbara

           1 female of 10 and under 16       Rosanna

           1 female of 16 and under 26       Margaret

           1 female of 45 and over           Anna Catherine W J1-3

 

    This reconstruction requires that Henry, Elizabeth, and Catherine all be removed from the family household, probably via marriage, although this in itself is not required for the condition.

    The other Peter Family, 1-4, is then an unknown as far the PFA records are concerned and the same question must be asked as was asked for John Pounteus, Which Peter entry is the true J1-3 family? Is it the one in the PFA records or is it the one which is not?

   When we turn to the entries of 1810, we begin to have more confusion in the discrepancies between PFA published data and census data. We find only one Peter previously considered, still remaining in Penns Township, with the other Peter apparently having relocated to Centre Township. It would appear that Joseph J1-36 had married only a short time before the census, as the entry 2-2 could well be him; likewise for Peter J1-35, entry 2-4. Entry 2-5 in Penns Township could well be Henry J1-31, with Henry remaining in Penns with his family when the others moved on. And, the presence in Centre Township, along with Joseph and Peter J1-35, strongly suggests that entry 2-3 is the one identified by PFA as Peter J1-3.

    There are problems with 2-3 as a continuation of 1-3, even granting the 10 year separation between the data groups. Either Peter J1-3 was more prolific than previously suspected, or he had other relatives living in his household. Look at the 2-3 entry. There are 2 males listed as under 10. They are found nowhere in the PFA records for Peter J1-3. From the number of males and females in age regime of 16 and under 26, it might be safe to conclude that at least one son with his wife and one daughter with her husband are living in the home with the under 10 children being grandchildren. I know of no information that has ever been published to corroborate or deny this conjecture. Is there any?

    Entry 2-1 is fairly straight forward. This Peter has obviously been recently married and there are no children yet born at the time of the census. Reference 6 identifies Peter Ni-42 as entering Lake Township, Stark County, Ohio. As previously mentioned, the land sale records from the Steubenville land office identify a Peter Pontius from Centre County, Pennsylvania as the purchaser of land in Lake Township on 18 October 1810. A reasonable conclusion is that this entry, 2-1, is Peter Ni-42 as identified in the PFA records. The Peter remaining in Penns Township, entry 2-6, is apparently the same as examined in entry 1-4. But, we also have some extra people again in the 1810 count who were not in the 1800 count. We will do a side-by-side comparison of the census entries.

 

            [1-4] Data            Birth Occurred          [2-6] Data

 

                                    1795-1800       of 10 and under 16   3 males

1 male      of 10 and under 16      1785-1790

1 male      of 16 and under 26      1775-1784

1 male      of 26 and under 45      1756-1774

1 male      of 45 and over        before 1756/66    of 45 and over       1 male

                                    1801-1810       under 10             2 females

                                    1795-1800       of 10 and under 16   2 females

2 females   under 10                1791-1800

                                    1785-1794       of 16 and under 26   1 female

2 females   of 16 and under 26      1775-1784

1 female    of 45 and over        before 1756/66    of 45 and over       1 female                                                                                     

 

    The only seeming constants here are the older couple and the two youngest 1-4 females, who seem to show up as the two females of 10 and under 16 in 2-6. It seems unlikely that the children under 10, in entry 2-6, would be the offspring of the older couple, unless they were menopausal children, for the wife was at least 45 and surely pre-menopausal in 1800. It may be however, that these were grandchildren living with the family for whatever reason. We shall have to wait for more and better information for a determination.

    When considering the data from the census of 1820, we are struck by the disappearance of most of the Peters. The only county of interest in 1820 is Union County with four townships represented; Centre, Buffalo, West Buffalo, and Penns.

    Entry 3-1 in Centre Township is that of Peter Ponticis. Since the head-of-household parameters still show a birth date before the third generation Peters, and since the PFA’s Peter J1-3 had previously been identified with this family in Centre Township, it seems safe to say that this is the census listing for Peter J1-3. The two males under the age of 18 are consistent with the two males under 10 in the 2-3 entry. We have however, a new minor child, a girl, under 10 in this 3-1 entry. This now a total of four children in this family’s counts which are not accounted for in the PFA data.

    The clustering of families in Buffalo and West Buffalo Townships seem to point to a common origin for these families. Entry 3-5 would appear to be the family identified by PFA data as being that of Henry J1-31. The age regimes for the heads-of-household in entries 3-2, 3-3, 3-4 and 3-6 are consistent with the children of Henry J1-1; Andrew J1-11, Peter J1-18, Frederick J1-12, and Philip J1-1-11. I am satisfied that these are probably correct.

    In considering those families in Penns Township in the 1820 census, we have only one direct repeat from 1810, that of Henry Pontius, entry 3-7. Joseph Ponteus has moved from Centre Township, entry 2-2, to Penns Township, entry 3-2, and remains a good candidate for Joseph J1-36 of the PFA records. Henry is still believed to be Henry J1-31 of the PFA records.

    Of those records considered in this article, the greatest inconsistencies lie with the identifications of 1-1 John Pounteous and the second Peter, entries 1-4 and 2-6. In the case of John, the number of children recorded in the census data disagrees with those recognized by the PFA. This is compelling enough that we should entertain the possibility that the PFA record is a misidentification, due solely to the commonality of the given name JOHN. In the case of Peter, we have shown two households headed by men with the common name of PETER and being of similar age, where the PFA has identified only one, Peter J1-3. The possibility of PFA misidentification does exist in both these cases and should be resolved by the best possible research and evidence obtainable. The questions presented by the analysis of the census data from the three census years of 1800, 1810, and 1820 deserve consideration and answer. The answers could be profound and the implications, exciting.

  

 

SOURCES                                                                              REF. #

                           

 

Index to 1800 Pennsylvania Census, pub. John Stemmons  . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  . . . 1

        Microfilm page 139, 1800 Pennsylvania Census

 

Index to 1810 Pennsylvania Census, pub. John Stemmons . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2

       Microfilm pages 219 and 222, 1810 Pennsylvania Census

 

Index to 1820 Pennsylvania Census, pub. John Stemmons . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3

       Microfilm pages 48, 57, 84, and 93, 1820 Pennsylvania Census

 

Bridge Builder Vol. III, No.1, May 1970, pp. 5, 8 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 4

 

Bridge Builder Vol. IV, No.1, June 1971, pp. 10, 11, 16 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 5

 

Bridge Builder Vol. IX, No.2, December 1976, pp. 4, 18, 20. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6

 

Bridge Builder Vol. X, No.1, July 1977, pg. 10. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 7

 

Bridge Builder Vol. XI, No. 1, July 1978, pg. 6 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 8

 

Bridge Builder Vol. XIV, No.1, January 1993, pp. 33, 34. . . . . . .. . . . . . . . . . . 9