Saturday, May 17, 2014

Joseph Bell: son of Samuel and Mary (Lyons) Bell

by Jean M. Hoffman, CG

One Source of Direct Evidence
History of Washington County, Ohio, p. 568
“Samuel Bell….[and] wife, Mary Lyons….had twelve children, of whom five survive [to about 1881]…Samuel, Joseph, Nathan, Hiram, and William.”[1] This quote is a direct statement that Joseph Bell was a son of Samuel and Mary (Lyons) Bell. The source is a published county history, not generally a reliable source of information. An evaluation of the informant and this specific statement, however, shows that it is highly likely to be correct. Records of the Bell family in Newport Township, Washington County, Ohio, build a supporting case. The most compelling of those records is the settlement of Samuel Bell’s estate by administrator Joseph Bell in which he charged the estate $26 “for my mother’s gravestone.”[2]
Evaluating Source and Determining Probable Informant
The information in the county history covers Samuel Bell and his family followed by a paragraph about his son Nathan. By 1880, Nathan was the only child of Samuel Bell still living in Newport Township. He is enumerated there in the 1880 census[3] and continued to pay tax on the land to 1886 (pers. comm. Ernest Thode). The level of detail, though not all of it accurate, in the biographical sketch points to Nathan or a member of his immediate family as the informant. Nathan and his family members were well aware of the identities of his siblings even while dates were not reported accurately. Nathan Bell or a member of his immediate family is a credible source of the names of his siblings. The number of twelve children in the family is also probably correct. The 1820 U.S. census enumeration of the Samuel Bell household lists a male forty-five or above, a female twenty-six to forty-four, and twelve younger people, eight males and four females.[4]
Additional Factors and Family Connections
The county history does not stand alone. Joseph Bell as administrator of Samuel Bell’s estate is not identified by relationship but makes a close connection likely. The charge mentioned above implies that Joseph was Samuel’s son. Joseph lived until 1865 in Newport Township in close proximity to relatives. In 1834 Samuel Bell and his wife Mary sold to Joseph Bell land in that township, excluding a portion given to his daughter Mary Tuel. Joseph mortgaged the land to Samuel.[5] Again, no relationship is stated for Joseph, but his (likely) sister is living on land formerly part of the parcel he purchased. Nathan lived with Joseph in 1850 and in an adjacent household in 1860.[6] Joseph was associated with another sister, Jane Flint in Ludlow Township, when he provided surety for her bond for administration of her late husband’s estate. Jane also had a relationship with Nathan, providing a home in 1850 for his two motherless and homeless children after the death of his first wife. In 1860, brother William H. Bell lived close to her. In her will she named William H. Bell as her brother.[7]
Sons of Samuel Bell in 1880
The county history names five surviving children and all appear in the 1880 census. Samuel in Meigs County, Joseph in Gallia County, and Nathan in Washington County all were enumerated with father’s birthplace as Ireland and mother’s as Conn.[8] Hiram in Michigan came close with Ireland and Mass.[9] William H. Bell in Nebraska has both born in Ireland.[10] Combined, the 1880 census records illustrate the truth of the county history statement.


[1] H. Z. Williams Bro. Pub., 1788-1881, History of Washington County, Ohio, with Illustrations and Biographical Sketches (1881; reprint Knightstown, Ind: Bookmark, 1976), 568.
[2] Samuel Bell Estate Settlement, 1847, Washington County Probate Record Book 8: 97-100, Probate Court, Marietta, Ohio. Joseph Bell as Administrator charged the estate $26.00 for “Grave Stones for my Mother.”
[3] 1880 U.S. census, Washington County, Ohio, population schedule, Newport Township, ED 235, sheet 350D, dwelling 211, family 231, Nathan Bell household; digital image, Ancestry.com (www.ancestry.com : accessed 11 February 2014); citing NARA T9, roll 1076; imaged from FHL microfilm 1,255,076.
[4] 1820 U.S. Census, Washington County, Ohio, population schedule, Newport Township, page 221, line 9, Samuel Bell household; digital image, Ancestry.com (www.ancestry.com : accessed 11 February 2014); citing NARA M33, roll 95.
[5] Washington County, Ohio, Deed Book 24: 318-20, Samuel and Mary Bell deed to Joseph Bell and Joseph Bell mortgage to Samuel Bell, 1834, County Recorder's Office, Marietta, Ohio.
[6] 1850 U.S. Census, Washington County, Ohio, population schedule, Newport Township, page 929, dwelling/family 1, Joseph Bell household; NARA M432, roll 738. Also 1860 U.S. census, Washington County, Ohio, population schedule, post office Newport, p. 8 (penned), p. 81 (stamped), dwelling 66, family 68, Joseph Bell household; NARA M653, roll 1048.
[7] Jean M. Hoffman, “Jane Flint: A Bell Child Identified,” Bluegrass and Buckeye Roots (http://bluegrassandbuckeyeroots.blogspot.com/2013/05/jane-flint-bell-child-identified.html : accessed 11 February 2014).
[8] For Samuel: 1880 U.S. census, Meigs County, Ohio, population schedule, Sutton Township, ED 120, sheet 307A, dwelling 78, family 82, Samuel Bell household; digital image, Ancestry.com (www.ancestry.com : accessed 11 February 2014); citing NARA T9, roll 1048; imaged from FHL microfilm 1255048. For Joseph: 1880 U.S. census, Gallia County, Ohio, population schedule, Clay Township, ED 21, p. 277B, dwelling 231, family 237, Joseph Bell household; digital image, Ancestry.com (www.ancestry.com : accessed 10 October 2012); citing NARA T9, roll 1018. For Nathan: 1880 U.S. census, Washington Co., Ohio, pop. sch., Newport Twp., ED 235, sheet 350D, dwelling 211, fam. 231, Nathan Bell household; NARA T9, roll 1076.
[9] 1880 U.S. census, Hillsdale County, Michigan, population schedule, Camden Township, ED 83, sheet 77B, dwelling 201, family 207, Hiram Bell household; digital image, Ancestry.com (www.ancestry.com : accessed 11 February 2014); citing NARA T9, roll 580; imaged from FHL microfilm 1254580.
[10] 1880 U.S. census, Fillmore County, Nebraska, population schedule, Fairmont, ED 323, sheet 455D, dwelling 128, family 132, William H. Bell household; digital image, Ancestry.com (www.ancestry.com : accessed 11 February 2014); citing NARA T9, roll 748; imaged from FHL microfilm 1254748.