Monday, May 5, 2014

How old is this man and where did he come from? My 3rd great grandfather Clarence L. Perkins

Clarence Lendall Perkins, my 3rd great grandfather.  Where on Earth do I start with this one?  This is a rather long entry about an ancestor, a brick wall and the clues I've found leading me to a theory that I don't have the resources to solve (yet).

Clarence Lendall Perkins 
My great grandmother Doris (Colson) Denhof was his great granddaughter, via his son Charles Perkins and wife Freda Johnson.  Why do I list Doris as a Colson?  Because when she was 3 months old her mother Freda died of pneumonia, Charles took her brother Milo and moved to Lansing Michigan, leaving Doris with George and Anna Colson.  My pursuit of Clarence was initially hampered by my lack of information on the Perkins family which was because nobody in my family ever bothered to look.  Doris lived to be 98 years old and told me that her parents were Charles and Freda and the story of the “adoption”  (nobody thinks she was ever legally adopted).  She had a photo of each of her parents in her photo albums and told me that her father had remarried to a “Gertrude”.  I dug around on and found the marriage for Charles and Freda and found another marriage for Charles and Gertrude……….now I had an approximate age for Charles and the names of his parents.   

I looked in the Newaygo County marriages and found that Clarence L Perkins, age 36 and Sarahette Lamberson, age 18 married at Ashland, Newaygo County Michigan 12/1/1872.  Note that her name was actually Sarah Etta Lambertson – this comes into play later when talking about his military pension.

The next step I took was to look for Charles and family in the census records – I figured he must have siblings and I always track them as well, as working down a sibling line can yield a living cousin with information.  I was only able to find them in the 1880 and 1900 census:

6/17/1880 Ashland, Newaygo County Michigan
Clarence Perkins, age 25, laborer, born Vermont – parents born in VT
Sarah Perkins, age 22, keeping house, born New York – parents born in NY
Delia May Perkins, age 5, born Michigan
Eva Ellen Perkins, age 3, Michigan
Charles E Perkins, age 9/12 (born the previous September), Michigan

June 8th-9th 1900 Moorland, Muskegon County Michigan
Clarence L Perkins, age 54, Apr/1846,  boarder, born Vermont – parents born in VT

Why is he enumerated twice?  And why didn't he know where his parents were from 2 weeks after stating they were from Vermont?

6/21/1900 Ashland, Newaygo County Michigan
Clarence Perkins, Apr/1846, age 54, married 28 years, engineer, born Vermont – parents birth unk
Sarah Perkins, Jul/1854, age 45, 9 children, 8 living, born New York – parents born in NY
Viola Perkins, Aug/1883, age 16
Willis R Perkins, Sep/1885, age 14
Nellie Perkins, Jun/1888, age 11
Guy H Perkins, Mar/1893, age 7
Ralph C Perkins, Mar/1898, age 2
Eva A Scott, Feb/1878, age 22, 2 children, 1 living
Archie Scott, Dec/1876, 23, born MI
Ella L Scott, Nov/1899, 6/12, born MI

So far I’ve located 3 records for Clarence – his marriage would indicate he was born in 1836 in Vermont yet in 1880 he’s 11 years younger than he indicated in his marriage 8 years before.  Then in 1900 he’s aged 30 years in the 20 year span.  This isn’t going well at all.

I couldn't find Clarence after 1900 but I did locate Sarah in the previous 3 censuses:

1910 Groton, Tompkins County New York
Sarah Perkins, age 52, widowed, 9 children, 7 living, born New York, parents - born in NY
Willis Perkins, age  25, single, born Michigan
Ralph Perkins, age 12, single, born Michigan

1920 Groton, Tompkins County New York
Sarah Perkins, age 64, widowed, born New York, parents - dad born PA, mom born NY
Willis R Perkins, age 36, widower, born Michigan
Ralph Perkins, age 21, born Michigan
Alice Perkins, age 21 (dau in law)

1930 Groton, Tompkins County New York
Ralph Perkins, age 32, born Michigan
Harriett Perkins, age 26
Jay Perkins, age 6, born New York
Sara Perkins, age 76, widowed, born New York, parents - born in NY

Jay Perkins, age 6 living with Sarah huh?  A quick Google search revealed a Jay Perkins still living in Groton NY (this was around 2005 – he and his wife Blanche have both passed away since).  I called the house and Blanche answered the phone.  I explained how we were related and I did indeed have the home of Sarah’s grandson Jay.  Blanche was the family historian and was excited to hear from me.  She ended up sending me a packet of photos and family information and their son emailed with me a bit.  What really broke things open for me was when she asked “you do know you have a cousin in Grant (MI) still?”  I had no knowledge of what she was talking about so I took the woman’s name and number and gave her a call.

When I spoke to Charlene she was also glad to hear from me.  Her grandmother was Eva Perkins Scott and she remembered my 2nd great grandfather Charles Perkins and his son Milo.  She had no knowledge of my great grandmother but was more than willing to meet with me.  I made the drive up to Grant and brought my grandma with me – when they met it was almost eerie how similar they looked – the genetics weren’t lost on either!  She had some documents and pictures to share.  One photo was the one at the top of the blog (the only picture of Clarence I can find) and one was a less than flattering picture of Charles (I’ll save that for another blog).  She also gave me Clarence’s discharge certificate from when he served in the Civil War and told me that he’s buried at the Veteran’s Cemetery in Grand Rapids.  Now I’m getting somewhere – I can track his death down this way!  This is also the paper that got me writing for his war record.

I tracked down his death certificate and obtained this information:
He died at the Soldier’s Home in Grand Rapids, Kent County Michigan
He was born 4/4/1835 in Vermont and died 8/15/1907
His father was William Perkins of Ireland
His mother was Adeline Perkins of Vermont
He died of “septicemia” (from injury of knee)
He’s buried at the Soldier’s Home Cemetery
Informant was Wm. J. Emery of the Soldier’s home. 

So – why on Earth wasn’t Sarah the informant?  What about his children?  His father born in Ireland?  Really?  This matches nothing I’ve found.  The 1835 date only matches the age Clarence gave at his marriage.  Other than possible names of parents this certificate didn’t provide much.  Charlene had mentioned that Clarence was married previous to Sarah so I got to looking and found this marriage record at Newaygo, Newaygo County Michigan:

Source:   "Michigan, County Marriages, 1820-1935," index and images,

With this new information I looked for Clarence and Nancy but was unable to find them.  I did however locate Clarence in the 1870 census (living with the Robert and Almira Field family – unk connection, if any):
7/2/1870 Ashland, Newaygo County Michigan
Lendall Perkins, age 30, born Illinois, cabinet maker, $200 personal estate
Clarence Perkins, age 4, born Michigan
Mary Perkins, age 2, born Michigan

I scoured the 1860 census records and was unable to locate him (a fact that was reinforced by the Census Bureau being unable to locate him either when he filed for his Civil War pension………the pension record is another blog). 

So far I have him born anywhere between 1835 and 1855 in Vermont, New York or Illinois to a father possibly born in Ireland even though all the census records list Vermont.  At this point I’m not sure where to go with my search but my assumption is that he was born in Vermont and that his parents died when he was young.  I’ve got 2 marriages with 11 combined known children but no explanation why none of the children from his 1st marriage that were with him in 1870 were with him in 1880 as their mother is assumed dead (later confirmed in the pension papers). 

I found Clarence in the special Veteran’s census of 1890:
6/1890 Moorland, Muskegon County Michigan
Clarence L Perkins, Private Co K MI Cav Enlisted 11/2/1863, discharged 8/18/1865 (these ended up being a touch off), having served 1 year, 9 months and 16 days.

I went to work on census records for his known children, tracked down marriage and death records for all but his son Clarence (who I believe went to live with a daughter in WI after the death of his wife in 1932).  I ordered his Civil War record through the National Archives (again, another blog but same confusion was found there).  I decided I had a pretty solid family tree for Clarence and his children and then someone sent me the death certificate for a Myrtle Shears, which listed her parents as Clarence Perkins and Nancy Kellum.  I don’t have a Myrtle anywhere but this woman was clearly born while Clarence and Nancy were married.  Her obituary lists that she’s survived by two sisters, one in Newaygo County and one in “South Frankfort” and a brother in Newaygo County.  Good grief, I have 11 known children of Clarence and Myrtle isn’t one of them.  Her obituary either completely omits all her half-siblings, someone only included some or only includes her full siblings (which if that’s true I’m still missing 1 as Clarence would be the brother and Mary would be the sister). 

I added her information to my tree and decided other than going back generations I was probably done with this tree.  Then while working on my blog I was going through papers recently and found that Charlene had given me a copy of the 1884 census for Clarence and it threw yet another wrench into things. 
6/12/1884 “Spaulding Mill Camp”, Ashland, Newaygo County Michigan
Clarence Perkins, 19, born Michigan, parents – dad born VT, mom born MI
Next door
Clarence L Perkins, 46, born Vermont , parents born VT
Sarah Etta Perkins, 30, born New York, parents NY
Dolly M, 8, born Michigan, parents  VT and NY (remainder of children show this)
Eva E, 6
Charles E, 4
Viola, 1
Cecelia H, 23

Cecelia?  She’s listed as a daughter and would have been born about the time of Clarence and Nancy’s marriage but where on earth has she been for 1870 and 1880?  Also she lists her mom born in NY but Nancy was born in MI.  I find a marriage record for her in 1877 but can’t find her in 1880, married or otherwise.  In 1900 I find her again, listed as Perkins having had 2 children, 2 still living but not living with her.   I can find no other record for her at all – no 2nd marriage, no death – no nothing.

So all of my work into putting this tree together and a decade later I find myself unsure that I’ve even got all of Clarence’s children and with Cecelia and Clarence Jr I’m still missing the deaths of 2 of them.

In regards to Clarence’s ancestry – this is my theory (which I firmly believe is correct but can’t prove without help):

In the 1850 McHenry, McHenry County Illinois (remember the 1870 census has him born in Illinois):
C.M. Perkins, age 24, born Vermont
Marilla Perkins, age 24, born New York
Luella Perkins, age 1, born Illinois
Clarence L Perkins, age 10, born Vermont
Thomas H Perkins, age 66, born Vermont

I have found multiple family trees online that list C.M. Perkins as Charles Marsh Perkins, son of Thomas Harlow Perkins.  I believe Clarence is a nephew of Charles and that his parents (possibly named William and Adeline) are deceased by 1850.  This census lists him born abt 1840 which lines up with more records than it doesn’t.  Given the games that Clarence seems to play with his age on various records I feel this one is probably the most accurate (no reason for his uncle to lie about his age). 

I’m afraid that until I’m able to find records from Vermont prior to 1850 I’m going to be stuck where I am on this one.  Anyone have any ideas?  This is the person I believe to be his grandfather:

Vermont, Vital Records, 1720-1908 about Thomas Harlow Perkins

Name: Thomas Harlow Perkins
Gender: Male
Birth Date: 19 Aug 1789
Birth Place: Woodstock, Vermont, USA
Father Name: John Perkins
Mother Name: Hannah Gardner


  1. Chris,

    I think I found your answers. Please see my Perkins Research Website at:

    If you would like to contribute your information on Clarence L. Perkins to my website. Please contact me at

    Denise Perkins Ready

  2. The "William and Adeline" mentioned on his death certificate were not his parents. Adeline Perkins was the sister of Charles Marsh Perkins.

    1.Adaline G. Perkins b. ca. 1808-1810 VT m. William Lathrop

    It should all be making perfect sense now :)


    Denise Perkins Ready

  3. Chris,

    I am going to revoke my last statement, that Adaline G. Perkins and William Lathrop were not his parents. This is due to finding additional information in the Perkins Family Bible mentioned on the above listed website page. I will let you make the determination on whether he might be (Clarence ?) Linden Lathrop b.4.4.1836 Fremont, VT or not.

    Let me know what you think. Thanks


    Denise Perkins Ready

  4. Hello - Clarence has a brother named Edwin Perkins who is the great grandfather of my husband Timothy Mancier. He is on WikiTree- the Perkins ancestry goes wayyyy back to Hrolf Rollo- founder of Normandy.