When Was Amy (Nichols) Ledford Born?

Last week, I briefly discussed documentation for John Ledford’s date of death. The conflicts between the information presented in various records pertaining to John’s death were fairly easy to resolve. His wife’s date of birth presents a much stickier situation.

Amy (Nichols) Ledford was buried beside her husband in the Pleasant Hill Church Cemetery in the Skeenah community of Macon County, North Carolina.

John and Amy’s stones are similar in style, and may have been set at the same time, which could account for the inaccurate year of death inscribed on John’s stone.

I’ve not been able to find corroborating information for Amy’s death date. The Franklin Press, Macon County’s primary newspaper at that time, has no known extant issues for 1911. I do know she was alive as of the 1910 US census, but I’m getting ahead of myself a bit. First, let’s look at the various sources I’ve gathered so far for Amy’s birth date. The first column is Amy’s stated age, the second column is her estimated or stated birth date or year, and the third column is the source in truncated form.

28 abt. 1822 1850 US census, Macon Co., NC (free population schedule)
38 abt. 1822 1860 US census, Macon Co., NC (free population schedule)
50 abt. 1820 1870 US census, Macon Co., NC (population schedule)
59 abt. 1821 1880 US census, Macon Co., NC (population schedule)
82 March 1818 1900 US census, Macon Co., NC
90 abt. 1820 1910 US census, Macon Co., NC
n/a 27 Nov. 1821 Amy’s tombstone

All of this information is, of course, dependent upon the knowledge of the person who gave it, and the identity of the informant (or, more likely, informants) is unknown. There is therefore no way to determine the quality of the data based on the said informant’s identity.

Take for instance Amy’s month of birth from the 1900 US census and the month given on her tombstone. Which one is correct? Did the informant confuse John’s birth month with Amy’s in 1900, or does the error lie with the person who had her tombstone erected?

To find out, I decided to dig a little deeper and figure a likely range for Amy’s birth based on her stated age compared with the official date of each decennial census. Unfortunately, this did not prove helpful because there wasn’t enough consistency in the data, which puts me back at square one.

In the end, I decided to stick with the date on her tombstone because it is consistent with her stated ages in the 1850 and 1860 US censuses, when Amy was likely to have been the census taker’s informant (for her household’s information) and young enough that she would (probably) not have felt the need to deliberately misstate her age in order to appear younger. But if something comes along to contradict that date, it wouldn’t surprise me a bit.

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