Thursday, October 28, 2010

Finding a 19th Century American Farm Family in Argentina: Sarah Anderson and Moses Hougham

Experienced genealogists know that family traditions and online family trees are filled with errors, and that relying on the Internet alone is not a good strategy.  My experience searching for Sarah (Anderson) Hougham, my paternal great-grandmother's sister, reminded me, however, that one ignores family traditions or online family trees at their peril, and that the Internet is powerful and constantly changing.

A mystery that has long fascinated me is "What became of Sarah Anderson and her husband Moses Hougham?" All I first knew about the Houghams was on a scrap of paper, probably written by my aunt in the early 1930s, listing my great-grandmother's siblings, with their birthdates.  Next to Levina Anderson's name is written "one who married Houghman (sic) and went to South America.  Address was Mrs. Moses Houghman Rosario, Tala, Entre, Rios, Republic Argentina."[1] However, Levina Anderson never married, died at age 19 in 1857, and is buried in West Cemetery, Eagleville, Harrison Co., Missouri.

In 1994, I checked a microfilmed marriage index from the Family History Library (FHL) and discovered that it was Sarah Ann Anderson who married Moses Hougham in DeWitt Co., Illinois in January, 1844. Today, it is much easier to find the marriage on the Illinois Statewide Marriage Index. Later that year, again using FHL microfilm, I found Sarah and her family in the 1850 census living in McLean Co., Illinois, [2]  but I could not locate them in subsequent U.S. census records.   (Sarah's maternal grandmother, Rachel Downey, lived with Moses and Sarah Hougham in 1850, but Rachel is another story).

When did the Houghams move to Argentina? How could I find them there? Why would a Midwestern farm family move to South America? Do I have cousins still living in Argentina?

In late 2007, I stumbled across the Argentina National Census of 1895, with images, on the Family Search pilot site. After searching for Moses Hougham with no results, I remembered that married women often use their own surnames in Spanish-speaking countries. So, I plugged "Sarah Anderson" into the search engine, and there they were: Moises Hougan, age 74, a farmer, and Sara Anderson, age 72, both born in N.A. (North America), living in Rosario del Tala, Entre Rios, Argentina.  The census indicates Sarah had 5 children and had been married for 52 years.

I had confirmed the Anderson family story: Mrs. Moses Hougham did live in Argentina!  But would I be able to find more about them? I obtained some information on how to research in Argentina and discovered there were still people living in Argentina named Hougham.  However, other research priorities, and life's daily responsibilities, took priority and I soon put Sarah and Moses aside.

Yesterday, on a whim, I tried again. Although Hougham is an uncommon name, it can be difficult to search because it is often spelled or indexed incorrectly. After poking around on Google and Ancestry Public Trees, I discovered the family may have lived in Oregon before moving to Argentina.[3]

Armed with the Oregon clue, I found the Moses Hougham household in Lane Co., Oregon in 1860, although Ancestry indexed them as Mack and Elizabeth Hougan.[4]

On Google Books, I found an 1886 Catalog of Machinery Manufactured by the Westinghouse Company containing a testimonial from Moses Hougham of Rosario, Argentina, probably written in 1885, extolling the virtues of a grain separator:

Putting together the information that can be gleaned from the 1850 and 1860 U.S. census records, and the 1895 Argentine census, Sarah Anderson and Moses Hougham were probably the parents of five sons:

  • John Hougham, b. about 1845 in Illinois.  He lived with the family in the US in 1850 and 1860.  According to an extracted marriage record in the IGI, Juan Hougham married Eladia Garcia on 17 Apr 1880 in Rosario, Colonia, Uruguay.  Could this be the same person?
  • Evan Hougham, b. about 1846 in Illinois. Perhaps he died before 1860, as he is not living with the family in Oregon.
  • Anderson Hougham, b. about 1856 in Oregon.
  • A[a]ron Hougham, b. about 1861 in North America, probably Oregon. Aaron, his wife Adela Peyrot, and three young daughters (Sara, age 3, Elena age 2, and Evangelina age 1 1/2), were enumerated next to Moses and Sarah in Rosario del Tala in 1895.
  • Noe (or Noah) Hougham, b. about 1863 in North America, probably Oregon. He was living with Sarah Anderson and Moises Hougham in Argentina in 1895.

I can't find the family on the 1870 or 1880 US census, so they may have moved to Argentina as early as the  mid-1860s.

Much work remains to answer my questions, but in about 30 minutes online, I narrowed the time frame for their move by more than 20 years (about 1863 to 1885, instead of 1850 to 1895),  I found more details about the family, and I have new clues to investigate.

Additional Notes and Sources:

[1] I am embarrassed to admit that, while I remember seeing this handwritten document in my youth, I cannot find it in my files.  All I have is this transcription, probably typed by my mother in the early 1960s.

[2] 1850 U.S. census, McLean Co., Illinois population schedule, Randolph Grove, p. 86 (stamped), 171 (penned), dwelling 1461, family 1494, Moses Hougham household; digital images, ( accessed 28 Oct 2010); citing National Archives and Records Administration microfilm M432, roll 117. 

[3] Fosilfndr (user name), "Boyer Family Tree," entry for Moses Hougham, Ancestry Public Member Trees. This tree provides source citations for the 1850 census, a family bible for Moses' father Isaac Hougham, and "Illinois Marriages, 1790-1860."  It lists 6 children:  Noah, Richard A., John G., Evan G., an unnamed boy born in 1856, and Aaron, b. 30 Aug 1861 in Portland, Oregon, d. 20 May 1909 in Rosario, Argentina.  The dates and places of birth and death for Aaron are said to be from the back of a photograph.  The tree also states Moses Hougham died in October, 1898, "shipwrecked in Argentina," but provides no source citation.

Also, Barbara Jean Barbre Evans, Hougham family file, Nancy McNabb's HomePage.  Mrs. Evans indicates that "supposedly, two of Isaac's sons settled in Argentina," but she names only Moses and several daughters as children of Isaac Hougham.  She states that Aaron Hougham "married ____ Piamontes (born 23 Oct 1859, St. Germanstowne, Italian descent)," providing the same dates and locations of birth and death as the Boyer Family Tree.

[4] 1860 U.S. census, Lane Co., Oregon population schedule, Eugene, p. 257, dwelling 148, family 148, Moses Hougham household; digital images, ( : accessed 28 Oct 2010); citing National Archives and Records Administration microfilm M653, roll 1055.

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