Morgan Lewis Cook is my great*3 grandfather. He was born in 1822 somewhere in the vicinity of Kent, CT. Kent is a small town in NE CT alongside the Housatonic River. The Housatonic River just to the south of Kent runs within a few hundred feet of the NY/CT Border. The fact that the river winds around but the border is a straight line is a cause for some of the confusion. Some census records show him as having been born in NY, others as having been born in CT. This confusion is part of the problem of trying to trace his life.
The first record that lists his name is the 1850 census. At that time he was working as a laborer on the Benson farm in Kent and was 27. A few houses away, and on the same page of the census, was the Barton family, with a 15 year-old daughter, Sally. A few years later, in 1852, Morgan married Sally. They had one son in 1853, who evidently passed away quite young, and they had a daughter, Lois, in 1855. (One may only speculate whether they had to marry because Sally was already pregnant, but it would not be typical for a 29 year-old man to marry a 17 year-old “girl next door” and have a child shortly thereafter.)
Sometime in 1861, Morgan passed away, not having reached his 40th birthday. However, he and Sally had another child, Edward Morgan Russell, who was born in June of 1861.
Sally, still a young woman in her 20’s, married again, to Jerome Munroe. Jerome had six children (four still living) by his first wife, Mary Jane, but she had passed away as well in early 1861. With Sally’s two children and Jerome’s four children, they had a large family to care for. Jerome and Sally then had more children together, so by the end of the 1860’s, they had a family of 8 children.
In early 1870, at the age of 15, Lois married Walter J Russell, my great-great-grandfather. He was 18 at the time. Fifteen months later, my great-grandfather, Louis Russell was born.
The above facts can be confirmed by census and other records. However, besides the confusion over which side of the NY/CT border he was born, there is still much uncertainty about Morgan’s parentage.
First, let’s look at what we do know about him.
· We know that he was born in late 1822, but whether on the CT side of the border in Kent, or on the NY side of the border in Dover, we are not sure
· We also know that he died in 1861
· Because of the “1850 wall”, he only appears in two census reports – in 1850 as a 27 year-old farm hand in Kent, and in 1860 as a 37 year-old married man with one child.
So, where else can we look to find information about him? If he was born in CT and his parents were still living, then we should be able to also find them in the 1850 census of Kent. However, the only other person with that name is an 18 year-old girl, Ruth A Cook, living just a few houses away (on the next page of the census report). Are Morgan and Ruth siblings? Have they both been orphaned which is why they are working for others? Morgan is shown as being born in CT and Ruth is shown as being born in NY – is this just part of the same confusion for this family?
There are several family trees in ancestry.com who list the parents of Morgan as being Levi and Sally Cook. However, none of these trees have any source information to back up this claim and it appears that they have just gotten the information from some other family tree.
I also decided to check the census records for 1820, 1830, 1840, and 1850 for both Litchfield County, CT and Dutchess County, NY. While there are other Cook families in CT, none of them can be found in Kent. And while there a number in Dutchess County, only three of them are in Dover, the area right across the border.
One of these is indeed the family of Levi and Sally Cook, and in the 1820-1840 census records they have a large family which includes males in the appropriate age ranges. And, in the 1850 census record, where the names of other than the head of household are listed, we do, in fact, find a Morgan Cook. So perhaps this is the source of the proposed parents of Morgan.
But there is one very significant problem here. The Morgan Cook in this household is age 21 (six years younger than my great*3 grandfather. And, since my great*3 grandfather is already listed in the 1850 census in CT, this can only be a different person. (Note that there are sometimes mistakes made in the census records, and ages can sometimes be off a couple of years, but being off by six years and being listed in two different places can only mean that there were two individuals with that name.)
Thus, I am forced to conclude that Levi and Sally Cook in NY are NOT the parents of my great*3 grandfather, Morgan Lewis Cook. So for the immediate future, until I can find any other records which give the parents of my great*3 grandfather, this will have to be listed as a mystery.