Facts and Events
There are numerous John Burnhams born in New England between 1775 and 1790. A basic timeline to help evaluate John's possible origins:
- 13 Jun 1812 - Bristol, Lincoln, Maine - married Eliza Huston.
- 29 Jan 1813 - Maine - oldest daughter Mary born. The exact date is from unsourced online trees/IGI, but census indicates she was born between 1812 and 1814 in Maine.
- 1815-1819 - Pennsylvania - Daughters Albina and Harriet allegedly born in Pennsylvania. Census records alternately say Pennsylvania and Ohio.
- 1820 - Greene Co, Ohio - per grandson's biography in the 1882 History of Montgomery County, John moved his family to Greene County in March 1820. A census record in Xenia fits the family composition. Son John H. allegedly born there in 1821, and all subsequent children born in Ohio.
- 1828 - 1837+ - Montgomery Co, Ohio - grandson's biography indicates they moved to Montgomery County in 1828. An 1830 census record fits the family composition. Daughters Irena and Albina married there in 1832 and 1837.
- 1850 - Shelby Co, Ohio - census record shows John 72, born Massachusetts with three of his children and Curtis Burnham, age 61, b. NH. Two of his other children also live in Shelby County.
There are at least four possible birth records for individuals that could be this John -- 2 born in the town where he was married in 1812, and two born in Massachusetts about the time he would have been born based on the 1850 census.
Theories, in order of likelihood (as of December 2012):
- Person:John Burnham (24) - John Burnham, b. 8 Dec 1776 Ipswich, Essex, Massachusetts, son of John Burnham (b. 1743) and Sarah Andrews.
- Pros of this theory: 1) the 1850 census record for John says he is 72, born Mass., and has a Curtis Burnham age 61 b. NH. John (1743) and Sarah had a son Curtis born 1786 in New Hampshire. This is the only Curtis I can find any record for born in the late 1780s anywhere. 2) John (1743) and Sarah are often listed as dying in Xenia, Greene Co, OH (usually not directly sourced; the info dates back to at least the 1960s Burnham Family Lineage Charts books). There is one John Burnham household in Xenia in 1820, and it fits the family structure of this (12) John Burnham. 3) Lots of similar family names - Harriet, Curtis, and Daniel would all be names of both his siblings and children, and William, his first son, would be his grandfather's name.
- Weaknesses: 1) The same sources that say John (1743) and Sarah moved to Xenia, say that this John married Sarah and died in Ohio, usually before 1812 (although this is not necessarily inconsistent with someone disappearing after marriage, especially someone who married only six months before the first child was born). 2) There are lots of Burnhams in Ohio; there does not appear to be any direct evidence that the one in Greene County in 1820 is the man in Shelby County in 1850. 3) There were so many Burnhams in Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Ohio - Curtis could have been a friend or cousin instead of a brother, and there are too many John's to put much weight on the Ohio census record.
- Pros of this theory: 1) It seems to be historically the most popular; it was the first theory I found when I started looking 20 years ago. 2) This family spent considerable time in Maine, which would account for John's children's answers in the 1880 census that he was born in Maine.
- Weaknesses: There is a reference here from the "Missing Records of Portland" saying "BURNHAM John died ae 61y at Portland 1798 [obit] BURNHAM John Jr died ae 24 at Portland 1798 [obit]." The referenced obits have so far eluded discovery, but the ages are consistent with John (m. Abigail Stickney) and his son. There is also, in Hancock, Maine in 1850, a John Burnham age 77, b. Mass, who could also be John and Abigail’s son.
- John son of Solomon and Nancy (Wheeler) born 1788 in Boothbay, Lincoln, Maine. This is the logical candidate if all one knew were that John married in Boothbay in 1812, as it is the right age and place. Consequently, it is the theory that I first publicly posted online almost 20 years ago, and therefore appears now in various places. It is also consistent with the 1850 census record when read to say John was born in Maine, which an untrained eye (either mine or a transcriber years ago) did, with the age a convenient 10 years off. And none of John's children thought he was born in Massachusetts. But the likely 1820, 1830, and 1840 census records are all consistent with a man a decade older, there are no family name similarities, and trees that do give a name for his wife list Susan Webster (including Burnham Family Lineage Charts, which says they married Dec. 6, 1817).
- Person:John Burnham (13), son of Solomon's brother Ephraim, born in Boothbay in 1795. Identified for his city of birth, but otherwise unlikely as too young.
- 1820 Greene Co, OH: 1m u10 [William], 1m 26-45 [John], 3f u10 [Irena, Albina, Harriet], 1f 26-45 [Eliza], 1 person in manufacture (Xenia, p. 169)
- 1830 Montgomery Co, OH: 1 m u5 (Daniel), 2m 5-10 (William, John), 1 m10-15 (Curtis?), 1m 50-60 (John). 1 fu5 (Elizabeth), 1 f10-15 (Harriett), 2f 15-20 (Irena, Albina), 1f 40-50 (Eliza) p. 226.
- 1850 Shelby Co, OH: John 72 b. ME; Daniel 21, Eliza 22, Mary J. 15, Curtis 61 b. NH. (10/19/1850)