Parents of Nelson Wells

Clues about Nelson’s Parents

When I started researching Nelson, it appeared that he had suddenly appeared as a 34 year old farmer in Dryden, MI in 1850. The only indications of a history were the census records that stated he was born in New York around 1816. Unfortunately, New York did not record births consistently until 1881 and not at all before 1847. Also, US census records did not list any family members (other than head of household) by name before 1850. Not knowing where in New York he was born, church records were not an easy source.

With the easy records unavailable, what clues did I find?

  1. Family history books – I looked at several “Wells Family History” books before I came across “Family Book of Remembrance and Genealogy with Allied Lines” by Leonidas Mecham in 1952. This listed a Nelson Wells (born 1815) with parents Judah Wells and Temperance Meacham. Hardly definitive but there was nothing to indicate that this wasn’t the correct Nelson. This entry did list Judah’s children by Temperance and by a first wife, Ethelinda Otis. Even if it wasn’t proof, it was a possible set of parents to investigate for the purpose of supporting or dismissing them as our Nelson’s parents.
  2. – I tracked Judah Wells through US census records:
    1. 1800 - Canaan, Grafton, NH
    2. 1810 - Canaan, Grafton, NH
    3. 1820 - Conneauttee, Erie, PA
    4. 1830 - Conneauttee, Erie, PA
    5. There are no census records that show either Judah or Temperance after 1830
  3. – With Judah and Temperance added to my tree as Nelson’s parents, over 150 “cousins” were reported through their kids – mostly through Lydia, Nelson’s younger sister. This convinced me that Judah & Temperance were probably the correct parents. This large number of cousins is understandable when you take into account that Lydia had 14 kids and that her husband, Lewis Meacham, was also her first cousin (so her kids doubled up on the Meacham DNA).
  4. A land record (March 29, 1841) in Washington Township, Erie County, PA shows Jonathan S. Wells selling land to Nelson. Jonathan is listed as a son of Judah and his first wife, Ethelinda Otis. That would make him Nelson’s half-brother.
  5. The 1860 census for Dryden, Lapeer County, MI shows Nelson, his wife Julia, and four of their kids (Mary Jane, Nelson H, Francis, & Elva). All of the kids are listed as born in PA – reinforcing the idea that this Nelson is the same as the Nelson in Erie County, PA. The next entry in that census is for Russell Wells, born in PA around 1827. That is probably Nelson’s younger brother.
  6. Both the Nelson in Michigan and the one in Erie County go by the name “Nelson R Wells”.
  7. Jonathan and Lydia were early Mormons so a few facts about their lives are covered in “Membership of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints 1830-1848 - vol 45”. Nothing there mentions Nelson but the book does give clues to Judah’s marriages and to the family’s migration:
    1. Jonathan born: January 3, 1805, Canaan, Grafton, NH to Judah Wells and Ethelinda Otis
    2. Jonathan’s first 6 kids were born in Erie County, PA between June 1830 and April 1843
    3. Jonathan married Margaret Gardner June 23, 1829 in Erie County, PA
    4. Lydia was born August 6, 1817, Marcellus, Onondaga, NY (another reference says Skaneateles in that county) to Judah Wells and Temperance Meacham. Note: those two cities are only 6 miles apart.