My 3rd great grandfather, Charles James Sanderson, was born around 1804 in New York according to the 1851 and 1861 England Census (and some other references I've been able to find).

The earliest record I am able to find of him is his first marriage, in 1825, in England. I am able to trace most of his life in England, including his second marriage, the birth of his 12 children, his will, found in the London Archives, through to his death and burial in London, England in 1866.

What I have not been able to figure out are the names of his parents, his place of birth, and his date of birth, or when he left New York and arrived in England.

Does anyone have a suggestion on where I might look to find Charles' record of birth (since I don't know if he was born in New York City or simply New York State)? How I might discover the names of his parents?

  • Still working on this one, Lorraine. In 1804, New York was an interesting place. Many New Englanders migrated west both to and through New York. I'm curious if you know Charles' occupation or if you have any insight as to why he would have emigrated? I presume also that you have research the twelve children to learn if any of them left a trace about where their father was born.
    – GeneJ
    Oct 12, 2012 at 3:56
  • P.S. There is a wonderful book by Marian S. Henry, New York Essays: Resources for the Genealogist in New York State Outside of New York City (Boston: New England Historic Genealogical Society, 2007).
    – GeneJ
    Oct 12, 2012 at 4:00
  • @GeneJ I continue to work through all of his children and have yet to make a connection with any living relatives. I know that Charles was a cigar maker/tobacconist and he had quite an estate at his death. I'll take a look at the book. Thank you for the reference.
    – Lorraine W
    Oct 12, 2012 at 4:34
  • I take it no indication that he was apprenticed in the UK, so it is possible that he had an occupation before leaving the states.
    – GeneJ
    Oct 12, 2012 at 4:37
  • I hope we'll see some more cross boarder/continent work on this question.
    – GeneJ
    Oct 13, 2012 at 20:54

4 Answers 4


To the direct point of your first question, "[W]here I might look to find [the record of] Charles' [1804 "New York"] birth," the short answer is, seek evidence of his birth without assuming a historical birth record exists.

Although there are places in the United States where it was common to make a record of births at that time (as evidenced by the New England town collections), civil records that early are more the exception than the rule. Baptisms were frequently recorded, but as a general rule, church congregations were diverse and their records, local.

Seeking evidence of his birth means you will look for information and clues about his birth, birth date and location from among all of the records and memorabilia about him or provide clues that are relevant. The quest to discover the sources of this information is referred to as the process of "exhaustive search." The concept of "proof" (or "proving his birth date and location") refers to the analysis--reasoning and logic--by which you use the various source and information to determine his birth date and location. See also, The Genealogical Proof Standard.

The answer to your second question, "How I might discover the names of his parents," follows the same principle.

Separately, was your Charles James Sanderson associated with Charles Brown? See "Deeds and Papers related to premises in Edmondton, Enfield, Hendon ... and the estates of Charles Brown and Charles James Sanderson ACC/1043, 1863-1905," The National Archives.

  • I have acquired several (but not all) of the pages in this file. It is the Will I referred to in my post and named his heirs. I was disappointed the Edwin was not mentioned, nor his parents.
    – Lorraine W
    Oct 13, 2012 at 18:49
  • 2
    So you have confirmed the referenced file contains information about your Charles. Good. (Brothers and parents are only sometimes mentioned in a will.) The deeds and other items in the file that would be interesting, too, as they may help you inch your way back to his point of immigration. Following the clues in that file is one way of letting the "known" lead you to discover the unknown.
    – GeneJ
    Oct 13, 2012 at 18:58

Birth, Death and Marriage Records (1847–1852, 1880–present)

While these officially are considered state government records, official birth, death and marriage records (often referred to as “vital records or vital statistics”) are maintained locally by clerks and/or registrars of vital statistics, acting as agents of the State Commissioner of Health. Other than during a brief period between 1847 and 1852, these records generally were not created by local governments in New York State until 1880. Some cities hold vital records dating from the 1860s and 1870s. Those records created since 1880 are subject to access and copying restrictions promulgated by the Commissioner of Health. More information is available from the Vital Records Section, New York State Department of Health, PO Box 2602, Albany, NY 12220-2602; phone: (518) 474-3055.

The local “registrar” is often the town, village or city clerk, or the clerk’s designee, but in Monroe, Onondaga and Tompkins Counties (known as “county registration districts”) the county health departments serve as registrar. County clerks sometimes maintained marriage records during the early 1900s, and, on occasion, births, deaths and marriages were recorded in 17th through early 19th century town “records books” along with minutes and other information. For more information, consult Publication 31, Local Government Records Useful in Family History Research.


Just to confirm, you have found Charles in the 1841 census? (He is a Cigar manuafacturer there, in Islington, born outside county). His apparent brother Edwin is there. Edwin later appears in Brooklyn (born England) in 1863 (civil war draft) and 1880 (census), married to Mary (born NY). He was "segar" maker both times, born around 1822.

In the 1880 census, Edwin shows both parents as being born in England.

Edwin could be the Edwin chr 1822 in Stepney, parents William and Ann. Stepney is where Charles christened at least two of his daughters in 1829. You'll need something else (such as his marriage to Mary) that confirms that the later Edwin (when back in the US) had a father called William, but it's a possible. Maybe find William in the 1841/51. There are other Edwins around, such as the one who married Martha, so he could be a different one.

(added: it's also possible Edwin is a very early son of Charles.)

  • 1
    I like the revised question ... it reads much better. As for being tempted to do the research ... I feel that way about every question I read here. It's part of our nature, researchers that we are. :-)
    – Lorraine W
    Oct 12, 2012 at 15:03
  • 2
    Rob, I trimmed off your commentary about the suitability of asking this question. If you have a question about the site itself, the place to ask is in meta (See The first rule of fight club...). I'm sure the folks here will have plenty of opinions on the subject, so thank you for being so vigilant. Oct 12, 2012 at 18:52
  • @colevalleygirl - the name of his parents was the part of the question I was looking at (which really can't be done without research). That would then help indicate if he was indeed born in the US (or whether he created a background for himself).
    – Rob Hoare
    Oct 12, 2012 at 18:59
  • Thinking that Edwin could be a brother to Charles, I started a separate tree in an attempt to prove or disprove that. I am still working on it and have yet to prove the connection.
    – Lorraine W
    Oct 13, 2012 at 18:46
  • Hey Rob, I edited out the meta comment that Rob C missed. Regarding the comment, you might find this discussion interesting. The secret to making brick wall questions less dangerous is to tell us what you've tried already.
    – jmort253
    Oct 16, 2012 at 4:31

Some new evidence came to light very recently. A William Sanderson, Tobacconist, of 18 Great Turnstile, Holborn, Middlesex, left a PCC will which was proved 10 June 1852. In the will he mentions brothers Charles James Sanderson, George Henry Sanderson and Edwin Sanderson. Given the occupation of William, it seems almost certain that he is the brother of the same Charles James Sanderson. As Edwin was baptised in London in 1822, and George Henry in 1817 in London, this narrows down when Charles James's parents arrived in England.

PCC wills up to 1858 are available at Ancestry or the National Archives.

As a follow up to finding the above will, I found a William Sanderson in the 1851 census. Address is 61 Princes St, St James Westminster, reference HO 107/1483 folio 16, page 262. He is a tobacconist, aged 51, British Subject born America. He is listed as unmarried, but the fact that "mar" in this column has been deleted means he could be widowed, divorced or separated. Is he the same as the testator mentioned above? I think so, based on supporting evidence in trade directories. This William is about 4 years older than Charles James. The 13 year or so gap between Charles James and his next known sibling is a big one- could the two younger siblings Edwin and George Henry be half brothers of the older two?


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