Thanks for reading and commenting about my blog postings. My goal is to accurately document the genealogy of my family and allied families living in Chesterfield County, SC and Anson County, NC. If you have a Chesterfield County surname you are interested in please send me an e-mail.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Census Sunday~Mystery Woman, Betsy Purvis

There is no history in our family of a divorce or re-marriage of any of my Grandparents. However, in my research of my 2nd Great Grandfather, William A. Purvis, I have discovered what I believe is a  “marital affair” and quite possible a remarriage after the death of his wife Sarah Jane Graves.

The 1880 Census for Anson County, NC provides a “real mystery” for this researcher.1 Who is Betsy Purvis?

1880 Anson County -W. A. Purvis
1880 Census, Anson Co., NC

An enlarge section showing the William A. Purvis household.

W. A. Purvis 1880

We see that Dwelling 233 contained two families in the William A. Purvice [Purvis] household consist of:
Dwelling 233
Family 251
  • William A. Purvice, age 53
  • Sarah J. Purvice, age 38, Wife
Family 252
  • Betsy Purvis, age 30, no relationship noted
  • Mary J., age 7, Daughter 
Now this is 1880 and I don’t believe they had duplex apartments in the rural areas of Anson County, NC during this time period. Thus we have two families living in one household and most likely related in some way. Sharing the same surname is another clue to a possible relationship situation.
Keep in mind that William A. Purvis is my brick wall. There are no known parents or siblings. 

My 2nd Great grandmother, Sarah Jane is believed to have passed away 31 December 1893. This obituary appeared in the Messenger-Intelligencer on 4 January 1894, page 3.

McFarlan News - The funeral of the wife of Mr. Wm. PERVIS was preached by this writer in the M. E. Church of this place last Sunday [31 Dec. 1893]. She was a good old woman. She had suffered intensely for fifteen months from cancer. She was a member of the M. E. church about 20 years.
There were no other Wm. Pervis in Anson County during this time period. 

There is an Anson County Land Deed between William A. Purvis & wife, Elizabeth recorded in DB 33, Page 370, W. A. Purvis and wife Elizabeth Purvis to J. D. Rhyne. 3



NORTH CAROLINA} This deed made this 23rd day of September, Anson County, 1899 by W.A. Purvis and wife Elizabeth Purvis of Anson County and State of North Carolina of the first part and J.D. Rhyne of said county and state of the second part witnesseth that said W.A. Purvis and wife in consideration of fifty four dollars to them paid by J.D. Rhyne.
A clear indication that he married Elizabeth after the death of his wife, Sarah Jane Graves. 

This is also the last document I have found whereby William A. Purvis was named. The date of this Land Deed is 23 September 1899. William A. Purvis died between this date and the 1900 Census enumeration on 28 June 1900. 

Betsy is listed in the 1900 Census with daughter Ella Frances born 25 September 1881. Daughter Mary J. Purvis, listed in the 1880 Census above married Charlie Franklin LANG about 1888.  She died during childbirth in March 1895. 4

We see in the 1900 census that Elizabeth is a Widow and that she has two daughter with 1 living. Daughter Mary J. Purvis passed away and Ella Frances is still home. We also see that the census shows that Daughter Ella Frances was born in December 1886. From the 1880 census, the only male in that household was my 2nd Great Grandfather, William A. Purvis and living next door was his son William J. Purvis and wife Mary. Sarah was still living in 1886 but we know from her obituary that she “suffered intensely for fifteen months from cancer”. 

Is William the father of Ella Frances? Her application for Social Security (SS-5) say that she is the daughter of William Purvis and his wife Betsey Privett.

Betsy Purvis (5)

Ella Frances Purvis married Thomas T. Tarlton 14 August 1904. She died in 1971 and her death certificate shows her parents as Billy Purvis and Betty Previtte. 6


Notice also that the 1900 census shows Elizabeth Purvis as age 39; born October 1860; remember she was age 30 in the 1880 census.  That is a discrepancy of 10 year. Also the 1900 Census shows Ella Frances, age 13, born December 1886 and now her death certificate shows that she was born 25 September 1881. 

Elizabeth “Betsy” Previtte Purvis died 18 October 1926 in Rockingham, Richmond County, North Carolina. Her obituary was miniscule. 7 8

Mrs. Betsy Purvis, aged 90, died Oct. 18th in Great Falls village. The interment was at Mizpah the same day.

I’m still working the the math that gets you from age 39 in 1900 to age 90 in 1926. However, age 30 in 1880 would make her 76 years old at her death.

Mrs.Betsy Purvis

To add to the confusion, Mrs. Betsy Purvis, ages another 5 years between the writing of her obituary and the filing of her death certificate to the grand old age of 95.
Elizabeth “Betsy” Privette does not seem to exist prior to 1880. No record of her can be found beyond what is mentioned above and another land deed in 1900.

So tell me what you think? Did William A. Purvis have a “female companion” other than his wife and did he marry her after the death of his spouse? Comments welcome.


[1] 1880 U. S. Census, Anson County, North Carolina, population schedule, Anson County, North Carolina, enumeration district (ED) # 2, Page 350B, Line 36, Dwelling 233, Family 251, Household of William A. Purvis; digital image, ( : viewed 1976); citing National Archives Microfilm T9, Roll 951.
[2] Sarah Jane Graves Purvis obituary, Messenger-Intelligencer, Wadesboro, North Carolina, 4 January 1894, page 3, McFarlan News.
[3] Anson County, North Carolina, Deed Book 33: page 370, W. A. Purvis and wife Elizabeth Purvis to J. D. Rhyne; 23 September 1899, Register of Deeds, Wadesboro, Anson County, North Carolina.
[4] 1900 U. S. Census, Anson County, North Carolina, population schedule, Morven, Anson County, North Carolina, enumeration district (ED) #7, page 145, line 20, dwelling 337, family 338, Household of Elizabeth Purvis; digital image, ( : viewed 1976); citing National Archives Microfilm T623, Roll 1181.
[5] Ella P. Tarlton, SS No. xxx-xx-7071, 1965, Form SS-5, Social Security Administration, Baltimore, Maryland.
[6] State of North Carolina, death certificate no. 39499 (27 November 1971), Ella Frances Tarlton;, Raleigh, Wake County, North Carolina.
[7] Mrs. Betsy Purvis obituary, The Rockingham Post-Dispatch, Rockingham, Richmond County, NC, 21 October 1926, Page 6, Column 2. Deaths.
[8] State of North Carolina, death certificate no. 351, (18 October 1926), Mrs. Betsy Purvis;, Raleigh, Wake County, North Carolina.

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