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Did Robertson Reed and Margaret Potts Have Sons?

Over thirty-five years ago, a distant cousin wrote a genealogy of my Reed family. The Reeds of Ashmore by Michael Hayden traced the descendants of Thomas Reed (1783-1853), an original settler in Coles County, Illinois in 1829.

I descend from Thomas’ middle son Caleb, but he had two other sons as well, Robertson and William.

Robertson Mitchell Reed (1808-1871) was married twice. The Reeds of Ashmore includes extensive information on the family from his first marriage to Nancy M. McAlister but not so much on that of his second wife Margaret Ann Potts. The family genealogists at the time had difficulty learning whether there were 2, 3 or even 4 children. They had no idea of what became of them.

This week I decided to revisit this question. I began by searching for Robertson’s sons from the second marriage, reportedly James W. Reed (b. 1857) and Joseph M. or Joseph M. V. Reed (b. abt. 1860). These names came from census records and other county histories.

I needed to look at sources that have come available since then. I turned to a different county history, the Find A Grave site, Ancestry.com, and Newspapers.com.

A clue in the History of Coles County, Illinois (1876-1976) seems to have been overlooked by previous researchers. It reported two sons, James W., born 1857, and Joseph V. who married a Gould and went to Eugene, OR. This was only a starting point because other family information in this source is unreliable and needs independent verification.

I proceeded to uncover the following records:

  1. I located a grave for Joseph Van Reed (1857-1936) in Eugene, Oregon. The site linked to his wife Mamie Reed (1871-1907), buried in the same cemetery.
  2. Ancestry had an Oregon death certificate for this Joseph, and it states that he was born in Illinois. He was predeceased by his wife Mamie. The informant was Mrs. Clayton R. Jones.
  3. Newspapers.com showed an obituary for Joseph V. Reed. It did not include information on his family other than a surviving daughter, Mrs. Clayton R. Jones of Portland.
  4. Ancestry also had a 1905 marriage record for Joseph V. Reed and Mamie Emerson. They were married in Coles County, Illinois. The record states that Joseph V. Reed was the son of Robertson Reed and Margaret Potts.

These sources make it clear that Robertson and Margaret had a son, Joseph Van Reed, born in 1857 who married Mamie Emerson in Coles County in 1905. The couple then relocated to Eugene, OR where they remained for the rest of their lives.

So far I have found no record of another son named James W. Reed.

The earlier Reed researchers had thought Robertson Reed had two sons, James (1857) and Joseph (1860). Now I know that Joseph was the boy born in 1857, the purported birth year of James. No census record lists a James in the Robertson Reed household.

I believe Robertson Reed had just one son with Margaret Potts. He was Joseph Van Reed who may have been married more than once. His surviving daughter was too old to be the daughter of Mamie Emerson. After Joseph’s marriage to Mamie, the family went to Oregon to seek their fortune in gold. When she died a short time later, Joseph and his daughter Margueritte lived out their lives in that state.

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