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Kentucky Reeds

When land in eastern Illinois opened for settlement, Thomas Reed (1783-1852) and his wife Ann Kirkham (1783-1869) arrived in Coles County with their children in 1829. They were in their mid-40’s by then and had lived their adult lives so far in Kentucky. Their Illinois years have been well documented by the Reed family, but we do not know a lot about the couple’s time in the Bluegrass state.

Ann was born there, in what become Nelson County, but Thomas arrived in Kentucky from Pennsylvania when he was a boy. His family settled in Shelby County, along Elk Creek in an area that became Spencer County in 1824.

Several Reeds resided in the same area, and sorting them into family groups presents a challenge. Census records survive although they do not name everyone in the household. The Reeds repeated first names, adding to the confusion.

Thomas and Ann married in Nelson County, where her family lived, about 1806. The 1810 census is the first record for their household. They lived among the other Reed families in Shelby County. This census record presents a couple of questions:

  1. Two boys under the age of ten resided with Thomas. One must be his eldest son Robertson Reed, born in 1808. Who was the other boy? Another son who died young and whose memory was lost to the Reeds? A nephew? Or daughter Eliza, born in October 1810, and mistakenly enumerated as a boy? The official census day that year was August 6, so Eliza should not have been counted even if the census taker visited after she was born.
  2. The family immediately preceding Thomas on the page was headed by Caleb Reed, a man over 45. Who was this Caleb? Thomas had both a father and a brother with that name. Caleb’s household included three children under 10 and two more aged 10-16. There were no adults other than a probable wife who was also over 45. Caleb the father was 54 in 1810, but none of his known children would have been under 10 that year. The brother Caleb was probably younger than 45 in 1810, and he was unmarried with no known children in 1810. The Caleb on the census record does not fit the profile of either Thomas’ father or his brother.

Family relationships and vital statistics for the Reeds in Shelby County during the early 1800’s remain unclear. Much work remains to do in the county records to assemble the Reed family that lived there.

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