John E. Ellerbee, his wives and the 1850 census

The 1850 census listed each person in the household. However, relationships between persons were not specified.  In general, we believe that older persons were parents or grandparents of younger persons with the same surname. Persons with a different surname might be relatives, boarders or hired help. In this post, I walk through analysis of an 1850 census record from my husband’s family history- the record for John and Martha Ellerbee.  

To confirm information often requires using multiple sources. The Ellerbe family history book presented an outline of our branch. Ronald Ellerbe listed census records from 1830 through 1880 for John Ellerbee[1]. He listed two wives, no last names, for John E. Ellerbee:  1st Martha ___________ and 2nd Elizabeth ________. I located the census records and copied details.   

The 1850 census shows John Ellerbee and family living in Baker county Georgia.[2] The transcription reads:

John Ellerbee, age 42, M W, farmer, value of real estate $2500, place of birth: Burk Co, Ga.
Martha Ellerbee, age 25, F W, birthplace: NC. Person over 20 who cannot read or write.
Edward Ellerbee, age 19, M W, farmer, birthplace: Houston Co, Ga.
Elizabeth Ellerbee, age 14, F W, birthplace: Houston co, Ga. Attended school.
James Ellerbee, age 12, M W, birthplace: Houston co, Ga. 
Sanderlin Ellerbee, age 6, M W, birthplace: Randolph co, Ga. 
Smith Ellerbee, age 5, M W, birthplace: Randolph co, Ga. 
Jasper Ellerbee, age 4, M W, birthplace: Baker co, Ga.
Not named, age 3, F W, birthplace: Baker co, Ga.
Martha Ellerbee, age 2, F W, birthplace: Baker co, Ga.
James Parker, age 15, M W, born Washington co, Ga.

Analysis and initial review:  

  • John Ellerbee, age 42, presumed head of household, farmer born in Burke county, Georgia.  During the early 1800s, people often remained near their birthplace.  
  • Martha Ellerbee, age 25. Born in North Carolina. Martha could be John’s daughter, born when he was 17 years old. John was born in Georgia and still lives in Georgia. Did he leave home, move to North Carolina as a teenager, marry, then return to his home state of Georgia? Seems unlikely. Following this line of reasoning, Martha is probably John’s wife.
  • Edward Ellerbee, age 19, farmer.  Born in Houston county, Georgia. If Martha is John’s daughter, then Edward could be her brother although their birthplaces suggest that this is probably not true.  If Martha is John’s wife, then Edward is not her son. Edward could be John’s nephew or cousin. Birthplace of Houston county, Georgia does not answer question of Edward’s relationship to John.
  • Elizabeth Ellerbee, age 14. Born in Houston county, Georgia, same birthplace as Edward which increases chance that she is Edward’s sister. If Martha is John’s wife, then Elizabeth is not her daughter.  
  • James Ellerbee, age 12. Born in Houston county, Georgia, same birthplace as Edward and Elizabeth. These three were probably siblings. If Martha is John’s wife, then James could be her son.
  • Presumed children of John E. Ellerbee and Martha:
    • Sanderlin Ellerbee, age 6 (born about 1844)
    • Smith Ellerbee, age 5 (born about 1845)
    • Jasper Ellerbee, age 4 (born about 1846)
    • Child not named, age 3 (born about 1847)
    • Martha Ellerbee, age 2 (born about 1848)
    • Ages of these five younger children suggest birth intervals of 12 months to 2 years which is consistent with child spacing during this time period.
  • James Parker, age 15. Born about 1835 in Washington county, Georgia. Possibly not related.

ASSERTION: Martha is John’s wife.  Confirmed by discovery of 1842 marriage record for John Elibee and Martha Love in Randolph county, Georgia [3]. The five younger children in 1850 census, born 1844 to 1848, are certainly John and Martha’s children.  

ASSERTION:  Edward, Elizabeth and James are children of John and his first wife. Edward died in 1863[4]. James died in 1877[5].  I have found no other records for Elizabeth.  Although listing only the head of household, earlier census records still hold clues.  

  • 1840 census for John Ellerbee in Houston county, Georgia. Search criteria were 1 male, age 30-40, 1 male age 5-10, 1 male age under 5, and 1 female under 5.  [6] 
    • Transcription:  Free white males. age 0-5: 1; age 5-10: 1; age 10-15: 1; male, age 30-40: 1.  Free white females: age 0-5: 1; age 20-30: 1.  Free colored persons: 0. Slaves: Males, age 0-10: 1. Females, age 24-35: 1 
    • Analysis: Suggests another son born between 1825 and 1830. Suggests wife born between 1810 and 1820. Probably born closer to 1810 if oldest son born as early as 1825. Supports assertion that Edward, Elizabeth and James are siblings and children of John Ellerbee’s presumed 1st wife. John owned 2 slaves. 
  • 1830 census for John Ellerbee in Houston county, Georgia. [7]  Name: John Ellerbee, Home in 1830: Houston, Georgia. 
    • Transcription: 
      Free white persons, Males- 20-29: 1 [born 1801-1810; John as head of household]
      Free white persons, females- 15 thru 19: 1 [born 1811-1815; presumed wife]
      Total- All persons (free white, slaves, free colored): 2.  
    • Analysis: Suggests no children born yet to the young couple. From 1840 census, son aged 10-15 years was probably born in late 1830. John owned 2 slaves.  

Based on evidence, I conclude that Martha is John’s 2nd wife. The 1842 marriage record confirmed their relationship.[8]  John’s 1st wife was probably born between 1811 and 1815 and died between 1840 and 1842. She and John had four children, three of whom lived with their father and stepmother in 1850.  For me, the name of John Ellerbee’s first wife remains unknown although the author of the Ellerbe history called her ‘Elizabeth’. Did he guess based on her presumed daughter, Elizabeth? Did he have a specific source for the information? My discovery of the 1842 marriage record for John and Martha expands information in the Ellerbe history.  


I again compared information from a published source with census and other records found online. My research supports Ronald Ellerbe’s work. Writing puts my thoughts into a semi-coherent format. I try to follow Genealogy Standards as I write but I still need lots of practice!

What I learned:  I still miss information found in census records.

What helped:  Previous review and transcription of records. Asking specific question before searching records.

What didn’t help: Files still in disarray. Laptop death about 2 weeks ago. Fortunately, I have a notebook computer and I back up everything (well, almost everything!) on a regular basis. Last backup was about 2 weeks before laptop demise. Maybe I should write a post about that experience?!?

To-do:  Complete research logs for each of John’s children. Follow presumed children through census and other records. If possible, locate death certificates.  Search 1810 census for Ellerbee families in Burke county, Georgia. Search 1820 census beginning in Burke county then expand to nearby Georgia counties as needed. Use county formation data to locate family.

© Susan Posten Ellerbee and Posting Family Roots blog, 2019


[1] Ronald William Ellerbe, The Ellerbe Family History (Baltimore, MD: Gateway Press, Inc., 1986)

[2] 1850 U.S. Federal Census, Baker County, Georgia, population schedule, District 3, p. 49 B (ink pen), dwelling 1111, family 141, John E. Ellerbee; digital images, Ancestry (  : accessed, printed, downloaded 3 January 2018); citing National Archives & Records Administration, Washington, D.C. Roll M432_61.

[3] “Georgia, Marriage Records from Select Counties, 1828-1978,” marriage record, Ancestry (   :  downloaded & printed 5 January 2018), entry for John Ellibee & Martha Love; citing  County Marriage Records, 1828–1978; The Georgia Archives, Morrow, Georgia.

[4] Find A Grave, database and images (   : viewed 22 May 2019), memorial page for Edward Alexander Ellerbee, Find A Grave Memorial # 44681078, citing Ellerbee Family Cemetery (Five Points, Randolph county, Georgia), memorial created by Gerry Hill.

[5] Family data, Demarious Albina Ellerbee Family Bible, Holy Bible, (New York: American Bible Society, 1876); original owned in October 2016 by Darby Blanton, [address for private use], Darby is descendent of Demarious Ellerbee & Thomas Blanton. “J.J. Ellerbee departed this life December the 17th 1877 age 38 years 11 months and 17 days.”

[6] 1840 Census for John Ellerbee, Houston county, Georgia. Abstracted by Lorraine H. Robinson, “1840 Federal Census Houston County, Georgia (file 2 of 5),” database, US Gen Web (   : downloaded & printed 29 August 2011), page 10, sheet no. 376, line 21, John Ellerbee; citing National Archives & Records Administration, Washington, D.C. microflim publication M704, reel 43.

[7] 1830 census for John Ellerbee, Houston county, Georgia.  1830 U.S. Census, Houston County, Georgia, population schedule, , page 291, John E Ellerbee; digital images, US Gen Web  (   : viewed, downloaded, printed 6 February 2016); citing National Archives & Records Administration, Washington, D.C. microfilm publication M19, roll 18.

[8] 1842 marriage record for John Ellibee and Martha Love (2nd note). “Georgia, Marriage Records from Select Counties, 1828-1978,” marriage record, Ancestry,  entry for John Ellibee & Martha Love.

3 thoughts on “John E. Ellerbee, his wives and the 1850 census

  1. Pingback: Friday's Family History Finds | Empty Branches on the Family Tree

  2. Pingback: Moving south: Historical and financial clues to John Ellerbee’s migration | Posting Family Roots

  3. Pingback: The Estate Auction – 1886 | Posting Family Roots

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