Death and Taxes

One of my first jobs was in the research department at a company that published tax magazines. I learned a lot about state tax systems, a little about federal tax law, and lots of other bits of information. I loved it and I loved the hunt of a research question. It was that job, along with attending a genealogy conference, that led me to getting a Masters in Library Science, which helps me research my ancestors better.

This week’s prompt for 52 ancestors is Taxes, but this is about all my connection between genealogy and taxes. I haven’t spent much time looking at tax records for my ancestors. As I thought more about the prompt, the old saying that nothing is certain except death and taxes came to mind. So this week, I will be writing about a death, and the life that was lived before it, that has been taxing to me as I’ve worked on my genealogy.

My 5th great-grandfather’s last name was Holden. This is the only bit of information I have proof for. His wife was Jane Bones, daughter of James and Mary (Adams) Bones, and she and Mr. Holden had one daughter, Eliza Bones Holden.

From a family history written by my great-grandmother’s brother, his name is given as John Holden and other trees list him as John Halhead Holden. But Jane’s sister, Martha, marries a John Halhead Hughes. This seems to be too much of a coincidence. I even researched Mr. Hughes’ line, thinking that perhaps he and Mr. Holden were related, which could explain the similarity in their names, but I could find no connection. Perhaps, someone along the way mixed these two men up. After all, both are named John and their last names start with “H” and they marry the youngest daughters, who sit next to each other in a family tree.

As far as vital information, other trees show him born about 1805 (place unknown) and marrying Jane in 1825 in South Carolina. Eliza is born in 1827. The written family history says that Jane was left a young widow with one child. A death date is unknown. Since there were no other children and he doesn’t appear in the 1830 census, I assume he died before then. We do not know where he was buried. It leads to many questions including what happened to him and why did he die so young? His death left Jane a widow around the age of 20. She never remarried.

Speaking of the census, if he was born about 1805, he may have been too young to appear on the 1820 census as a head of household and if he did die before the 1830 census, his adult life seems to be lost in between these two records that may have provided more information about him.


Recently, my husband and I stopped into the Family History Library in Salt Lake City while visiting his family. I pulled just about every book about Fairfield and Edgefield Counties in South Carolina. We came up empty for a John Holden. There are several Holdens in the state, but no records for a John Holden.

In some other searching, I came across a book called “The Holden Genealogy: Ancestry and Descendants of Richard and Justinian Holden and of Randall Holden” by Eben Putman published in 1923. I went through the index looking for any Johns born around 1805. I found a John Holden born 19 February 1800 in Chester, Vermont. The line that comes after that is what gives me hope that this is my John Holden: “he went south in 1821, and all trace of him was lost.” But would someone would move from Vermont to South Carolina at that time? And most things in the United States are south of Vermont.

There’s more that can be done to find John Holden, including looking at this John Holden in Vermont. I seem to pick it up every few months, hoping for something new, but so far haven’t been successful. I hope one day that I am.


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