Saturday, February 8, 2014

52 Ancestors: #6, James Llewellyn Sukeforth

This week's ancestor is again a bit of a mystery. Not his parents or origin – those I know well enough. No, the mystery about my great-granduncle is what happened to him after 1872.

James Llewellyn Sukeforth was born about 1836 in Washington, Maine, the second child of Simon and Jane (Miller) Sukeforth, my great-great-grandparents. The first concrete evidence for James is the 1850 census, where he appears as an ostensibly 16-year-old "James L" in Simon's household.1 Ten years later, he is 24-year-old "Lewellan," presumably the source of his middle initial.2 (This age seems more likely, since the 1840 census showed one male under 5 and one male 5-10 in the household.)

James L. "Suckforth", age 16, in 1850 census

"Lewellan" Sukeforth, age 24, in 1860 census

On 21 Dec 1861, James L. Sukeforth enlisted in the Union Army (1st Battalion, Maine Light Artillery) as a private. Unlike some of his cousins, James was one of the fortunate soldiers who survived the Civil War; he mustered out, still a private, on 6 Jul 1865 at Augusta, Maine.3, 4

Birth record of Herbert Leroy Sukeforth, 1872
We next pick up James's trail almost four years later, when he married Eliza "Lizzie" M. Clapp in Liberty, Maine, on 28 Feb 1869.5 Although he was at least 15 years Eliza's senior, the marriage doesn't appear to have been a case of necessity, because their only child, Herbert Leroy Sukeforth, made his appearance a good three years later.6 By that time, James and Eliza were living in Washington, Maine.

And that birth record is the last we see of James. Eliza divorced him in 18787 and remarried later that year. She and her son Herbert are with her new husband in Hope, Maine, in the 1880 census, but I can't find James anywhere (for that matter, I can't find either James or Eliza in the 1870 census). Nor can I find any death record for him.

The only place I find him mentioned at all is in the record of Herbert's marriage to Ida May Simmons in 1897.8 There, the groom's father is given as James L. Sukeforth, occupation: laborer, residence: Washington. However, I find it hard to believe that James was still alive in Washington in 1897, without showing up in either the 1880 census or the 1890 Veteran's Schedule. My guess is that Herbert was simply stating that, the last he knew, his father's residence had been Washington and his occupation had been laborer.

So what happened to James Llewellyn Sukeforth? The divorce seems to imply that he was living in 1878... but perhaps he had disappeared, and Eliza filed for a divorce for desertion, so she could remarry? The divorce was granted in Waldo County (Washington is in Knox County), which probably indicates that she had been living there – perhaps with her mother, who had also divorced and remarried, and was residing in Liberty (Waldo County) with three of the younger Clapp children in the household in 1880.

Maybe one day I will find out what happened to James and be able to fill in his death date with something a little less nebulous than "after 1872." For now he remains a mystery.

(Note: This post is in response to Amy Johnson Crow's "52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks" challenge at No Story Too Small.)

  1. 1850 U.S. Census, Lincoln County, Maine, Washington, p. 576 (penned), dwelling 296, family 296, Simon Suckforth household; digital image, FamilySearch ( : accessed 14 Apr 2012).
  2. 1860 U.S. Census, Knox County, Maine, Washington, p. 37, dwelling 281, family 292, Simon Sukeforth household; digital image, ProQuest, HeritageQuest Online (access through participating libraries : accessed 14 Apr 2012).
  3. Historical Data Systems, comp., “U.S. Civil War Soldier Records and Profiles,” database, ( : accessed 11 Jan 2013), entry for James L. “Sukforth”; citing “Report of the Adjutant General of the State of Maine”.
  4. National Park Service, “U.S. Civil War Soldiers, 1861-1865,” database, ( : accessed 8 Feb 2014), entry for James L. “Suckeforth”; citing NARA publication M543, roll 20.
  5. “Maine, Marriages, 1771-1907,” index, FamilySearch ( : accessed 6 Jan 2013), entry for James L. Suckforth and Lizzie M. Clapp, 1869.
  6. “Maine Vital Records, 1892-1922,” digital images, FamilySearch ( : accessed 10 Oct 2012), Herbert Leroy Sukeforth birth, 1872; citing “Maine State Archives, Augusta, Maine”.
  7. “Maine, Divorce Records, 1798-1891,” database, ( : accessed 8 Feb 2014), Eliza Sukeforth vs. Llewellyn Sukeforth, Jan 1878, Waldo County, docket #177, Supreme Judicial Court, vol. 21, p. 13.
  8. “Maine, Marriage Records, 1705-1922,” database and digital images, ( : accessed 9 Jun 2012), Herbert Leroy Sukeforth and Ida May Simmons, 1897.

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