Saturday, October 1, 2011

“Old Ben Wade”

For years I have been unable to trace the WADE branch of my family farther back than my great-great-great-grandfather Joseph WADE, who, according to census records, was born c. 1797 in Ohio. The earliest record I have of him is the 1850 census, where he is found in Bond County, Illinois. I have been unable to trace him prior to that because he is not located in the same area, and prior to 1850 only the heads of household are named in the census. Joseph WADE is a common name, and trying to locate the correct one has been time-consuming guesswork.

This morning, I was not even attempting the chore. I had located his son Joseph S. WADE’s obituary in the Sedan Lance and was reading it. Joseph S. WADE was the brother of my great-great-grandfather Allen C. WADE, and it was with some interest that I read the history of his movements.

Suddenly, the following paragraph arrested my attention:

Joseph S. Wade was always a good citizen. He deceived nobody. He was a direct descendent of the Wade family of Ohio of which “Old Ben Wade” was the acknowledged head, and he had many of the characteristics of his great uncle.
Who could “Old Ben Wade” have been? Surely the quotation marks surrounding the name implied that he was a prominent person, whom the readers of the newspaper would likely recognize. I googled the name.

“Old Ben Wade” was a nickname for the senator Benjamin Franklin WADE, a radical Republican who supported women’s suffrage and equality for African-Americans. My heart swelled with pride. Then I learned that after Abraham Lincoln’s death, when Andrew Johnson became President, Ben WADE was next in line for the Presidency!

The lack of a hyphen in “great uncle” as well as the birth dates of both men lead me to believe that the author of the obituary meant “his uncle who is great” rather than “his grandfather’s brother.” Therefore, if the obituary is correct, Ben WADE must have been the brother of Joseph WADE, my great-great-great grandfather.

As my research on Joseph WADE before 1850 has hitherto been unproductive, I will now try working from Ben WADE down: finding out the names of his siblings and what information is known about them. Although I very much want to be related to him, I will have to be extremely careful to weigh the information accurately and not force it to fit.

Update: A couple hours search on the genealogy of Old Ben Wade quickly proved that he could have been neither the uncle nor the great-uncle of Joseph S. Wade.


Brockett, L.P., M.D. "Benjamin Franklin Wade, Late Vice-President of the United States." Men of Our Day; or Biographical Sketches of Patriots, Orators, Statesmen, Generals, Reformers, Financiers and Merchants, Now on the State of Action: Including Those Who in Military, Political, Business and Social Life, Are the Prominent Leaders of the Time in This Country. Philadelphia: Ziegler and McCurdy, 1872. All Biographies. Web. 1 Oct. 2011.

“Joseph S. Wade Dead.” Sedan Lance 8 Jan 1904: 5. America’s GenealogyBank. News Bank Inc. Web. 20 Sept 2011.

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