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The search for Russell Leonard

Updated: Nov 3, 2022

The search along the trails left behind by my Leonard family, have led me squarely to a place commonly found by genealogists - a brick wall.


The earliest Leonard that has been identified in my line is Charles Russell Leonard who was born in 1830, possibly in Union Springs or Springport, Cayuga County, New York. He had a sister named Jenette who was born in 1833. Others in the family researching this line give his mother's name as Sophronia, reportedly Sophronia Burrill.


An extensive search of newspapers published in the area during that period produced this very interesting find:

Who was this "Russel Leonard", husband of Sophronia Leonard, who left Lock Port on November 1, 1833, never to be heard from again?


Watch this video, which explains my theory:

It seems most likely to me that Sophronia's husband, Russell, was a son of Joshua & Hannah Leonard of Worthington, Hampshire County, Massachusetts. He was born June 27, 1808, in Chesterfield, Hampshire County, Massachusetts, according to Massachusetts Town Vital Records. His birth record is shown here beside his brother, Joshua Leonard, Jr.'s in Chesterfield Vital Records. Their father, Joshua, was born on Nov. 8, 1773, in neighboring Worthington. [Vital records of Worthington, Massachusetts, to the year 1850, p. 44]. He lived in Chesterfield in 1810. Joshua Sr's father was Amos Leonard. (Possible match here).

Joshua Leonard, Jr., was living in Scipio, Cayuga County, New York, in 1820. In his home there was a young man born between 1805 and 1810, which could very well have been his younger brother, Russell. It couldn't have been either of his other two brothers, as the ages don't match.


In 1830, Joshua Sr., was counted on the census in Venice, Cayuga County, New York. Venice was formed from Scipio in 1823, so perhaps he didn't move, but rather the location of his home fell in the portion of Scipio that became Venice. He was counted on the census in Venice again in 1840, at which time we find Thomas Knapp, and presumably Sophronia, living nearby in Scipio. It does not appear that her son, Charles Russell Leonard, was living in the home, however. Charles would have been 9 years old at the time and may have been the boy age 5-9 who was counted on the census in Joshua Leonard's home in 1840. Joshua was between 60-69 years old.


My question is, what ever happened to Russell, the son of Joshua Leonard? Was he the husband of Sophronia who went missing in 1833?


I had previously researched another Russell Leonard who was born in 1808 in Hampshire County, Massachusetts and died on October 22, 1874 in Grant, St. Clair, Michigan. His death record states his parents were Elisha Leonard and Elizabeth Brown who were married in Washington, Massachusetts, on March 23, 1802. This Russell, however, was actually named Elisha Russell Leonard, Jr., born March 19, 1808, in Massachusetts. He married Lydia Almina Forbes and I believe there may be some confusion between her and Lydia Ann Leonard. Her memorial on findagrave (memorial #134570823) says she was Lydia Ann Leonard, the daughter of Benjamin Leonard of Massachusetts and Eva Burgett. It says Lydia was born April 11, 1811, in Chautauqua, New York, and married first to a Mr. Forbes. the problem is, her name was given as "Almina Forbes" when she married Russell, "Elisha R. Leonard". They were married in Townsend, London District*, Ontario, Canada on November 19, 1833. Sophronia's missing person's notice, published in May of 1834, says he left from Lockport, New York, on the first day of November last, meaning November 1, 1833, to buy land in Michigan. Could he have made it to Townsend, Ontario, Canada, by November 19th to marry Lydia? Yes, he could have. Lockport is only 89 miles from Townsend.


By 1850 "Russel Leonard", age 42, was working as a Shingle maker and living in Burtchville, Michigan, with his wife, Lydia, and five children: Almina, Wellington, Alice, Abigail, and George Leonard.


According to a very informative post by Marla Gearhart on the message boards in the Leonard Family Genealogy Forum on genealogy.com, Elisha Leonard (1751-1832) did have a son Elisha and a grandson named Elisha Russell Leonard. Elisha Leonard, Jr. moved from Massachusetts about. 1815 and lived in Madison County, New York, and then in Oneida County before moving to Ontario, Canada, about 1825. She claims his son, (Elisha) Russell settled in Michigan abt. 1847, which may explain why he is found there in 1850 but not in 1840.


While the dates line up, and the places are close - they are not close enough. These Michigan Leonards show no connection to Port Byron or Union Springs. They also show no other known males named Charles in the line. Furthermore, if Russell's father was already in Canada in 1825, the it seems likely that his son was also there with him. For these reasons, I do believe the Russell who was the son of Joshua Leonard is more likely a paternal match for our Charles Russell Leonard. I hope to confirm this eventually. Someone please tell me he didn't leave poor Sophronia in upstate New York alone with two small children just as winter was approaching, only to run off and marry another woman! Please?!


There may have been a connection between Joshua and Elisha's families, since they were both from Hampshire County, Massachusetts. The fact that they both used the Russell name, however, seems to be coincidental. Joshua's son, Russell, appears to have been named after his mother's brother, Russell Sylvester, while Elisha Russell Leonard was named after his father. Deeper investigation into the lines will prove to be more confusing since there was another Joshua Leonard b. 1797 living in Cazenovia in the mid 1800s. He was a reverend. Perhaps in another post I will share my research on that line.


Your comments, questions and suggestions are welcome! Please share!


1 comment

1 Comment


Jason Gervase
Jason Gervase
Feb 20, 2023

I have a theory that Russell Leonard was a son of Paul Leonard and his second wife, Sally Tuttle, for two reasons: -My grandma's DNA matches descendants of Charles Russell.

-Older children of the said Paul Leonard settled in Cayuga Co. namely Lovice Leonard Baldwin, Maria Leonard Baldwin, and James Harvey.


Might be worth investigating further.


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