A Father For Cyrus

Week #15: 52 Ancestors – Brick Wall
Week #24: 52 Ancestors – Father’s Day

By Eilene Lyon

Since I’m not doing all 52 Ancestors prompts this year, what the heck, why not combine a couple?

Sometimes breaking down a brick wall is just a matter of finding a piece that doesn’t fit properly. Remove it and the wall crumbles and the way forward is clear.

I created a family tree for The Putterer quite a few years back. Seems fitting, since I took the name and became part of the family in 1999. But I have been stymied by his great-great-grandfather, Cyrus R. Lyon, Cyrus’s parents, and siblings.

Part of the problem stemmed from Cyrus having various birth years, depending on the record. The last record for Cyrus, the 1870 census, suggests he was born in 1834.1 The 1865 New York census: 1831.2 The 1863 Civil War Draft: 1832.3 The 1860 census: 1833.4

A key document to determine his birth family is the 1850 census, when he would have been 16-19 years old. I had saved a record for Cyrus Lyon, son of Aaron Eaton Lyon and Miranda, with two younger sisters, Emily and Mira Ann. His age was 16, suggesting a birth year of 1834, matching the 1870 census.

Aaron and family lived next door to a couple old enough to be his parents: Abram J. and Mary Lyon. And on the other side of this couple, Ebenezer and Lucy Lyon with their children.5 Ebenezer could be Aaron’s younger brother by two years.

Problem one: Aaron, Miranda, Emily, and Mira Ann Lyon seemingly vanish after 1850. No records tie them to the Abram J. Lyon family. Problem two: Cyrus appears to have died after 1870, but before 1875, when his wife is listed in the New York census as a widow.6 I know from experience that it’s possible they divorced.

I found an 1880 census record for a Cyrus R. Lyon (his name, with or without the middle initial, is fairly common in central New York State).7 He was born in 1834 and living with his sister and brother-in-law. But the sister’s name is Mary, not Emily. And records suggest that Mary’s parents were John and Betsey Lyon, not Aaron and Miranda. Wrong Cyrus.

Let’s go back to that 1850 census record and take a closer look.

1850 U.S. census for Rushford, Allegany County, New York. (Ancestry.com) – click to enlarge.

Note that the three Lyon families are listed consecutively. But after Aaron Eaton and his family, we see ditto marks, making it appear that Lyon is their last name. Census-taker error rears its ugly head. The last name of this family is actually Eaton! A search for the family under that name reveals them living in the same town in 1860 (though Aaron has a new wife).8

After deleting Aaron’s family from my tree, I took a closer look at Cyrus’s remaining records to find a clue about his life before 1860. I put together this table to visualize the information (okay, I put the table together later for this blog post):

Summary of records for Cyrus R. Lyon (click to enlarge)

The fact that jumped out at me: Cyrus was born in Chenango County. It suggests that he probably lived in the county his entire life. Looking in the 1850 census for a Lyon family in Chenango County turned up a record for the family of Daniel and Harriet Lyon. Their oldest son is listed as Ralph, age 19 (born 1831).9 Yes, Cyrus was listed by his middle name!

1850 U.S. census for Daniel Lyon family in Lincklaen, Chenango County, New York (Ancestry.com) – click to enlarge. Cyrus is listed as “Ralph.”

Additional research turned up the 1855 New York census for this family, and Cyrus R. Lyon is listed as age 24, still living with his parents.10 A probate record shows that Daniel’s father was also a Cyrus. There may be documentation for this lineage going back to the immigrant ancestor, something I will be exploring later. Very, very carefully.

Madder-dyed skeins in Colonial Williamsburg. According the the book “Lyon Memorial Vol. 1” Daniel’s father, Cyrus Lyon, was not just a farmer but a madder manufacturer. (Wikimedia Commons)

Not only did I find the right father for Cyrus R. Lyon, but also his grandfather, mother, siblings, and possibly many ancestors. (And The Putterer’s second cousin, for that matter.)

As for a death record for Cyrus, I am still searching, but it seems probable that Lucy really was a widow in 1875. She remarried in 1877.

*In 1859, Cyrus R. Lyon bought a town lot in the village of Otselic from a man named Arton P. Ford.11 I haven’t determined the connection between the two men, but it appears that Cyrus named his only child Arton F. Lyon. Later the name changed to Arlon for unknown reasons.

Arton Paris Ford, posted by Catherine ADH on Find-A-Grave
1875 image of the village of Otselic. The Lyon property has been sold to H. Dutton following the death of Cyrus R. Lyon. (New York Public Library – Public Domain image) – click to enlarge.
Google Earth image of Otselic, New York showing location of Cyrus R. Lyon’s lot – click to enlarge.

Feature image: Otselic Township in Chenango County, New York. (Wikimedia Commons)


  1. Cyrus Lyon. Year: 1870; Census Place: Otselic, Chenango, New York; Roll: M593_917; Page: 333A – via Ancestry.com. 
  2. C R Lyon. Ancestry.com. New York, U.S., State Census, 1865 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2014. 
  3. Cyrus R Lyon. Consolidated Lists of Civil War Draft Registrations, 1863-1865. NM-65, entry 172, 620 volumes. NAI: 4213514. Records of the Provost Marshal General’s Bureau (Civil War), Record Group 110. National Archives at Washington D.C. – via Ancestry.com. 
  4. Cyras Lyon. Year: 1860; Census Place: Otselic, Chenango, New York; Page: 36 – via Ancestry.com. 
  5. Aaron Eaton Lyon. Year: 1850; Census Place: Rushford, Allegany, New York; Roll: 476; Page: 353b – via Ancestry.com. 
  6. Lucy Lyon. Ancestry.com. New York, U.S., State Census, 1875 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2013. 
  7. Cyrus R. Lyon. Year: 1880; Census Place: Attica, Wyoming, New York; Roll: 948; Page: 32B; Enumeration District: 197 – via Ancestry.com 
  8. Aaron Eaton. Year: 1860; Census Place: Rushford, Allegany, New York; Page: 837 – via Ancestry.com. 
  9. Ralph Lyon. Year: 1850; Census Place: Lincklaen, Chenango, New York; Roll: 487; Page: 74a – via Ancestry.com. 
  10. Cyrus R Lyon. Ancestry.com. New York, U.S., State Census, 1855 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2013. 
  11. Chenango County Deed Book 121, p. 150 – via Family Search. 

36 thoughts on “A Father For Cyrus

Add yours

  1. Great catch on the surname error! Between enumerator errors, reporting errors, and indexing errors, relying on census records can be a nightmare. On the other hand, what would we do without them!

    Liked by 2 people

      1. Though….funny story. In kindergarten my daughters class had to do a thing about their names, why chosen, etc. and it was put on a bulletin board. All the kids had these stories, it’s an ancestor name, it’s biblical, etc. and my daughters said “ I was named after an actress”….😆

        Liked by 1 person

      2. When I was growing up in northern Vermont, there were men who were always called by their father’s name, even though their own name was something entirely different. Good luck with their descendents trying to figure who was who and one who or two!

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Surnames can be tricky, as you demonstrate here. I know that different spellings make for trouble, let alone just being the wrong folks. I don’t know of anyone in my family history who was a madder manufacturer and rather like that job description. Fascinating story as usual.

    Liked by 1 person

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