Brick Wall Case Studies #26: Locating the family of a New Jersey man with many men in the area with the same name

John was born in New Jersey before birth records were kept and he wasn't listed in the 1850 census with his parents. Studying his neighbors in the census, as well as examining the families with his surname in the area, family Bible records, and his marriage record pointed to his birth family.

What We Knew

  • John Hornor was born in about 1823 in New Jersey according to the census records. It was likely in Monmouth County, New Jersey, which later became Ocean County where John lived later in life and where many Hornor families were living.
  • John's tombstone had been located in Plumsted Township, Ocean County, New Jersey. He died in 1902. A search had been done for a death record, but there didn't appear to have been a death recorded. A death notice in the newspaper gave his death date, but didn't list family members.
  • John Hornor married Hannah Green in New Egypty, Ocean County, New Jersey. His residence was listed as New Egypt. He listed his father's name as John Hornor.
  • John had been located in the 1860 census and later census records with his wife and children, always living in Ocean County.
  • There were many Hornor families in Ocean County, previously Monmouth County, and many men named John Hornor, but none of them had been positively identified as the father of John. There was no John of the correct age listed with a John Hornor as father in the 1850 census in New Jersey.

Records We Located

  • We looked for John Hornor in the 1850 census in Ocean County and Monmouth County. There were many John Hornors listed and several close to the age of our John. We followed the various John Hornors forward in time and looked at them in the later census records and were able to eliminate most of them as other John Hornors and not our John.
  • Among the John Hornors we had located in the 1850 census there was a John Hornor close in age to our John living in Ocean County that we could not positively identify in later census records. This John Hornor was living in Plumstead with an Ezekiel Hornor as the head of the household. Ezekiel was an old man and likely too old to be the father of John. But he was the right age to be a possible grandfather.
  • We looked for more information about Ezekiel Hornor. There was a family Bible for this Ezekiel Hornor and among his children listed was a John Hornor born in 1801, the right age to be the father of our John Hornor. (Our John Hornor stated on his marriage record that his father's name was John Hornor.)
  • We looked at the 1860 census for John Hornor that had been previously located. He was living in Plumstead township shortly after he married, the same place as the John Hornor in the 1850 census. In this census, he was listed as a basket maker. There were other families living nearby that were also basket makers. We were able to identify all of these basket makers as descendants of Ezekiel Hornor. There was Joseph Hornor who was the son of Ezekiel Hornor and Joseph's family. Another family was of Ezekiel Moore, whose wife was Elizabeth Chamberlain, who was the daughter of Abigail Hornor, another daughter of Ezekiel Hornor. So this Elizabeth was the granddaugther of Ezekiel Hornor. John Chamberlain was another basket maker and another grandchild of Ezekiel Hornor. So John Hornor appears to have been married and then went into the basket making business with his relatives for a time.


John Hornor was living with his grandfather Ezekiel Hornor in the 1850 census. Ezekiel had a son John, and John's marriage record listed his father as son, so the father John may have died young. The documents and sources we gathered are found on the person page of John Hornor and his family members in the FamilySearch Family Tree, ID LV8M-RWM.

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