The weakest link in my Dunham family tree is that of my 3x-great-grandfather James Dunham Jr. of Orland, Hancock, Maine. He was the father of my great-great-grandfather Seth Dunham, who came to California during the Gold Rush.

While his parents are generally assumed to be James Dunham (12 Sep 1758-18 Aug 1829) and Elizabeth Robbins (17 Jan 1758-11 Jun 1820) of Carmel, Penobscot, Maine, there is no direct documentation of the relationship as far as I have been able to find.

The Maine Genealogical Society’s monumental Maine Families in 1790 lists the children of the elder James and Elizabeth. The source is the vital records of Carmel, but the children were born prior to the founding of Carmel in 1811, most likely in Vinalhaven (then in Hancock County), where the 1790 United States Census records James and his household. There is no record of James Jr. among the children of James and Elizabeth in the Carmel record.

Nevertheless, there are some compelling reasons to connect the elder James and James Jr. But before those arguments can be made, we must eliminate—or identify—other possibilities for the parentage of James Jr.

Normally such a process of elimination would be a monumental undertaking. However, in this case, there were only 13 Dunham households in all of Maine in 1790, recorded in the first U. S. Federal Census. According to the records of James Jr. in the 1850 and 1860 censuses—the first to record dates of birth—he would have been about two years old in 1790. So he should have been recorded in one of these households, or if missed, in a subsequent census.

Dunham Households in Maine from 1790

Sadly, after 11 volumes, Maine Families in 1790 still documents only the one Dunham household of James and Elizabeth. So we will have to reconstruct the various Dunham households of Maine in 1790 individually to determine if James Jr. could have been a member of any of these families rather than the family of James Dunham and Elizabeth Robbins of Carmel.

The following are the Dunham households of 1790 Maine. (If you are not familiar with census records prior to 1850, you may be shocked to learn that only the names of males were recorded in the U. S. Census before then. Until then, women, children and slaves were literally only numbers. The slave column is omitted here because Maine residents were not slaveholders, so they would all be zeros.)

Dunham Households in 1790 Maine

Head of household Place County Males 16+ Males <16 Females
Amaziah Dunham Freeport Cumberland 1 2 1
Asa Dunham Number 4 Plantation (Paris/Norway) Cumberland (Oxford) 1 1 3
Danl Dunham Freeport Cumberland 1 0 2
David Dunham Pittston Lincoln (Kennebec) 1 4 4
Elijah Dunham Deer Isle Hancock 1 2 1
James Dunham Shepardsfield (Hebron) Cumberland (Oxford) 1 2 4
James Dunham Vinalhaven Hancock (Knox) 1 2 3
John Dunham Freeport Cumberland 1 2 4
Joseph Dunham Biddeford York 1 3 4
Willm Dunham Bowdoinham Lincoln (Sagahadoc) 2 0 2
Joseph Dunnam 1 Littleborough (Leeds) Lincoln (Androscoggin) 1 0 0
Jonn Dunnam Littleborough (Leeds) Lincoln (Androscoggin) 1 0 0
Samuel Dunnam Union Lincoln (Knox) 1 2 2

I will link the households in the above table as I publish posts detailing that family.

And of course if you have any information on these Maine Dunhams from 1790 or after, let me know!


  1. Ancestry and FamilySearch both index the two Littleborough Dunnams (sic) as living in Little River. But you won’t find them in the original Little River page. You’ll find them in Littleborough on the page indexed as Greene.

3 comments on “Who Were the Parents of James Dunham Jr. of Orland, Maine?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.