52 Ancestors Week 5 - In the Census

+18 votes

The Week 5 Prompt
The Week 5 prompt is "In the Census." What intriguing find have you made in a census? What has a series of census records shown you? Do you have an ancestor who constantly ages only 7 years between censuses? (Those are fun!)

It doesn't have to be the federal population census. It could be a state or local census or a non-population census, like the agricultural schedules or the 1880 schedule of Defective, Dependent, and Delinquent Classes.

So from any census record, what is the most interestng find you have found or seen.

Perhaps the worst spelling, a family you couldn't find, Someone who did not age etc etc.


asked in The Tree House by Robynne Lozier G2G6 Pilot (463k points)
I was pleased and surprised about how many ancestors I have been able to find. The worst is when my ggramma always said Prussia as her birthplace and nothing else. She was Ottillie Priebe Lange came to the US in 1880

40 Answers

+13 votes

Oh census records, you always surprise me.

I've had all of the examples listed above as well as more. While these things happen, I still find great value in census records because I always find something new.

I think the most memorable census record finding is I have a family listed twice on the 1940 census, each in a different county (William Strunk Cleaver). The family owned two properties so what I am assuming is that the family was split up at the time and they each gave all the names, or a neighbor gave their names. 


answered by Sarah Rojas G2G6 Mach 6 (67.5k points)
I have had that happen also.   I know it was the same person but I think he was traveling from his parents to his Aunts or Uncles.  I also think I posted a g2g post about another one.
+18 votes
For years, no one knew in my family where my great great great grandfather Donald McRae was buried. We knew where his farmhouse was located, but not his tombstone. The local church had a tombstone for a Donald McRae with the same birth year and death year, and the tombstone included Katherine McRae. However, Donald was married to Janet Gordon. There were so many McRae’s living in this area of Ontario that we simply assumed it was a different McRae who married a Katherine, and not our McRae married to Janet. This changed when we discovered the 1891 Ontario census, and saw that Donald in fact had a sister named Katherine who lived with him, never married, or had kids. We knew nothing of this sister, and except for this census report, she was nearly lost to history. We went back and re-evaluated the dismissed tombstone, and now are able to know that this is in fact our Donald McRaes gravesite.
answered by Alex Stronach G2G6 Mach 3 (32.6k points)
Yes, you know what they say about assuming anything... LOL

Very interesting.
Oh wow how wonderful
Lol! Yes, I do know what they say about assuming. It must be my favorite life lesson of all … because I keep going back to it and have to learn it again … and again… and again…
+14 votes
Well it's taken me a while to decide which of my relatives was the biggest problem with the census records, but I have chosen to go with a great great aunt. Fanny Burrough was the baby sister of my 2x great grandfather Isaac Burrow. She is not in my direct line, but she certainly led an interesting life.


Fanny was a silk weaver by trade, born in Ottery ST Mary in devon in 1832, the youngest of 8 children. Her father died when she was 7 and her mother died before she was a teenager. Fanny then lived mostly with her older sisters.

The interesting thing about Fanny is that she never married, but she had 4 children and she sometimes called herself a widow on some census records.

Fanny gave birth to 4 children, all of whom were named Burrough - and none of them seems to have lived very long. Some of them have been very hard to locate on the British census records.

I am currently adding those census records I have found so far to Fanny and her children.

Fanny herself died in 1905 but I still don't know what happened to her children. They are like ghosts. I cannot find any birth or death records for them, but they do show up on the census records.
answered by Robynne Lozier G2G6 Pilot (463k points)
Oh wow. The 1871 Census record showed that both her 14 year daughter and 11 year old son were working in the Silk Factory as well.   How strange to think how much times have changed.  I could not imagine a child of 11 or 14 working the hours I know this child worked.
What an interesting life. She seems like a tough, resilient woman. I was thinking the same as Mel, it must have been harsh working conditions back then. I wonder who the father(s) were? My friend's grandmother listed herself as a widow, but we found the husband (grandfather) remarried with a new child! Wishful thinking, maybe ;) ?
Re working hours, they could be very long The silk industry was exempt from many of the provisions of the various factory acts. It meant that women and young children worked at younger ages and  much longer hours in them than in the other textile industries https://pasttopresentgenealogy.wordpress.com/2016/10/31/child-employment-in-the-silk-industry-1815-1871-part-3/  It was supposed to be cleaner and less bad for the health but that isn't born out by the stats I've seen. (will let you know in a few years I'm researching the silk industry in another SW. town)

There were just under 500 children aged under 10 and almost 11,000 11-15 recorded as working in the industry in the 1871 census; and far more in earlier censuses.
 I think that this could well be a photo of the factory https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Ottery_St_Mary,_factory_-_geograph.org.uk_-_611002.jpg
Thanks Helen, I really appreciate the extra details!!
+14 votes

Census records are a wealth of information. The 1925 Iowa census even had parents names and birthplace on the second page of the image. The New York 1855/1865/1875 census have birth county if born in New York, which helped me find birth locations for several ancestors.

For the census week, however, I must pick my great grandmother Jane Whiting, a life story told via census. She lived with a sister, her in-laws, her children and grandchildren. The combination of census and some newspaper articles made it possible to crumble her brick wall. Using those it was possible to thread together her mother and siblings. In the 1850 census, she was Jane Whitney, living with Susan (her mother) and sisters Mary and Frances. They lived next door to brothers Heman (recorded as Herman) and Jared Wilson Whiting. (Jared was recorded as either Jared, Wilson, or JW in various census; Heman was recorded as Heman, HC, and Herman.) In 1854 there was a Referee's Sale of Real Estate for land disputed between Susan and her children. This was likely the location where they lived in 1850, now located on Whiting Road.

By 1855 her mother has died; she and her sisters were living with their elder sister and her family, although Stevenson was recorded as Stavison. They were living next door to Jane's future husband on the other side of the village; Heman and Jared both remained on Whiting Road, so it is obvious how the land dispute was settled! Finding her elder sister's death certificate identified parents, which matched published family genealogies.

By 1860 she is married to George Sands and they live in their own household with a 4 year old son. The marriage date can be estimated from the census and son's birthdate. Families enumerated next to each other in the census included George, his mother, his father, and his brother. All were farmers. In 1865 Jane, her husband George, and eldest son were living with George's parents. By 1870 they were in their own household, but his parents lived next door. By 1875 their youngest son was born and his widowed mother Eunice (enumerated as Unis) lived with them. The Mawhiney family lived next door; their daughter married Jane's eldest son and were living with them, along with their youngest child, in 1880. In 1900 their younger son Guy, his wife Florence, and their son Warren were living with them. After her husband's death, she lived with her son Guy.

The 1900 census did answer a long standing question for me. In that census, Guy and Florence had been married for 5 years, and she was the mother of 3 children, one living. Uncle Warren was the 'oldest', and this explains why the baby spoon for Aunt Marian, born in 1902, was engraved '96. And I had thought she lied about her age...

answered by Kay Sands G2G6 Pilot (182k points)
Wow what a wealth of information.  I love that your family still has a spoon from her.  That is so wonderful  Thank you for sharing this
+14 votes
Without the census records, I don't think I could have sorted out who my great grandfather Albert Henry Perkins really was. I don't believe that he ever knew who his father was. Each of his marriages listed a slightly different variant with his mother being either Lorraine Blanchard or Harrison. His father was either Walter or Waldo Perkins. His death certificate says Lorraine Harrison and Henry Perkins. His brother's death certificate listed a Hardy as father which gave a different starting point. To make it more complicated, Lorraine's name was spelled differently in different census (Lorain to Lorna) and the indexing of Lorna came out Donna (always read the original). So, Albert was born Egbert Hardy. The census after his birth (1870), Mom and two boys are listed as Hardy but are living with her mother, grandmother and brother Waldo. Next census,  Lorraine remarried to a Harrison. Albert shows up as Egbert Harrison but George is George Hardy(1880). He emerges into adulthood as Albert Henry Perkins. where he has his step father's name as his middle name and mother's maiden name as surname. Without having the two census with matching mother and boys (ages all match as well) it would have been more difficult. I don't think he ever knew who his birth father was.
answered by Doug McCallum G2G6 Pilot (228k points)
Wow   Just Wow   Can you think where you would have been if there were no Census records.  What a gift they were to you in tracing your great grandfather.
For years I was half convinced that Old Albert Henry had been kicked of the flying saucer on its way to Roswell.
+12 votes

The UK census told an interesting, sad and tragic story about my ancestor's sister Ann Rufus Rufus-23 but you have to read between the lines.

In 1851 she was "visiting" the household of Edmund Wildman (profile yet to be created) who was a pupil of Turner (the famous artist) http://www.oxfordartonline.com/benezit/view/10.1093/benz/9780199773787.001.0001/acref-9780199773787-e-00197159

Edmund was married with a young family, but he and Ann Rufus had an illegitimate son together - Francis (Frank) Rufus born in 1851 (baptised 27th August 1851) so Ann would have been definitely pregnant at the time of the census when she was living with Edmund and his wife.

Ann married James Owen in 1854, but in 1857 Ann and her infant daughter Mary Ann died, followed by her husband James, leaving her young son Frank to be raised by his biological father Edmund Wildman and his wife.

In 1861 Frank is living with Edmund and Elizabeth Wildman and their children, but is just listed as "orphan" therefore not officially recognised in the census as the son of Edmund.

So, what was the nature of Edmund and Ann's relationship? Did Edmund's wife Elizabeth know about the relationship at the time of the 1851 census - she certainly knew by the 1861 census!




answered by Michelle Wilkes G2G6 Pilot (106k points)
edited by Michelle Wilkes
I Hope that young Frank had a good life.    What interesting things are being found in the Census records    Thank you for sharing this
Unfortunately not - he was apprenticed as a cabinet maker by 1871 and his father appears to have died in 1865 - so I guess his father's widow probably kicked him out at the first opportunity.

Frank appears to have married (made up a father's name on his marriage certificate which seems to have confused a few researchers on Ancestry) but by the 1890s he is in and out of the workhouse with his family and is a pauper in the workhouse in 1901 - I'm just trying to find out what happened to him.
I Hope you find him.
Thanks. His wife died in 1892. His only daughter died as an infant, but his 3 son's appear to have survived but did not take him in and Frank appears to have died in Leytonstone Workhouse in Essex  in 1903 - his name changed a lot over the years - Francis, Frank, Walter, to Francis Henry at his death (I think because his son was named Francis Henry it was assumed that was his name too by whoever registered his death). He was buried at St. Pancras London...so now I just need to create his profile!
Wow .  Yes please do make him a profile.  That is one of the reasons I love WikiTree so much. We can share the story and not just the facts.  I so enjoy reading about the lives of our ancestors.    Thou if you look at my profiles they are just facts.
It was sad that Frank was removed from Holborn with his youngest 10 year old son in 1899 to his last legal parish of Settlement of Shorditch - Frank was sent to the Infirmary, so he must have been ill, and young son was sent to the Cottage homes - It's hard to understand why his eldest son didn't take them in.Maybe with a new wife and either a new baby or one on the way he just couldn't afford to keep his father and brother.
+11 votes

Oh yes, I have an ancestress who got a little younger on each Census - and each marriage certificate. But I stayed 16 for 30 years, so the apple doesn't fall far from the tree. 

I find the census very useful in identifying names of siblings and other people to research. A couple of times I've been able to find a clue to a spouse's identity by looking at the neighbors during childhood. 

I sometime wonder about the people I don't find on a census, the missing ones. Like my great-aunt when she was 6. Their father had died and the children were split up, none had good experiences, but the others show up in the census at least. Some neighbor or relative took her in, but nobody thought to include her and that breaks my heart. 

answered by Laurie Giffin G2G6 Mach 3 (31.3k points)
+11 votes

The 1871 census provided key info for my mother's maternal line.  My maternal grandmother died after giving birth to my mother. After figuring out a botched transcription, the census opened the door to connect with the matriarchs. Here's my blog post about it :​  http://www.libbyonthelabel.ca/2018/01/52-ancestors-week-5-in-census_29.html

answered by Libby Park G2G6 Mach 1 (13.6k points)
OH how sad yet beautiful   I am so glad you found them yet it is so sad so see how short their lives were.   Thank you for sharing this.
Sad story but so glad you could break down that census wall!!
That census helped go from a brick wall to finding roots for the Maw family all the way back to 1688. They never left that tiny village of Wroot. Life revolved around the church so all of the birth, baptismal, wedding, etc. records are there! I know my mom traced her father's roots the old fashioned way in the 80s. I think she would be really tickled to know about her mother.
+12 votes

I haven't had any great mysteries uncovered by census records. I have, however, added some details.

My ancestor with the most complete set of census records over the widest area is Christian Cowen (C. C.) Stoner (https://www.wikitree.com/wiki/Stoner-635). He was born in Pennsylvania in Dec., 1844, descendant of Swiss anabaptist immigrants. There is a federal census record for his parents and older siblings in 1840, in north Woodbury township,  Bedford county, PA. It does not give names of the family members other than the head of household, Jacob Stoner, just ages and sexes. The census record for his maternal uncle, George Cowen,  who lived nearby, is on the same page.

C. C.'s family moved to Noble county, Indiana in 1848, along with some other members of their church. He is found in the 1850 census, Noble township, Noble county, Indians. This census lists the names and ages of the children. The next census in 1860 also lists them in Greene township, Noble county, Indiana, and adds 2 children that apparently have been taken in by the family, including Alta James (age 6), who is mentioned many times in the diaries of Peter Winebrenner, the local minister and father of C. C.'s future wife. I will have to find out more about her.

By the 1870 census, C. C had survived the civil war, which claimed his brother, and married Rachel Winebrenner. They had set up their own home, as their their parents are not listed with them but still have their own household, with their youngest daughter, and the aforementioned additional children. CC and Rachel, also, have taken in a child, 6-year-old Ulyses Hardy.

C. C. and Rachel Stoner

By 1875, they are found in the Kansas State Census. C. C. had bought his own homestead there with his wages from the war. Ulyses is not with them--he may have stayed with a different family in the church, rather than move out of the area. Parents Jacob and Polly, however, have moved in with them, and they have an infant, my great aunt Ella.

By 1880, Jacob has died, and Ella is 5.then moved to California, when thkids were grown. Some of the census records record that his parents took in other children, who perhaps had lost their parents.

In the 1900 census, sons George and Peter are listed, and a "servant", Benjamin Wells, who would have been a farm hand.

C.C. Stoner family

There is no census record of their move to Lincoln, Kansas, where the children went to college, and the family bought and ran the newspaper. The photo below was taken either in Lincoln, Kansas, before they moved to California, or in Orange, California, after they moved.



In 1907, C. C. and his three grown children move to southern California. C. C is found in Orange, California, in the 1910 census, where he bought a house, and went in on his elder son's buying of an orange grove. He is found there also in the 1920 census. He served as mayor of Orange, but that is not in the census.


It took a bit to find him in 1930. His wife had died, and he was listed as "Christine C. Stoner" a "female boarder" in the household of "Barbara E. Beolwine", in Long Beach, California. Barbara Ellen Ohlwine was his wife's only sister. C.C.'s daughter and family also lived in Long Beach, so there was good reason for him to have moved in there after his wife died. He died Jan. 16th, 1931.

answered by Alison Gardner G2G6 Mach 2 (27k points)
edited by Alison Gardner
I always look forward to your posts Alison - because they will invariably have a photo or two attached!!
I love the photos add the great story of his life .  Thank you for sharing this.
I picture him as impersonating his late wife, dressing in her clothes, and pretending to be "Christine."
That is fun to imagine, however, very out of character for my great-grandfather, who was a strict father, farmer, "read the law" and practiced as a lawyer (law school wasn't necessary at the time), served as a judge and state legislature in Kansas, and was mayor of Orange, California. I also imagine him to have had PTSD from the Civil War. He was a forager, so he got to rape and pillage, though because of his strict Christian beliefs, I expect that he would have forgone the rape.
+5 votes

I am going to go with Thomas Leonard which is my 3rd great grandfather. This is his link:https://www.wikitree.com/wiki/Leonard-8531. In the Leonard census records there are some definite inconsistencies within the census records from year to year making it more difficult to establish a definite pattern.

The birth location for Thomas Leonard is listed as Pennsylvania (1850), North Carolina (1860), Tennessee (1870). Jane is listed as North Carolina (1850 - 1860) and Tennessee (1870). To further muddy the waters in 1880 when the birth state of the parents are listed on the census the known children of Thomas and Jane give conflicting information: Malinda (Tennessee), Elkinah (Ireland), Andrew (Tennessee), and Franklin (North Carolina). Samuel and Batson both  sons of Thomas, list their father as being born in North Carolina. By 1900 some of the children have changed their mind on where Thomas was born: Malinda (Tennessee), Elkinah (Ireland), Franklin (Tennessee), and Batson (Ireland).

Both Batson and Samuel had daughters named Matilda presumably named after their sister. Both Batson and Elkinah list their father as being born in Ireland.

The birth location for Batson Leonard is just as confusing: Tennessee (1850), North Carolina (1860 - 1900). His children also had difficulty with the location. In 1880: Thomas and James list their father as being born in North Carolina, while William and Arnold list Tennessee 1900 shows them all in agreement with Tennessee.

The fact that Batson's, Omega/Ona's and Thomas birth state have all changed to North Carolina, makes research more difficult. Perhaps the early Leonards moved from Pennsylvania to North Carolina then on to Tennessee.

In an attempt to fit the pieces together this would be the most logical conclusion. The Leonards family immigrated from Ireland, possibly coming to a port in Pennsylvania around the time of Thomas' birth in 1787. He would have been born in Ireland, after the family reached Pennsylvania or perhaps at sea. The family then moved to Virginia where the brothers of Thomas were born. At some point in the early 1800's Thomas moved to North Carolina where he met and married Jane and their first two sons, Samuel and Batson were born. By 1834 they had moved to Tennessee and the rest of the Leonard family migrated there shortly thereafter.

answered by Linda Barnett G2G6 Pilot (252k points)
edited by Linda Barnett
+10 votes
The Legaults and Cadrons in the 1880 census. Or as I'd like to call it

"You packed HOW many people into a small house in Haverhill?!"

If you've ever been to Haverhill, you'd note how small some houses are. This one takes the cake, though. Check it out:


What's funny is that it didn't list the Cadrons as in laws. Just everyone crammed into one house. No in-laws or anything. Just a bunch of Canadian immigrants hanging out. They may be related. Who knows? (Spoilers. They were in-laws.)

Fast forward to 1930 in Haverhill. My great grandfather, Vincenzo moved his family from a nice house to a house that's now gated and been redone countless times:





We drove by that place a lot growing up as my Grandma on the Carrabs side was living nearby. Didn't know Vincenzo was there until recently. Checked out the second house on Google maps. Looks decent. Still standing. But, I think I liked their 1930 house a little better.

Then again that house may have changed since then....

Oh and to make things funnier Vincenzo moved to a third house in the 50s after Maria passed away. He did not want to stay in one spot for long.

Oh, and Robynne? I think the 1930 spelling of my last name wins for worst spellings. It just wins. God, even substitute teachers in school were close! 1940 was a little better. Still not accurate. Whatever.

Finding them was a pain. I know it's really them only from what my great-aunt Nicolina said where in Haverhill they lived. She remembers even though she's in her '90s now.
answered by Chris Ferraiolo G2G6 Pilot (175k points)
edited by Chris Ferraiolo
So Chris, how do you PRONOUNCE your surname?

I don't think it's Farraro like Janet or Ferrari like the car... LOL
Knew that was coming. That's why I stayed on the page and refreshed every couple of seconds.

It's pronounced like "Ferry-oh-low"

The "a" is silent. I can't tell you how much fun I had growing up and having substitute teachers trying to say it. Problem is it tends to be an issue with the TSA when I travel.

"Ferr....What? You ain't from 'round here are ya?"

Note: They don't get many Italians in Virginia even though my brother and his family live there.


Bless the Internet: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UzXFq_m9hQ0 Pronunciation guide.
LOL Thanks Chris.
No problem. Now how do you pronounce Lozier?

We tend to say Low-zee-ay - but we do answer to Low-zee-air as well.

 That was a great guess!!
Thanks! Now we need to figure out how to best pronounce Nahasapeemapetilon. =P
I would have said, "Fur' oh low."  But then, I am "Say vah' joe."  I try google translate for pronunciation.
Heh. Sometimes Google Translate works. Sometimes it doesn't I guess.
I always say my surname is really easy: HAY as in 'hay', and WOOD as in 'wood'.  Yet people still spell it wrong...
+7 votes

52 Ancestors Week 5:  In the Census

I have read so many interesting posts about “In the Census” I am so glad we are sharing their stories.  I guess the most interesting Census would have to be the 1860 United States Census for Clay County, Virginia, 1 which now seems more like a listing for a family reunion then a Census to me.

As I was looking for Jeanetta “Jane” Samples the spouse of Samuel Samples  in the Census I took the time to read several lines up and down.  To my surprise I found she was surrounded by most of her children, a niece and  several soon to be relatives.

I have listed some of this information on the profile for Jeanetta Samples , the daughter of Robert Samples and Mary Ann (Walker) Samples  As far as I know Robert Samples and Alexander Samples (the father of Samuel Samples) are not related.     I have a confusing family tree.  

Listed by family visitation number are the following Samples (or soon to be) family members:

   212 Janetta's niece Delila (Samples) Walker is living with her husband William Patterson Walker

   213 Lewis Jackson White and Meriba Catherine (Elswick) White  who’s daughter Levina May (White) Samples would marry Perry Pete Samples, the son of Hiram Samples Sr (brother of Samuel Samples husband of Janetta “Jane” below)

   215 Jane, William H. Samples, Salathiel Samples, Delilah (Samples) Jones & Sarah Eveline (Samples) Moore

216 Louis Burdoff ( Lewis A. Burdette) and Amanda (Samples) Burdette

217 Andrew M Samples and Avaline (Ashley)Samples

218 John H Samplels and wife Rosanna (Jarrett) Samples

219 Jesse A Samples and Malinda (Ashley) Samples

220 Thomas Paxton and Dicena Paxton --( Parents of William Paxton, America (Paxton) Simmons and Virginia (Paxton) Samples )

221 William Paxton and Priscilla (Samples) Paxton

222 Lemuel Simmang (Lemuel Simmons) and America (Paxton) Simmang --

223 Thomas Samples and Virginia (Paxton) Samples

Doing this challenge sparked my interest at looking at all the recorded information on the record. All the heads of house are listed as farmers other than William Paxton who was a gunsmith.   I found it interesting that even though Jane is listed as the head she had no recorded land value.  Her 2 sons & 2 daughters still living in the home each have a land value of $300 listed.  Could this indicate that Samuel’s land holdings were divided among the children.  This seems to be supported when you look at the other children of Samuel and Jane living nearby. Jesse and Andrew Samples show land values of $300, John H Samples shows a land value of $600 and Thomas Samples shows a land value of $168. The married daughters land would have been listed with their husbands land totals.

So now as I look at the record I will try to remember to slow down, read more closely and look on the pages before and after.  You never know you may find the clue you need to break that brick wall just a page over.

I have posted this to my Blog    Here 

"United States Census, 1860," database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:33S7-9BSF-9PKC?cc=1473181&wc=7QY4-SN2%3A1589436503%2C1589424777%2C1589422206 : 24 March 2017), Virginia > Clay > Not Stated > . from "1860 U.S. Federal Census - Population," citing NARA microfilm publication M653 (Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.) Images 33 - 35 of 46


answered by Mel Lambert G2G6 Mach 2 (29.3k points)
edited by Mel Lambert
+9 votes
I could probably go through the ones I have and be able to give you a bunch of interesting things but the one that immediately comes to mind is my Grandpa Park's in the 1930 census. Someone made a mistake and instead of putting down Richard they put Kermeth! His father isn't with the family for some reason too even though he and the wife are still married. I can't find any of the family in the 1940 census so the only census I have of my Grandpa is with him having a completely wrong name.

answered by Amanda Frank G2G6 Mach 4 (44.7k points)
+7 votes

As soon as I saw this week's prompt, I knew exactly who it would be: Armajor Kent Hall, my 2x-gr-grandfather. From this page:

The 1900 Census showed that his wife Louisa had 12 children, 11 living (and 11 children are in this photograph).

The 1910 Census for Armajor showed he had been married three times and had 15 children, 12 living.

The story my father (Armajor's great-grandson) had heard was that Armajor had been married before Louisa. This story is supported by the 1910 Census, which lists Armajor's third wife and their two children. The 15th child listed for Armajor would have been with his first wife.

And a neat WikiTree story - a descendant of his third wife contacted me through WikiTree not too long ago! <waves wildly at Sarah>

I've been meaning to see if I could do something to make the three pages I have for the family a bit more cohesive. I'll try to do that this week.

answered by Liz Shifflett G2G6 Pilot (304k points)
+8 votes

Well, the Start and Longevity answers I gave would have worked well as In the Census answers too.  For something different, this time I'll look to the US Agricultural Census since most of my ancestors were farmers at some point.

Unfortunately, these censuses aren't as readily found or as complete as the population censuses and only those covering the period 1850-1880 are available.  And, the Michigan 1850-1870 censuses on Ancestry/Heritage Quest which cover most of my relatives only include the first page (the complete records are on microfilm – but not so easy to access) which is OK for names, but not so helpful in seeing the whole picture of what was happening on the farm.

I am choosing the 1880 Agricultural Census for my great-great grandmother Harriet (Bentley) Arthur.  Her husband Edward Arthur  (brother of Waring from Longevity) had died suddenly in 1870 leaving her a widow at age 34 with three young daughters Metta 13, Eva Belle (my great grandmother) 5 and |Inez Estelle 3 and a 40 acre farm.  By 1880 Metta had married Amenzo Wright and Harriet only had the two younger girls now 15 and 13 at home.  Harriet never remarried and probably there weren’t a lot of options to do so in the aftermath of the Civil War.

So, we have a “snapshot” of this family’s farm from 1 June 1880.  The most surprising thing about this record is what isn't there.  The farm consisted of 20 acres of tillable land and 20 acres of woodland. Clearly someone else is doing the crop work because the value of implements and machinery is “None” yet there were 5 acres of wheat (100 bushels) planted and 5 acres of hay mown.

I have doubts that the three women cut the 15 cords of wood ($15) listed either despite the record showing no hired labor for the previous year.  A cord of wood is 4 feet high by 8 feet deep by 4 feet wide so 15 cords would be 60 feet long by 4 feet high by 8 feet long and the trees would have to be cut and hauled from the woods.   

Harriet's brother lived quite close by as did Metta and her husband who farmed with his father and grandfather so it is likely other farmers were involved in the more strenuous aspects of farm work and may have worked the farm on a share basis.

More details - only 11.5 acres of the 20 acres of tillable land are accounted for on the production side: 5 acres hay, 5 acres wheat, 1-acre orchard with 25 bearing trees, but no fruit production in 1879, .5 acres white potatoes (12 bushels).  Amounts for barley, buckwheat, corn, oats, rye and pulses are all zero.  The remainder of the land may have been pasture.

The livestock numbers are also small.  Cattle: 1 milch cow, 1 calf dropped, 1 cattle sold living, none slaughtered.  No milk sold, no cheese made, but 100 pounds of butter made on the farm.  1 swine, 10 barnyard poultry (75 dozen eggs).  No sheep or wool, no other poultry listed either.  Pigs and chickens may have been in larger numbers than shown as the poultry numbers are “exclusive of spring hatching” and swine numbers are what was on hand 1 June without any numbers for slaughtered or sold.

No horses or mules, which raises questions about transportation.  A lot of walking?  They lived about a mile and a half from the town of Durand.  

The estimated total value (sold and used on farm) of farm production for the previous year was $180.  The actual income would have been less as the family would have had to eat something and use some of the wood to heat the home and the cow, pig and chickens would need to be fed. If the crop work were being done on shares some of that value would go to the farmer.  Other potential income sources are the cow's annual calf sold, part of the butter and eggs, probably most of the wheat and some of the hay and wood.

I’m left wondering what day to day life was like for Harriet and her daughters.  A lot more questions than answers at this point aren’t there?  What happened if your milch cow died?  How could you afford to buy another with so little income?  What did you have to eat when the butter and eggs may have been the only steady income?  Pork and potatoes and old chickens?  Of course, this is only the farm aspect and Harriet may have had some other income sources.  She may have worked as a midwife/nurse as her daughter Inez did in later years, but no hard facts about that.

A lot of information from a few lines in a report!

answered by Jill Perry G2G6 Mach 1 (15.1k points)
edited by Jill Perry
That is fascinating!  Makes me want to go back and read some of the agricultural census.
thanks so much for sharing the method!
That was interesting - how you can make a dry census report, sound so fascinating, Jill. well done!!
+9 votes

The first one that comes to mind for this is my "Irish" GG grandmother https://www.wikitree.com/wiki/Thul-48  I was always told that grandma was Irish German because her Grandparents were German and Irish.  As I investigated and went thru the records the O'toole or Toole turned into Thul and they are German.  The first time that she reported herself as Irish was in the 1880 census, before that she was German. 

The other one that comes up is another German family who "isn't" German, they are French.  My GG Grandparents https://www.wikitree.com/wiki/Wittman-31 are listed as French and that is what family tradition says.  Most of the records say that as well.  Except for the 1900 census which says they are German.  


For both of these families the anti German immigrant sentiment in the mid to late 1800s could have been a big reason that they decided to not be German.



This was of course very hard for my mother to accept, because she had the information straight from my Dad's mom and the family bible.  Even after I showed her all the records I don't think she actually believes it now either.




answered by Jim Parsons G2G6 Mach 1 (10.4k points)
+9 votes
This week I have chosen Abraham Gyte https://www.wikitree.com/wiki/Gyte-102 He is my third cousins three times removed. (or so wikitree tells me). I have chosen him because he appears in every English census from 1841 to 1911.
answered by Joan Whitaker G2G6 Mach 5 (50.4k points)
I have a few relatives like that as well. It's nice to see the story of someones life as told in all the census records!!
+9 votes

This week I wrote about my 3rd great grandmother, Ellen Easton, and how census records (and one in particular) helped me identify who her parents were.


answered by Leanne Cooper G2G6 Mach 3 (33.6k points)
Excellent story Leanne!!  Very well done!!

If only the english census records went back far enough for me to be able to find my brick wall as well!!

My brick wall (John Burrow - I invited him to dinner) died in 1839 - 2 years befroe the census records started!!
+9 votes

When I was new at genealogy searches, I had the worst time finding any records on my gg-grandfather, Zachariah Vachon. I didn't realize at the time that due to language barriers, his name would be tough for an enumerator to spell or understand (having worked retail in an area with a variety of immigrants, I now understand very well!) Anyway, I could NOT find him in the 1850 or 1860 census, though I knew he had already emigrated to the US. Finally, a distant cousin helped me out. In 1850 he was enumerated as Zachariah Bacon and in 1860, he was Zach Bashaw. Now I know to look for all kinds of alternate spellings for an immigrant ancestor. 

[[Vachon-194|Zach Vachon]].

answered by Natalie Trott G2G6 Pilot (375k points)
Yes, even I have seen enough Vachon's to know to pronounce it the french way - Va-shon!!
+7 votes
An extension to last week's is the intriguing matter of Agnes Armstrong Grieve who is probably my 2xgreat grandmother's great aunt. She doesn't have a wikitree profile as I have no idea how to connect her.

answered by Fiona Gilliver G2G6 Mach 6 (66.6k points)
Wow what an interesting story.  Good luck in your hunt

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