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 (433k 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

38 Answers

+7 votes

My great-grandmother's aunt Kate Hackett was notorious for "downplaying" her age, and it shows throughout the census records.  Made it quite tough to find her actual birth records.  The kicker was that even her death certificate and obituaries claimed she was only 65 (it was actually closer to 80!)

However, the most interesting discovery I ever made in a census record was my 3x-great-grandparents George Freeth and Rachel (McCartney) Freeth enumerated at New York City's Five Points Mission House in the 1870 U.S. Census.  I guess they'd fallen on some hard times.  The record also included a previously-unknown child named Sarah J Freeth, born approximately 1869.

answered by Vicky Majewski G2G6 Mach 6 (66.9k points)
+7 votes

This is my favorite census records:

Ancestry.com. 1860 U.S. Federal Census - Slave Schedules [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2010.
Original data: United States of America, Bureau of the Census. Eighth Census of the United States, 1860. Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, 1860. M653, 1,438 rolls.

Because ...

The slaves are all named.  They are also some of my daughter's ancestors.  Their names are listed in the "Slave Owner" column, but someone drew arrows and labeled the records as "Slaves."  This is a rare and awesome find.

answered by Lucy Selvaggio-Diaz G2G6 Pilot (238k points)
+7 votes

My Great Great Grandfather Fred Walter the Candy Maker.  


He descended from the Glass and Crystal making Walter family coming to the USA in 1849 on the Argo. On this manifest he is listed as age 26.  So, 1846-26 =birth of 1823 

In 1850 census there is in Brooklyn an F Walter Confectioner.  Age 26 listed in the July 29th Census. 1850-26= 1824

WALTER FREDERICK  37  M  W   FRAN  MO  ST LOUIS 4-WD ST LOUIS 1860 Census  So 1860 - 37 = 1823  if his birthday is after the census date, then 1822

1870 census is a mystery.  This census has a Fred from HesseDarmstadt who is a Candy Manufacturer but they have a Louise age 46 keeping house... where is Eva? 
Eva was from Hesse Darmstadt... was her name Eva Louise?  Very weird.. someone got this messed up... 
The children seem to be correct and there are Schaeffers living with them as servants...  

He is listed on the 1880 US Census with a birthplace of Elsas which I believe is the German version of Alsace.  He is 56 so, 1880-56 = 1824

His obituary said he was 76 years old when he died Feb 25, 1902. So, 1902-76 = 1826  but the official deal record has him dying at 77, 5 months and 25 days. So, 2/25/1902 - 25 days is Jan 31 1902 - 5 months is Sept 1901- 77 years is 1824

1900 census is a mess I think they have Fred listed as Herbert!  Eve is there as herself.  The address of 933 Morrison is correct (Winter was changed to Morrison and it is the same  residence)  If this is correct it has his birth as Aug 1821!  Sigh...  They are married 46 years so 1854 which matches the record I found  It also says he came here in 1850 not 49 as I have on the Argo.  That he has been here 50 years and is naturalized.  I have a hard copy of his naturalization paper and it has no real info on it...  useless...  

Adding to this confusion is the fact there were at least 2 or 3 other Fred Walter men living in the same location coming from either France or Germany in these census records.   So to make sure we have the correct one we need to make sure Eva is also listed.  They married in 1854 

answered by Laura Bozzay G2G6 Pilot (448k points)
Eva might have died early you know!!  Then you will be up a creek without a paddle - and no way to tell which is the right one!! LOL
Eva died in 1905 and Fred died in 1902 so by tracking Eva I was able to cover Fred.  What I am trying to figure out is why on 2 census records he showed up as Herbert.   There was no Herberts in the family and who in the world gave that info?   All family documents call him Fred or Fritz.
+6 votes

In the Census or not. Philinda Muir was one of my brick walls. She was alive c. 1860 to 1954. She shouldn't have been difficult to find in a census, but proved to be almost impossible. It took me years and many hours of searching with many variations of her name. We had the spelling as Phylindy. After much searching I found her as Philinda, Linina, Linnie, Lin, and Felinda. Not to mention the assorted surnames: Muir, Biddle, Sweagey, Unknown, Fackler, variously spelled as Whehr, Muhr, Mihr, Merver, Sweagen, Sweager, Fockler. Still out of seven possible censuses while she was alive, I've only located her in three.  At least she's no longer a brick wall, but her father Peter Muir is.

answered by Anne B G2G6 Pilot (973k points)
+7 votes

When I joined WikiTree, my paternal grandmother seemed to have materialized out of thin air.  I knew nothing of parents or even if she ever had siblings.  I found out who her parents were - they also came to the United States - and discovered her five siblings.  I knew my father had a cousin (but didn't know 1st, 2nd, etc) whose last name was the same as my grandmother's maiden name, but didn't know where the connection was.

Finally, I had a major breakthrough when I discovered that my father's cousin grew up in the same small town as my father.  A census record finally revealed the relationship, but it was not easy to see at first because all the names in the record were badly fouled.  The cousin's father is a half-brother to my grandmother, plus he had an older sister, also a half-sibling to my grandmother.  The paragraph in Harris Bresnick's profile about the 1900 census record, describing the whole mess, is:

In 1900 Harris (shown as Harry), Ida, and their first two children, Annie (age 3) and Lillian ( age 1, shown as Lena), were living in Manhattan, New York, New York, United States. Harris' (believed half) sister, Sadie (age 22, shown as Sorah but incorrectly transcribed as Dorah), (believed half) brother, Morris (age 12), and (believed step) mother, Ida (Greek) Bresnick (age 48, shown as Gussie) lived with them.

Sadie is my grandmother, Morris is one of her brothers, and Ida (Greek) Bresnick is their mother.

ADDITION - Harris' profile is full of explanations of all the inconsistencies in records, as well as a note about the uncertainty of Harris' mother's name.

NOTE:  Please do not make changes to this profile.  I was not sure whether I wanted to continue in the 52 week challenge because 2 of the 4 profiles I previously posted were incorrectly changed and I had to restore them.  If the same thing happens to this one, I will not post any more.

answered by Gaile Connolly G2G6 Pilot (512k points)
edited by Gaile Connolly
Oh dear Gaile, I am srorry that your profiles are being messed up. I would hate to lose you from the challenge...
I can empathize. One of my lines has very inconsistent spelling. I have 45 different documented spellings of the surname, and I've had people go in and change the spelling of the names in the profiles. It's *most* annoying when a "doctor" comes along who is in no way connected to the family and catches an "error" and corrects it. WikiTree needs to add some kind of button or whatsis where a spelling can be locked by the owner of the profile and not changed by an editbot or data doctor.
Deb, I concur with your thoughts about people changing names when they don't have any information on which to base the changes.  In these cases, it's even worse than that, though.  In one of them, the changes broke the citations from being shown in the footnote list under Sources!  In the other, the order of the entire biography was turned inside out, with addition of structured subsection headings and badly formatted transcriptions of source data added as paragraphs beneath the new headings.

EDITED TO ADD:  After restoring the profiles, I changed privacy to green for two reasons - (1) to avoid being accused of publicly shaming the person who did it by not permitting the Changes tab to be accessed and (2) to ensure that these profiles will not be damaged again.
Gaile. I am sorry I was so late in responding. I never realised that same thing was happening to my profiles. I had several preferred names removed and names set back to the legal first name. They were NOT the preferred names.

I have sent a PM to the person concerned requesting that they STOP EDITING profiles that are not under their management.

I ask for all participants in this challenge to keep a close eye on their profiles each week, and if this continues to let me know.

If the same thing happens this week, (new prompt tomorrow)  I WILL be taking this up with the Wikitree leaders.

Robynne,  Thank you.  I just added you to the trusted list for my uncle so that you can see the major changes that made a complete mess of the profile.  Feel free to remove yourself - or not - as you wish.

I am in the throes of a major crisis (today is day 11 that my husband is in cardiac intensive care at the hospital - he was upgraded from critical to serious but unstable a couple of days ago) and only back to WikiTree sporadically for a vacation from my stress, so I may not respond promptly - please be patient if that happens.

OUCH Gaile, you have my sincere sympathies. To have to be dealing with doctors, hospitals and your husbands illness, and also with this happening at Wikitree as well - I do understand why you are so frustrated.

Those changes should never have been made. The profile is perfectly OK to read, now that it is back in its orginal formatting.

I promise, now that I know about it, I will be keeping a close eye on the situation.
Sorry to hear this, Gaile-

Concerning changes to profiles in '52 Weeks' you are not the only one and from now on, every profile I enter which matches criteria will be set to Green privacy. I had the names fields moved around inappropriately and "Unsourced" added to profiles which do have  sources. And I know several other participants have experienced similar things.
+7 votes

This week's entry is Maximilien Chappart, my great-great-grandmother's kid brother.

The Chappart family was the first I researched because they lived in the same village where I was raised so I just had to walk to the "town hall" to look up the registers. I was sure I had got all the family by checking all the Chappart entries in the right period. So, it was a great surprise to find Maximilien in the census. He was born full 10 years after his mother last had a child (a girl who didn't survive) and his mother was 47 when he was born. That's how I missed him, I thought his mother would have no more children. I had to double check his birth record.

Maximilien - his full official name was Joseph Henri Maximilien but on all census records, he's Maximilien - is present on the 1836, 1841 and 1846 census. He's no longer home in 1851, at 15, and I still have to find him for those 3 missing census 1851, 1856 and 1861.

He became a soldier. He was a first-class in Light Infantry (9ème bataillon de Chasseurs à Pied) when he was found dead on a pier in Rennes, Brittany, and we don't know anything more of the circumstances of his death. He was not 31 years old

answered by Isabelle Rassinot G2G6 Pilot (211k points)
+6 votes

One of the most interesting facts that I have learned from reading the census records for my family is the wide variety of occupations held throughout the generations.  Also of interest is how common it was to have a different occupation each consecutive census year during the late 19th and 20th centuries. The most common occupation within my family tree is farmer for the men and housewife or dressmaker for the women. Among the most interest to me are: drayman, harness maker, grain teamer, fish camp owner, cigar maker, and lighthouse keeper. It this last occupation, light house keeper, that I want to write about today. Seems as though this was a family occupation for several families in my tree but the family that is most interesting to me is the Andreu family keepers of the light on Anastasia Island, St. Augustine, Florida. Juan Andreu was the first keeper starting in 1824 when the old tower was converted to the first lighthouse through 1849.  Joseph Juan Andreu (cousin of Juan)  and his wife Maria de los Delores Maestre were the keepers from 1854 through 1862 when the light was dismantled to keep the Union soldiers from using the light to advance their cause. This couple are my great-great-great-grandparents.

Life for lighthouse keepers and their families was difficult and isolated requiring them to keep the light burning all night through any kind of weather.  For this family, this meant even through hurricanes and severe thunderstorms.  The original light was atop of a 30-foot tower and included ten oil lamps that were set in silver reflectors that were bowl shaped. The oil chambers of each had to be refilled each night with oil that was carried by hand up the stairs to the top of the lighthouse.  Wicks had to be trimmed or replaced, the reflectors kept free of the sooty smoke generation by the oil wicks, the glass panes that enclosed the light also had to be kept clean as to not hinder the brilliance of the fire. All of this had to be done without a day off, regardless of holidays or sickness. Oil was delivered in barrels about once a month. The compensation for Juan was just less than one dollar per day ($350/year).

Joseph Juan was the fourth keeper of the St Augustine lite and it was under his care when in 1854 the light was updated are refitted with a fourth-order Fresnel lens.  Prior to installing the new light, the tower height had been raised to over fifty feet.  Tending the light was a family affair – all members of the family knew how to take care of the light and keep it burning. 1859 was a very tragic year for the Andreu’s of the St Augustine Light. The light house tower needed to have a new coat of whitewash applied.  He built the scaffolding required to reach the top of the tower and it was from there that he fell to his death when one of the lashings gave way. Having severed for the last five years as the assistant light keeper, Maria was the most qualified person to assume full responsibility for the light. At the time of her appointment, less than one month after her husband’s death, she was 58 years of age and became the first female lighthouse keeper in the state of Florida.  Being of Menorcan descent she was also the first Hispanic-American responsible for the operation of a federal shore installation. Many have also considered her to be the first female Coast Guard (as the Lighthouse Service would become known as) employee as well. With the appointment came an annual salary of $500 and she was able to remain living in the two-story home she and her husband had shared there on Anastasia Island.

In 1862, Paul Arnau, collector of customs and first cousin once removed of Maria, arrived on her doorstep with a request to distinguish the light. Maria’s loyalties to her state and the Confederacy kept her from hesitating at the request. While risking imprisonment or worse, she assisted in dismantling and burying the light her husband had worked to install and protect eight years earlier. This was all done under the cover of darkness to avoid being discovered. Living with Maria at this time was her aging mother who died in 1864 at St Augustine.  It is assumed that Maria remained in the area at least until 1864 and speculated that she then relocated to her children’s home in coastal Georgia.


answered by
What an interesting story.

Please excuse my ignorance, but why would the confederacy want the light house light to be extinguished?

Wasn't there a blockade by the union to prevent french boats from getting through? Or is that the 1812 war? I'm confused...
What an marvellous story! But very tragic that Joseph Juan fell to his death doing his job.

Thank you for the question.  The events of that night when the light went out was early in the war and blockades by Union forces weren't really established yet.

All but 2 of the lighthouses on the east coast of Florida had the lights extinguished while more of the west coast lights remained lit.  It was thought that leaving them lit aided the Union in several ways.  The most important aid the lights gave was marking the safe navigation into ports and rivers. This made it much easier to for the Union to attack and seize vital supplies.  This was the case at Anastasia Island.

Local harbor masters knew the waters like the back of their hand and could navigate them without issue with or without the lights.  With  darkened beacons they could keep Confederate shipping more or less intact and somewhat undetected by the dark of night.  This was a great advantage to the blockade runners who kept supplies moving for many of the southern states, particularly Florida.

Another way to thwart the Union Navy was to make navigation more difficult by removing the navigational marking of the dangerous reefs upon which so many ships met their doom.

Yes, such a tragedy - I was actually thinking about my grandmother this morning and how hard it must have been.  Today we, as a society, are so dependent on survivor benefits that just were not there or even thought of in those years.  If it weren't' for the people of the town getting behind her and making the recommendation that she be appointed keeper of the light she along with her children and her mother would have become destitute for they didn't own any property.  The lighthouse was their home and  it was owned by the government.

+6 votes

My entry into the "In the Census" category is my great-grandmother Kizziar Crouch Smith https://www.wikitree.com/index.php?title=Crouch-1424&public=1 .  She was a booger to find because her grandchildren, who called her "Goo-soo" as children, mistakenly believed as adults that her 1st name was Susan and that Kizziar was maiden name, Crouch the name of her 1st husband, killed in the Civil War and my g-grandfather Enoch Jones Smith was her 2nd husband. My Dad's 89-year-old sister specifically told me that Kizziar was "the name of the Old Ones, the ones we must never forget, that we must never let the young forget!' She was very emphatic about the name.  

This misinformation led me on a 10-year goose chase, but eventually I found the 15-year-old Susan Kizziar in the 1860 Izard Co Arkansas Census, living with her mother Cynthia and her mother's brother Luther and family. It was a breakthrough. Within six weeks of intense research I had traced the Kizziars back to one Sandifer Kizziah, a mixed blood Tuscarora Indian b 1742 in Bertie Co NC. I began to search for others researching the same family and for several years we had a lively Listserv, researching all the different lines of the tree descending from seven identified siblings, and building an extensive family tree. 

Then one morning I received an e-mail from my cousin and research partner Martha. "Hold onto your hat," she said, "See attached census." 

It was the 1860 Belton, Bell Co Texas Census listing not only Kizziar Crouch (spelled Casiah) but Enoch Jones Smith - as *step-siblings*.  


After losing her 1st husband, John Crouch, Levina Cox Crouch had married Lawson Henderson Smith by 1854. https://www.wikitree.com/wiki/Smith-59440 The Crouch family were not strangers to us. 

We thought Kizziar's 1st husband had been Ben Crouch, the young man in the 1850 Izard Co Arkansas Census. We were thrown off-track because it appears a neighbour may have provided information about the Crouch family in their absence. Levina (the mother) is enumerated as male and there are several errors in ages and even names of the children. Now it appears the six-year-old "Levina Crouch" enumerated in 1850 was almost certainly Kizziar. Kizziar was born a Crouch. 


Back to the drawing board. Have you ever been kicked out of a family you've come to love? The Kizziahs offered to adopt me, but it's just not the same. <sniff> 

Back to the census. 

Kizziar Crouch married Enoch Jones Smith in 1868, son of Lawson Henderson Smith. After the death of their respective parents they took in their young siblings, half-siblings to each of them, and raised them, as seen in the 1870 Census: 


Lawson's mother was Elizabeth Casiah https://www.wikitree.com/wiki/Smith-59439 . She married Enoch Smith in about 1805-1806 in NC. 

Elizabeth's father was Dunning Caziah (aka Cashilaw) https://www.wikitree.com/wiki/Casiah-2 


1790; Census Place: Lancaster, South Carolina; Series: M637; Roll: 11; Page: 239; Image: 151; FHL Film: 0568151; Camden District
HOH: Cashilaw, Dunnan 1 m 16+ 1 m -15  6 f  2 other free people of colour 

Dunning was the brother of the Sandifer Kizziah that I'd originally believed Kizziar descended from. 

I came full circle, but from one brother to the next, courtesy of the Census. :)  - How wild is that? 

answered by Deb Cavel G2G6 (7.5k points)
Are you sure that Kizziar should have been spelled KEZIAH? That was a somewhat common spelling for females back in the late 1700s and early to mid 1800s...

Otherwise a great mystery. So glad you have finally solved it!!

Well, Keziah is one of the 45 ways I've found the surname spelled. It comes from the Skarù•ręʔ (Tuscarora) word kčę́heh which means "those who gather around my fire" i.e. the nuclear family -  which phonetically, as closely as can be represented in English, comes out as keh-shuh-eh. 

You take a family who speaks English with a Skarù•ręʔ accent, using one of their own words as a surname. Then you have often barely literate English, Irish, Scot, German, Polish and other Europeans taking the census, and the name gets spelled 45 different ways. Once the 1850-60's hit and the family began to become literate each branch settled on one spelling. Until then it was a alphabetical free-for-all!

As for great-granny I've found it spelled Casiah, Kizzia, Kizziah, Kizziar. She pronounced it to rhyme with bizarre. :) Oh, and the "Goo-soo" is "granny" in Skarù•ręʔ. 

What language is this Tuscurora? Where does it come from?

Does it have any connection to Tuscany in Italy?

The Tuscarora are part of the Haudenosaunee (Six Nations) Confederacy. Their territory once extended from the islands of Coastal North Carolina and lands surrounding Albemarle Bay to the interior where Raleigh Durham stands today. 

Violent pressure from European settlers forced the Nation to split, some sought refuge with their Iroquois kin in New York, some moved into Canada during the Revolution, some remained in North Carolina, where they are concentrated in Robeson County. Still others went west. About 1,000 women and children were enslaved and shipped to Jamaica in 1713. My father's father descends from one of those women. 

Enoch Smith descends from the kčę́heh family, Kizziar Crouch descends from William Barbee, who also has Tuscarora roots. My father https://www.wikitree.com/wiki/Cavel-5 and his siblings spoke Skarù•ręʔ as their 1st language, but would not speak it around us because they were beaten at school for calling out to each other in their own language during recess while playing.    

Aaah Native American - thanks Deb.
+7 votes


1900 US Federal Census

The Twelfth Census of the United States Population Schedule No. 1 always held a bit of mystery for me over the years.  It has to do with the family of my great-grandfather Wesley Hiram Bush living in Waverly Township, Cheboygan County, Michigan. In 1992 I had learned that Wesley and Minerva Bush had a daughter Ivanilla. Ivanilla was born in 1884, died in 1886 and was buried in the Waverly Township Cemetery.  When I found the family in the 1900 US Federal Census I was surprised to see Iva listed and being 15 years of age.  

This mystery baffled me for the past three years. Had she died as an infant or did she live longer? Was the Iva in the census a different person than the Ivanilla who had died? Then I learned about another member of the family. Frank was born in 1890 in Michigan and died in 1892 in Nebraska. Wesley had moved his family to Nebraska to try farming there with his brother Daniel. They only stayed for two years and then moved back to Michigan. Frank was buried in Lexington, Nebraska but he also showed up in the 1900 census at nine years old. This added to the mystery and I took a closer look at the census record. Minerva’s information stated that she had seven children but only five living, but all seven were listed in the census with their ages. Ivanilla and Frank were listed in order of when they were born in the family with the ages they would have been if they had lived.

I do not know why they were included in the census, but it was a good lesson for me to look further into what the census was saying in the other columns. I may have figured this out sooner than I did.


answered by D D G2G2 (2.9k points)
Ghosts in the cenus, huh?  LOL

Interesting story!!
+5 votes

Here's mine for this week. I wrote about my great-grandmother Alice B. James Garner. She is my female ancestor who will appear in the most censuses by name. She lived from 1876  to 1961 and thus has (or will) be in all the censuses from 1880 to 1960.

blog post here.

profile here

Haven't looked yet, but can't wait to see what everyone else has posted for this week!


answered by Janis Tomko G2G6 Mach 1 (16.7k points)
Janis, I love her picture!

Reading your blog post and noting that her sons Frank and Leonard never married. It's interesting to see how many young people never left home. We think staying home forever is a new thing, but some kids have always felt more comfortable staying in the nest.

Thanks for the interesting read!
+5 votes
Another conundrum regarding my Carey line is found in the US 1910 census for Key West, Monroe County, Florida.   This census finds my great grandparents, William and Elizabeth Carey, living in the family home at 1321 Angela Street.  Next door are William's parents, William and Margaret Carey, my gg grandparents.  So I know this is my family.  I also lived in that house with my parents growing up.  Grandma Carey was born there and raised her family there too.

However, my grandmother, Miriam was five years old at the time of the 1910 census but does not appear on it!  Her brother, William, is there.  So is a five year old son named Gullon [sic] and an infant daughter, Gertrude, whom no one in the family has ever heard of!    Who are these other kids?    According to my aunt Donna, Miriam's daughter, grandma only had a brother, William, and a sister, Marie, who died in infancy in 1902. Where is grandma????

answered by Carolyn Martin G2G6 Pilot (119k points)
Well my first thought for Gullon is Guillaume, the french version of William

As for Gertrude, could she have been Marie Gertrude or Gertrude Marie?

And perhaps your grandma was down the street visiting at a friends house?

Have you checked ALL the neighbours? LOL
And another thought occurrs to me.

Perhaps Marie IS the same person as Miriam? They BOTH do start wth M.

We all know how BAD some transcriptions can be.
No, didn't think to check the neighbors!  LOL.  Marie died in 1902 so she wasn't Gertrude, and William is already listed so he is not Gullon.
Marie is not listed on the 1910 census. She died in 1902.

Yes, on one census my grandmother was listed as Mary M instead of Miriam.
+5 votes

Yikes! Some how I got a week behind!

I have found some very interesting things in the census, but I believe the biggest surprise that I got was when doing research on [[McCartney-1058|Silas Jackson McCartney]] https://www.wikitree.com/index.php?title=McCartney-1058 my 2x great grandfather, after looking over the pages prior and after the page that he and his family were on in the 1920 Ohio Census, I started to write down the source information for citation purposes and low and behold the enumerator was none other then S.J. McCartney.  Well hot dog I now have a signature and a page (I only saved the one) full of his hand writing. I was so excited! I still makes me smile today.

You can find a copy of the page on his profile.

answered by Julia Hogston G2G6 (7.4k points)
edited by Julia Hogston
+5 votes
Though I had had an interest in genealogy since my early teenage years, I had never been in a position to really spend a great deal of time, effort and money actively researching. For decades I carried with me the work my grandfather had begun in the 1950s for his Norwegian line, and the minimal details of my grandmother's line, through numerous moves without losing any of it - a miracle!

By the time I had married (2nd time) and had a child becoming a stay-at-home mom and housewife, personal computers and the internet were taking the world by storm.  With that, came easy access to genealogic records. Oh boy, what fun!  

Unbeknownst to me, my mom and an aunt were working on my maternal lineage.  My mom didn't get far before she pretty much lost interest, and had vision issues, and one summer while visiting her, she pulled out what she had, and though she wasn't willing to part with anything, she did let me take it to a local copy shop and get copies of everything.  After returning home, armed with new genealogy info, I went online and discovered some of the popular websites (and paid the price for access!) and also discovered I needed to purchase reams of paper and binders - you should be laughing at this point!

Off and running, I was searching for just one branch of my German immigrants, Louis MACHENHEIMER [Machenheimer-16] and his wife Louise geb BEST [Best-3017], knowing they had settled in Ohio.  Mind you, this is still pretty early in my learning phase too for searching, so recognizing that spelling based on an enumerator's hearing and an immigrant's speech might not reveal the same as what was on paper, so I struggled with finding this family in the 1850 & 1860 censuses.  I must have realized they had immigrated by 1850, probably from later census records or my mother's, so knew they should have been enumerated in 1850, but no matter what I put in the search fields, it was coming up empty.  I don't recall exactly how I stumbled upon them, but finally found them in New York (city). And the name the head of household was written as?  Ludwig MAGENHEIMER.  OK, Ludwig/Louis - German/Americanized, MAGENHEIMER - sure, the "ch" could sound like "g".  The wife was listed as Louisa (with an 'a' at the end), the kids were all there, right order, right ages.  The enumeration took place on the 28th of October 1850, and I believe the family had immigrated in July of that same year.

The 1860 Census was an even greater challenge though I eventually discovered them. Speaking of miracles, this had to be one.  Again, I don't recall the steps for my discovery, but in 1860, the enumerator wrote the names: Lewis Meghen which was transcribed as Lewis Meyhew.  The image leaves a few of the letters open to interpretation (what I show as the 'g' appears to look as a 'y', and 'wi' of Lewis - could be an 'oui' for both he and his wife).  Again, the kids names are all there, though Dorothea is shortened to Dora which is what she went by, and another daughter, Philapena, who went by Phoebe, is shown as Bena, though it might have be 'said' as Pena.  I'm guessing the enumerator was really struggling with the German language he was hearing and didn't take the time to get the last name full and correct, and with his hand-writing, the transcriber was largely accurate in 'Meyhew'.  Of course, maybe in that year, the Machenheimer's were considering dropping the 'heimer' to shorten the name...who knows!
answered by Bonnie Weber G2G3 (3.2k points)
+5 votes
My Week 5 ancestor is my great grandfather Edward Roberts https://www.wikitree.com/wiki/Roberts-7332.  He claimed he was a boy soldier in India but I can find no record of this.  There is some mystery surrounding his birth and his mothers relationship with his father at that time.  Whilst the early censuses of his life showed he was born in Westerham, Kent, England the 1891 census says he was born in India!  He would have given this information himself, so is it fact or fancy?
answered by Veronica Williams G2G6 Pilot (107k points)
+3 votes
There are lots of puzzles that have been solved by the census, and other puzzles created by the census.  This is about a puzzle solved.

(Stephen) Horace Pentecost (1853 - 1937) (  https://www.wikitree.com/wiki/Pentecost-132 ) is my second cousins three times removed.   I found his birth , marriage, and census records (through 1881)in West Ashford, Kent, England without difficulty.  But after that- NOTHING.  No census, no death, for him, his wife, or his children.

Then Family Search presented me with a census in Minnesota, USA, complete with the right wife and children.  From then on I was able to track the family from Brainerd to St Paul Minnesota, and then to Dunkirk, New York.  

Unlike the UK, where the BDM records are easily available, it seems impossible to find them in the US, so I was highly dependent on Census records, along with the occasional newspaper article, for this family.
answered by Janet Gunn G2G6 Mach 5 (57.6k points)
You have done well to catch up Janet. According to my excel table you only have the START prompt (the very first one) to complete and you will be ALL caught up.
I did START too.  It is currently the last answer (on pg 4).
Got it. 6 days ago? I am sorry that I missed it. Anyway, you are all caught up now. Congrats Janet!!
Meant to add that Dunkirk (where they lived) and Freedonia (where they are buried) are less than an hour from Derby, NY, where my husband's aunt lives, and where we frequently go for Christmas.  Last year we drove to the graveyard on Christmas Eve Day, and took pictures of the gravestones, which I uploaded to WikiTree and Find-a Grave.
+3 votes

I love census records as you can tell by profiles I create. I love to cite all the details I can find in them. The ones that have surprised me the most have been the ones than have non-family members. Some listed as borders, some servants, some farm hands, and some slaves. I look at their ages and races and try to figure out if there is any story there.  I find it fascinating when a servant or farmhand in the next census in one of the family member's husband or wife. Or when two children I thought were siblings turn out to have only one parent incommon when I go back a decade. 

One of my most recent discoveries via the census was an oversight in transcription.  Alexander's wife died and he married Tabitha (Treat-964). Both were widowed and both had children, but I couldn't figure out where Tabitha's went.  Then I looked at the original 1870 census record and turned the page - there were her children, just happened to be starting on the next page.

answered by Susan Fitzmaurice G2G6 Mach 3 (38.7k points)
+3 votes

Since I can remember, I have loved looking at the census. It holds only names and dates to the casual observer, but to me it has always been a magical place to see who your family is, where they lived, how they lived, etc. It shows families, some blood relations and some that were made just simply because they came together in the same place. It brings knowledge that a great great relative was skilled as a doctor or lawyer. Maybe that relative was instead one of the incredible people who worked from day break to day end to make sure people were fed through their farm. They hold so many answers and can even lead you to more questions and mysteries, and isn’t that what we all, as genealogists thrive on.


I think of all though, the one that has left me with the most questions is that for my grandfather, Charles Kelsey, in 1930. Very little is known about that side of the family and so this was a big one for me. In 1930 he is found listed as a prisoner at McNeil Island, Pierce, Washington, USA. At the time he is listed as 22 and divorced. It lists how he was a waiter and lived in the penitentiary. I had found a record that listed what he was in for, but have misplaced the information and can not find the record again. My only wish is that it would have given that as a line on the census. I would really like to know what he was in for. I have no idea how to go about finding it but it has definitely given me a new mystery.


answered by Lisa Murphy G2G6 Mach 2 (27.8k points)
+1 vote


I found the answer to family gossip in the 1900 family census.

Everyone in the family was confused about my grandpa Smith. They said that his real last name was Hughes and that should have been our last name also. This story has gone on in our family for a very long time.

All of my dad's siblings, including my dad, except for one, are deceased, and they went to their graves believing this story.

I found the answer in the 1900 census.

My g-grandmother was Wesley Anna Floyd.  She married James Smith. I haven't discovered if her and my g-grandfather were divorced, or if he died, (I know he died in 1900) but she married Nathaniel Hughes.

In the 1900 census, which I am showing above, it shows my grandfather as Marvin Smith, with the Smith lined out and Hughes written in.

I believe this is where the rumor started, because in the next census that I find, 1930, his name is correct. Bishop H Smith.  Mystery solved.

It is too bad that I didn't discover this while his children were alive.  My brother is very happy though. He said that Kevin Smith sounds much better than Kevin Hughes.


answered by Cheryl Hess G2G6 Pilot (128k points)
Well done on solving the family mystery, Cheryl!!

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