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Volume 8, Number 3 Mountain Press, P.O. Box 400, Signal Mountain, Tennessee 37377, 1-423-886-6369 February 3, 2016
Publisher's Notes In this article we continue to discuss the Census records. This article focuses on the 1880 and 1890 Census. The 1880 Census is where my genealogy career began many years ago with my first book published on Wythe County, VA. Sometimes this census can raise many more questions than answers and gives you plenty of areas to investigate beyond just the checked boxes.
If you would like more information, you can check a more detailed article I wrote about the 1890 Census.
As always, we enjoy hearing your comments after each article!
James L. Douthat
1880 and 1890 Census Findings Of all of the research tools used by genealogist, the Federal Census is by far the most commonly used. There is so much information contained in the census records that it is important that we look deep into every little box and line of the questionnaire. It is no wonder that many little hidden tidbits of information are found in these forms.
The 1880 Federal Census is the next item in our latest series of “hidden facts in the census”. This census, like most of those from 1850 through 1870, all give the names of each individual in a household with age, sex and occupations. Now with the 1880 Census, we clarify the relationship of each individual to the head of the household. We have just assumed this in the past three census, so now we can be certain of their relationship.
In this census, there are several additions that are helpful. “Months un-employed” is useful if we find a twenty-five year old male still living with the parents. It does not mean that he lives elsewhere, but it might explain why he is still at home or not. Another little tidbit that is important is the “place of birth” column for each individual and his parents. Here many scenarios can arise. The parents might be born in Tennessee, for example, and one of the children says that his parents were born in New York. We might ask, “Is he or she a step child?? Adopted?? Child of a sibling?? I know this just raises questions and not answers, but it is better to know.
In addition, there is a blank to indicate if each person is single, married, widowed or divorced. Normally, they do not fill in the blank on all of the children, but for the ones that it is stated, be sure and make a note. Another set of blanks go into the personal information on each individual such as sickness or disability at the time of the enumerator’s visit and another blank to indicate if they are maimed, crippled, bedridden or otherwise disabled. Make a note on each of these entries. These are bits of the puzzle that you may not understand now, but down the road will come to light.
Now with the 1880 Census, there is a second set of records that are crucial in our research, i.e. the Soundex listing. The W.P.A. [Works Projects Administration] of the 1930s produced a vital listing of the census in alphabetical order by families in the state that had children under 10 years of age. This is compiled by a complicated set of number values given to each name and then the soundex can be consulted for that number. Not all of one name appears together, but the list is alphabetical, more or less, by the given name of the head of the household.
In my own research, I was looking for my wife’s great, great grandfather. None of the fifteen surviving grandchildren knew his name, but I had the names of three of the great aunts and uncles. From the soundex, I was able to find the parents simply by looking at the children’s names. The grandchildren all seemed to agree that his name was James or John. When the family was found via the children’s names and dates that matched what we had, it turns out that his name was William Harvey. This took a long time, but the effort was definitely worth it all.
Now let’s turn briefly to the 1890 Census. The most common statement about this census is that it was destroyed by a fire in Washington. In reality, this is a half-truth. In fact, there was a fire in the basement of the Department of Commerce building and the damage of the 1890 Census was so extensive that Congress authorized the remaining pile of ashes and burned records to be destroyed. This applied only to the population portion of the census, but there are hundreds of records that did survive the fire. I have seen and used some eight to ten volumes of the statistical tables and records from this census that are in published form. If you are trying to reconstruct a local history, these records are worth their weight in gold. So much information is found there that is not available anywhere else. These volumes are found in most larger libraries as part of the published set of informational volumes on most of the census records. They do not contain the population schedules, but they contain information about the local area that is most valuable in historic research.
In the south, there is a second set of records that are worth looking into at this time period. These are the enumeration of the Confederate soldiers in the counties. In some cases, there is an additional set of records for the Union soldiers. These give a great deal of information on these men and their families at the 1890 time frame. Many of the veterans were still alive and willing to tell their story at that time. In Tennessee, there is another set of “Questionnaires of Confederation Soldiers” where each man interviewed gave details about their service. The records are well worth looking into for background information on your ancestor.
Next time, we move into the twentieth century with the census. This will mark a great change in the game plan as a lot more details are found in these five census years. “Stay tuned” as the television says.
Index to 1890 Census of the USA The vast majority of the 1890 Census is lost but there are 6,160 names and entries that have survived. These are found in AL, DC, GA, IL, MN, NJ, NY, NC, OH, SD and TX. This is the Index to those names.
Rhea County, TN - Census and Marriage Records 1851 - 1900 This volume is a unique compilation of data taken from the 1860, 1870, 1880 and 1900 census of Rhea County along with the marriage records of the day. A family name is taken in order and all of the data from these sources is massed under that heading to make research extremely easy.
Rhea and Meigs Counties - Surviving Union Soldiers and Widows 1890 This is not a complete listing of even the Union soldiers as it is listed as the “surviving” soldiers and their widows. Given are the names of the soldier and/or widow, rank and units with the dates of enlistment and discharge. Some personal data is given in some cases.
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