George Washington was inaugurated 30 April 1789 in New York City as the first President of the United States. Much lore and tradition surrounds this legendary man. One of his great gifts to us, in my opinion, was his refusal to be a king! So we live in a democratic republic with the right to vote for what we consider the most important things.
To a genealogist, nothing is more important than records. Records which give us a glimpse into the past. Records which name the ancestors we are seeking. Records which provide direct statements of relationship for those same ancestors. Records which leave no doubt in your mind and mine, that the names on your pedigree charts are correct.
The records we depend on change. Have you noticed? The census began naming heads of households only with all others in the household tabulated as numbers or slashes by column, in categories set by legislative act. Then every person in the household was named with ages and places of residence. Particular categories requested by insurance companies and other special interest lobby groups were added, like “married within the year” or “died within the previous 12 months.”
Interesting census questions answered include: Do you have indoor plumbing? Do you own a radio? What language do you speak? And How many children were born to this mother?
Finally, some families drew a long form questionnaire. Most got the short form–because the data supplied would provide statistics only–and the population count was the most important element because the count was required by the United States Constitution. The address bar was pre-coded to accept certain kinds of addresses only.
My address, with East-West coordinates, did not fit. And when it came to rural locations without street numbers and often without street names–what a mess! Imagine the enumerator delivering the census firm to the first white barn on the left side of the gravel road just over the canal. Sounds like the directions on my son’s newspaper route.
States were given permission and even encouraged to take their own census enumerations during the interim years between federal censuses. Kentucky was one of the states that took local censuses using the tax assessor and collectors to gather the data. To save money, Kentucky took their census along with the federal enumeration–1830, 1840, 1850, 1860, 1870.
These incredible enumerations are found among the tax rolls in the county courthouse. They enumerate, by name, heads of household only. They identify households where sons or daughters were married within the year. They list the agricultural produce and the livestock on each farm. They identify mercantile and manufacturing households. By 1860, the schedule is three pages across.
If you have Kentucky ancestry and you have not yet searched these local census records. Run, do not walk (if you drive, don’t, however, break the speed limit and get a ticket), to your nearest Family History Center and order the county tax rolls on microfilm. When they arrive, set every other task aside until you have read these wondrous records–Kentucky’s gift to your genealogy.
I have collected references to numerous other special censuses for different places and dates. A future episode in our continuing saga of genealogy records and the evidence they contain will list these. Perhaps, I can create a checklist to post onto my website so that you can download it to use as a guide.
If you have a local census that you stumbled across in your research–would you share with the rest of us? Then we can pick and choose those that apply to the time period where we are stumped or to the locality where we last found our difficult-to-find ancestors.
Remember that I do genealogy research every day–on a long list of surnames and in many different places. I am always looking for lists of residents and when those lists include statements of gender, age, occupation, possessions, place of origin, other family members, I say, “Yes!” I grab the data for my research projects and then look for others I can share the record with. Just like many of you do.
And now that I have a media to share in and readers to share with, I am so glad.
In Memoriam. Dr. Ronald Davis Bitton, passed away 13 April 2007. He was one of the most influential men in my life. I returned to the University of Utah to get a degree in English History (see my first Genealogy News Sheet 31 July 2006). After my first year, the English historian on the faculty returned to his native Minnesota, leaving me without a mentor. Davis Bitton came to Utah from U of CA, Santa Barbara with a special focus of early European history, Renaissance/Reformation time period. And I was assigned to him. He demanded so much of his students that under-graduates stayed clear of his classes.
The first paper he requested from me was a comparative study of the revolutions that rocked the British Isles and much of Europe in the mid-1600’s. He wanted all of the revolts covered. It took me two weeks of marathon research and 87 pages to do the job. I was the only student in that class to complete the study. And I remember Dr. Bitton’s pleased surprise that I finished.
From that quarter on, he challenged me to opportunity after opportunity within the history curriculum. And stood for me when I applied for University grants, fellowships, and teaching awards. Under his guidance, I was able to work a full summer quarter in the Family History Library British Isles section, reviewing every single book on the shelves one-by-one for genealogy record content. A special research study grant gave me another summer at the Henry E. Huntington Library in San Marino CA (where I am still a reader.)
At his suggestion, I studied the Antiquaries of England for my dissertation work and discovered the Priory of Sion, the Isle of Thanet, and the Knights Templars–among numerous other local British jurisdictions.
Davis Bitton’s great gift to me was the chance to learn and the challenge to study it all.
Your favorite genealogist of choice, Arlene Eakle