Sunday, March 24, 2019

Adding Relatives To My Tree Through the 1880 Census

While I haven't posted lately to the blog, it doesn't mean I haven't been actively researching the family tree.  My latest project has been to systematically work through my RootsMagic database and update/add to relatives from the 1880 U.S. Federal Census.

Why add relatives this way?

Not only am I able to make sure that I have a more complete picture of the lifetime of my immediate relatives, I've also been able to add additional descendants from family groups that are roughly in the time frame of my great-great grandparents.  Many of these families had not been traced down into the current generations, and by adding the newly found members to my database, I'm one step closer to tracing the lines down to the present day.  Doing so will come in handy as I continue to have 2nd-4th cousin matches through the various DNA testing sites whose connections I don't always immediately recognize.

Why the 1880 census?

The 1880 U.S. Federal Census was the first census to actually indicate the relationship to the head of the household.  While the 1850 census was the first to name all of the individuals listed in the household, the relationships were not spelled out.  Many assumptions have been made through the 1850-1870 census about the relationships to the family members which have later turned out to be incorrect.  For example, all of the children in the household with the same surname might not be children of the couple.  

How I'm doing this:

Using my RootsMagic database, I'm using the RootsMagic Explorer to search for anyone who was born before 1880 and died after 1880, as a starting point for relatives to search for.

Doing this gives me an individual to start with.  If I already have a 1880 census fact sourced for this individual, I move on.  However, if I don't, then I try to find them in the 1880 census using based on the other facts I have about the family.

Note that there are many individuals I have in my database that should appear in the 1880 census, but I don't yet have enough identifying information (names of spouses/parents/children, etc.) in order to positively identify that the census record found matches the individual in my database.  In those instances, I have to skip them and move on to the next individual.

Creating the sources:

Once I've found a record for a relative, I create a census record fact and add it to my Master Source list at RootsMagic.  I then tie each individual who appears in the household to that event.  I am using the date that the census was enumerated on the page, rather than the standard June 1, 1880 date that was given as a guideline by the census department.  I find it interesting how many census takers were delayed in getting the actual rounds done in taking the census.  Of course, not all of them have the best handwriting either, so often I am having to use my best judgment on the spelling of a name if I cannot make it out clearly.

Who I'm including:

I'm adding all members of the household that I find, including boarders, servants and other non-relatives.  While this does add some "unconnected" members to my family tree in my database, one never knows what ties will later be found.  For instance, I've already discovered instances where the "servant" in the household was actually a relative (niece/nephew), but was not listed as such by the census taker.  Additionally, these individuals in the household are part of the FAN group (Friends, Associates & Neighbors) who may later interact through marriage or land dealings with your relatives.  It's better to include them when you find them rather than having to go back and add them in later.

Database Expansion:

Since my database is synched with my Ancestry Tree, each time I add an indvidual to my database that kicks off a whole series of 'hints' on that site for additional information as well.  I'm trying to not go down the path of chasing those bright shiny objects just yet.

Next Steps:

Right now, I'm searching my database for everyone who was born before 1880 and died after 1880 to including them in my search parameters.  Later, I will go back and exclude the death date parameter, as there are many in my database who I do not have a death date yet.  My thoughts are that by doing this process systematically, I will eventually have captured as many individuals as possible with a census fact for the 1880 census.

Then, the hope is to repeat this process working forward to the 1900 census or even backwards to the 1870 census.  The possibilities are only limited by my time and willingness to keep going.