Evidentia Meets the 1850 US Census

By | January 8, 2016

Last week we looked at how to record information we extracted from the 1790 US Census and turn it into evidence.  This week we jump forward to the 1850 US Census.

1800 -1840 US Census records are similar to the 1790 record in that they list only the head of household by name.  Anyone else in the household is counted but not listed by name.  The records of the early 1800’s do provide better data, in that the age ranges are more granular, allowing us to get a narrower BETWEEN range as a target birth date.  The free Evidentia User Guide provides a more detailed example of how to do these calculations in the section describing the Age Calculator (here).

The 1850 US Census is the first to list every member of the household by name, and recording that information in Evidentia is both more challenging and more rewarding.

For each person in the household, 13 pieces of data were collected.1850 header

  • House number, in order of visitation
  • Family Number, in order of visitation
  • Name of individual in the family  as of June 1, 1850
  • Age
  • Sex
  • Color (White, Black, Mulatto)
  • Occupation (if a male over 15)
  • Value of real estate owned
  • Place of birth
  • Married within the year
  • Attended school within the year
  • Can read and write (if over 20)
  • Whether deaf, dumb, blind, insane, idiotic, pauper or convict

Collecting Claims

The sample record we will use is from the 1850 census for Gilford, NH, and documents one of the sons of David and Rachel Thompson.  If you remember we looked at David last week. David himself died in 1842, but as we will see, his wife Rachel is still alive, and living with her son Levi.1850 Levi

I will start with the claims for Levi, the Head of the Household.

This source claims that..
the dwelling of Levi B Thompson was the 72nd dwelling visited and his family was the 84th family visited by the enumerator.

OK, really, why bother with this one?  Just for completeness in this post, BUT…

If the 85th family were a Thompson, or a Pickering, it would point to them being next door neighbors and help to establish a possible relationship.

Sigh, not the case here, so I will move on.

on June 1, 1850 Levi B Thompson lived in Gilford, Belknap County, NH.

We covered this type of claim last post.  Lots of value.

on June 1, 1850 Levi B Thompson was 44 years of age

Excellent information!

on June 1, 1850 Levi B Thompson was a male

I only included this for completeness.  I don’t usually include this because I don’t tend to do gender proofs, but one could.  Personal choice.

on June 1, 1850 the color column for Levi B Thompson was left blank [implying he was white]

Included for completeness only.  The part in brackets is an implication, which I DO NOT include when recording claims, since the document does not say it implies he is white.  The claim should be “on June 1, 1850 the color column for Levi B Thompson was left blank“.

I don’t usually include this at all myself, since proof of race has not come up for me.

on June 1, 1850 Levi B Thompson worked as a farmer

OK, this one merits a discussion. The document actually has “Do” in the occupation column. I asked around and got different answers for what “Do” referred to, including “Do” = shorthand for “ditto“, or “Do” = shorthand for “domestic servant“. On this page it is only used when there is an occupation in the cell above, which argues for the “ditto” position.  However, that is a topic for the analysis, not the claim.

A better claim would be “on June 1, 1850 Levi B Thompson’s occupation was recorded as ‘Do’, with ‘Farmer’ recorded in the cell above“.  Then I would note the different interpretations of ‘Do‘ and argue why I thought it meant ditto, indicating Levi was a farmer.

on June 1, 1850 Levi B Thompson owned $2500 in real estate

Can be used with claim type “Property”, and also provides a clue that I might find land records for Levi. Even though I don’t do property proofs myself, recording it means it will show up in a Research Summary Report for Levi, which I might find helpful when writing a narrative.

Levi B Thompson was born in NH

More birth information.  I could combine with the age claim so that I have a single birth related claim. “…on June 1, 1850 Levi B Thompson was 44 years of age and it was recorded that he was born in NH“.  This is more art than science.

on June 1, 1850 the married within the year column for Levi B Thompson was left blank [implying he was not]

Again, a rule breaker in brackets. I normally would just skip this unless it was checked.

on June 1, 1850 the attended school within the year column for Levi B Thompson was left blank [implying he did not]

Again, a rule breaker in brackets. I normally would just skip this unless it was checked.

on June 1, 1850 the could not read/write  column for Levi B Thompson was left blank [implying he was literate]

Again, a rule breaker in brackets. I normally would just skip this unless it was checked, though I could use it to indicate Levi was educated (literate)

on June 1, 1850 the last  column for Levi B Thompson was left blank [implying he was not deaf, dumb, blind, insane, idiotic,a pauper or a convict]

Technically this is a rule breaker, but the portion in brackets will help me with any analysis I use it for later.  I normally would just skip this unless it had data in it I found interesting.

To summarize the claims for Levi, here are the claims I personally recorded, and the the tags I used to turn the information into evidence.

This source claims that.. Subject/Claim Type
on June 1, 1850 Levi B Thompson lived in Gilford, Belknap County, NH. Thompson, Levi B./Residence
on June 1, 1850 Levi B Thompson was 44 years of age Thompson, Levi B./Birth
on June 1, 1850 Levi B Thompson’s occupation was recorded as ‘Do’, with ‘Farmer’ recorded in the cell above Thompson, Levi B./Occupation
on June 1, 1850 Levi B Thompson owned $2500 in real estate Thompson, Levi B./Property
Levi B Thompson was born in NH Thompson, Levi B./Birth

et al.

6Tyopae7cWhat about the rest of the household? I would record the age,  occupation, property, birth place, etc..the same way I did for Levi, with similar tags for the relevant person.

Unfortunately, the 1850 census does not record the relationship between each listed person and the head of household like future census records will.

 

I do want to point out that different people will have different ways of capturing the Residence information.  For example, one could do it like this:

on June 1, 1850 Levi B Thompson lived in the Gilford, Belknap County, NH.
on June 1, 1850 Mehitable Thompson lived in the Gilford, Belknap County, NH.
on June 1, 1850 John C Thompson lived in the Gilford, Belknap County, NH.
on June 1, 1850 Andrew J. Thompson lived in the Gilford, Belknap County, NH.
on June 1, 1850 Rachel Thompson lived in the Gilford, Belknap County, NH.
on June 1, 1850 Amy Pickering lived in the Gilford, Belknap County, NH.

Alternately, one could even combine them all into one claim, including Levi:

on June 1, 1850 Levi B Thompson, Mehitable Thompson, John C Thompson, Andrew J. Thompson, Rachel Thompson and Amy Pickering lived in the same household in Gilford, Belknap County, NH.

Either is fine if I am just using this claim as evidence of residence.

However, once I started tagging the claim, it starts to get a little messy…

The source claims that… Subject/ClaimType
on June 1, 1850 Levi B Thompson, Mehitable Thompson, John C Thompson, Andrew J. Thompson, Rachel Thompson and Amy Pickering lived in the same household in Gilford, Belknap County, NH. Thompson, Levi B./Residence
Thompson, Mehitable/Residence
Thompson, John C./Residence
Thompson, Andrew J./Residence
Thompson, Rachel/Residence
Pickering, Amy/Residence

When working on the Residence for Andrew, do I really care that Rachel and Amy lived there too? I might care for other reasons, but not for Andrew’s proof of residence.

It gets even messier if I want to use the fact that they all lived together as evidence of a relationship.

Here is how I chose to capture these claims.

The source claims that… Subject/ClaimType
on June 1, 1850 Levi B Thompson lived in the Gilford, Belknap County, NH. Thompson, Levi B./Residence
on June 1, 1850 Mehitable Thompson lived in the household of Levi B Thompson in Gilford, Belknap County, NH. Thompson, Mehitable/Residence
Thompson, Mehitable/Spouse
Thompson, Levi B./Spouse
on June 1, 1850 John C Thompson lived in the household of Levi B Thompson with Mehitable Thompson in Gilford, Belknap County, NH. Thompson, John C./Residence
Thompson, Mehitable/Child(ren)
Thompson, Levi B./Child(ren)
Thompson, John C./Parent(s)
on June 1, 1850 Andrew J. Thompson lived in the household of Levi B Thompson with Mehitable Thompson in Gilford, Belknap County, NH. Thompson, Andrew J./Residence
Thompson, Mehitable/Child(ren)
Thompson, Levi B./Child(ren)
Thompson, John C./Parent(s)
on June 1, 1850 Rachel Thompson lived in the household of Levi B Thompson in Gilford, Belknap County, NH. Thompson, Rachel/Residence
Thompson, Rachel/Child(ren)
Thompson, Levi B./Parent(s)
on June 1, 1850 Amy Pickering lived in the household of Levi B Thompson in Gilford, Belknap County, NH. Thompson, Rachel/FAN

(I chose to make Amy Pickering a FAN of Rachel, since Rachel is in my direct-line and the most likely person whose relationship with Amy I might care about. I could have made her a FAN of all the Thompson’s until I established who she was.)

I am not assuming the relationships I tagged above are fact; only that I believe that the information provides evidence that needs to be considered when trying to prove or disprove those relationships.

This is not the only way to break down the information in the record, but it works for me. Sometimes when I get to the analysis phase, how I chose to break down the information does not make sense, so I come back to the Catalogue Claims screen and tweak it.

Find the system that works for you.

Negative Evidence

Before we leave this record, I would like to offer an example of how one might capture “Negative” evidence– that is, information that we would expect to be present if something were true, the absence of which provides evidence.

missingpersonYou might remember that at the beginning of this post I noted that David Thompson had died in 1842. If I did not already have strong evidence to support that claim, I would thoroughly peruse the 1850 census trying to find him. After all, he shows up in the census record for Gilford/Gilmanton from 1790-1840, and his wife is still living there.

But what is the claim? How do you document a lack of evidence? I might do it like this:

The source claims that… Subject/ClaimType
David Thompson does not appear in the census for Gilford, Belknap County, NH. His wife, Rachel, appears in the household of their son. Thompson, David (ca 1757)/Death

That’s right, the fact that David does NOT appear in the census record provides a clue (aka evidence) that he died prior to 1850. Together with the fact that he does appear in the 1840 census, it is reasonable to assume that he died between June 1, 1840 and June 1 1850. At least that is what I a would argue in the analysis phase.

When you take your time with a source, even missing data can be evidence.

Summary

I specifically wanted to demonstrate how one might record information about who shared a household, even if relationships are not explicitly documented. I also took the opportunity to show how one might capture negative evidence.

I chose not to do an analysis post for this source this week because I didn’t see anything out of the ordinary in that regard.  If you disagree, leave me a comment with what you would like to see covered.

5 thoughts on “Evidentia Meets the 1850 US Census

  1. Lynn S

    This is a big help! What claim type would you use for the last column, where they ask if you are deaf, dumb, blind, insane, idiotic, pauper or convict?

    1. ed Post author

      Good question Lynn. It depends on what I wanted to study with that evidence. Think “What is the research question?”
      Maybe something generic, like Fact?
      I’m not sure, maybe others have suggestions.

  2. Bob A

    In the section where you show the claims you recorded for Levi you have two claims, “on June 1, 1850 Levi B Thompson was 44 years of age” and “Levi B Thompson was born in NH” both assigned to “Thompson, Levi B./Birth”.

    I noticed in the claim type drop down there is a “Birth” and a “Birth Place” type. While a “Birth” proof shows the gedcom fields at the bottom when doing analysis no such fields show at the bottom of the “Birth Place” proof.

    Is the intent that both birth date and birth location use the same claim type as you have shown or should they be split into two claim types?

    1. ed Post author

      I use Birth. Some people asked to be able to do the proof for Birth Place separately so I added that claim type. Its a matter of personal preference.

      However I am not sure what would happen if one used Birth Place and then tried to export to a GEDCOM. There is no separate GEDCOM field for it.

  3. Bob A

    No worries. I am currently evaluating the software and am trying different sources in slightly different ways. I can see why someone might want to do locations separate from dates. I was just thinking that for both Birth and Birth location it would be useful if the Birth GEDCOM fields showed up in both cases as a reminder to fill in the relevant field.

    I have been making notes on a number of items I have come across while evaluating the software that I will pass along once I have completed the proofs for one of my ancestors.

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