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Sunday, April 11, 2010

Family History and the Census

One of the great things I've been doing, particularly this week, has been working on our family history with my sisters. We discovered some anomalies in the information we have looked at.

My grandmother, Gertrude Yates, was born in 1897. Her father, Edward Yates, died in 1911. Her maternal grandfather, James Archer, died in 1912. In the 1920 Census, we discovered that Gert's widowed grandmother, Harriet, had living with her formerly widowed daughter, Lillian, Lillian's four children by Edward Yates, and her new husband, a gentleman named Maurice Holland. It's this guy who caught my eye.

Now in the 1910 Census, Maurice Holland came from Texas, but in 1920 he came from Mexico, and his first name was Mauricio. This suggests but one thing: he lied in one of these Censuses, probably 1910.

Up until the last half dozen Censuses, the Census taker would record all the information, rather than having individual householders do so. Sometimes, the Census taker did it incorrectly. Listed in 1920:
Harriet Archer (head)
Maurcio Holland (son-in-law)
Lillian Holland (wife)
Gertrude Yates (daughter)
Edward Yates (son)
Earnest Yates (son)
Adina Yates (daughter)

It should have had Lillian as daughter of Harriet, and the children as grandchildren of Harriet. As is stands, it appears that Lillian was Harriet's wife. I'm fairly sure same-sex marriage was not counted in 1920. Also Earnest should have been Ernest and Adina, Adenia.

From looking at the family Bible, it appears that my mother may have had a sibling, who died in 1929. With no date of birth given, one has to assume that the child died in infancy, maybe at birth. My mother knew nothing of this.

In the 1910 Census, my grandmother Gertrude Yates was listed as Gertrude Archie, a variation on the family surname. What was THAT all about?

Relatives I checked for the 1870 and 1880 Census had the children (Lillian and her siblings) whose births changed 10 years over the decade, as they should, but the adults, James and Harriet Archer, aging only about six years over the period.

My great-great-great-great grandmother's name was Phylisia Wargner. Or Phyllis Waggoner. Or other variations such as Wagner. She was born on April 3, 1807 and died on July 8, 1865. She married William Edward Bell on March 2, 1832. These are the oldest ancestors I could find so far. From Census records, I can tell that Harriet was born in Virginia, and her parents were as well, but that they didn't know where their parents were born, which suggests slave trade.

I have been watching this show called Who Do They Think They Are?, a genealogy show on NBC. They do a search for the personal histories of celebrities. So far Emmitt Smith found his slave roots; Matthew Broderick discovered ancestors who served in the Civil War at Gettysburg, dying the following year in Georgia, and as a medic in a bloody World War I battle; and co-executive producer Lisa Kudrow found the place where her grandmother died during the Holocaust, but found alive a cousin who had initially brought the news. I'm finding it interesting but irritating. There's too much "Coming up next" before the commercials, as though it weren't interesting enough to stick around for, and too much recapitulation after the ads, as though we all have ADHD. I've seen similar shows, on PBS and elsewhere, but this particular program seems to have has rekindled this search for my roots.


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