Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Think Outside the Household

1850 US Census showing patriarch listed separately
from family household.
This is another one of those "how could I have missed this?" moments. Sometimes, I get so caught up in trying to find a family on a census that I forget to look for an individual on his or her own. Recently, I was reminded of this when I assumed a male ancestor died before the 1850 US Census was taken on June 1 because I had already found his wife and children living together but he was not listed among the household.

Land ownership map showing the
two properties of my ancestors.
In fact, he was still alive and recorded on the census, he was just listed separately. Why? Because, as I should have remembered, I had a land ownership map which proved he had owned two separate properties - one large, main one where I think the family was living and another, smaller lot not far away. My guess is that my ancestor was tending to the secondary property when the census taker came around. And sure enough, I found him listed on the very same census page, just two house away from his family! He was only listed by his initials, which is probably another reason why I overlooked him or why he wasn't showing up in any auto hints. I am unsure whether he was actually permanently living there or just there temporarily to tend to the secondary property but I lean towards the latter being the case.

This is also a reminder of why land ownership maps can be very important! Without it, I may have still been scratching my head as to why my ancestor was listed separately. I might have assumed he had a second property but without confirmation, the facts would have remained muddled.

1850 US Census showing son apprenticing in another
Also be sure to look for missing children with other households - a neighbor or relative may have taken in a child if the family didn't have enough living space (or financially couldn't support all their children) or if the child was actually helping out around the property of an older neighbor or relative or may have been apprenticing with the head of the household. I also thought a child of the same family may have died before 1850 but then I found him apprenticing as a blacksmith with another family.


  1. Excellent advice! It's so easy to get misled by narrow thinking.

  2. Great find. I always read the whole census page and the pages just before and after as I sometimes find relatives residing near by.
    Theresa (Tangled Trees)