Monday, September 8, 2014

Treasure Hunting in the Census

(By Candice Buchanan)

Family and local history researchers know and love the decade-by-decade revelations of Census records. It is not just a listing of households, but a neighborhood roll-call identifying neighbors who have the potential to be in-laws, cousins, or at the very least the folks our ancestors likely interacted with on a day-to-day basis. Besides the basics of names, ages, and relationships, Census records also let us in on school attendance, literacy, values of real estate and personal property, home ownership or rental, and occasionally status of health and sanity, to name just a few of the fun facts. Certainly, in reference to sanity, it was that column in consecutive Census records that pointed me to the real story of Grandma Elizabeth, who has been the subject of previous discussions. Today, the reason for this small accolade to the Census taker is due to a reminder of just how fascinating Census data can be.

Henry Clay Snyder and his wife, Hannah (McVay) Snyder, appear in the 1880 Census of Aleppo Township, Greene County, Pennsylvania.[1] The head of household was Clay Snyder age 36, farmer, born in Pennsylvania, father and mother born in Pennsylvania. Living in his home: Hannah M. Snyder his wife, age 26, keeping house, sick with consumption, born in Pennsylvania, father and mother born in Pennsylvania; Mary E. Snyder his daughter, age 7, at school, born in Pennsylvania, father and mother born in Pennsylvania; Ida Snyder his daughter, age 4, born in Pennsylvania, father and mother born in Pennsylvania; J. M. Snyder his son, age 1 month, born in the month of May 1880 in Pennsylvania, father and mother born in Pennsylvania.

The Census taker, a man named Jacob Tustin, visited the household 18 June 1880. At the time of his call, as seen above, he noted that Hannah was sick with consumption. Just days later, Hannah died 21 June 1880 without an obituary or death record or therefore any details of her circumstances other than the date on her tombstone.[2] Her baby son, J. M. Snyder, a month old in the Census, died 23 June 1880. His tombstone says only "Infant" in place of his name.[3] They are buried at the McVay Cemetery in Aleppo Township, Greene County, Pennsylvania. In this unique case, the Census in one household entry, reveals the mother's cause of death and the baby's name.

It is undeniably a sad entry, but without it the stories of this young mother and her baby would be even emptier. These details fill-in gaps and provide some insight into their brief lives. It is for the chance of these types of little clues, that it is well worth finding our relatives in every Census and studying each column in the document. You never know what you might learn.

For more about how to make the most of the Census, see The Census - The Personal Public Record.

[1] 1880 U.S. census, Aleppo Township, Greene County, Pennsylvania, population schedule, enumeration district (ED) 66, page 128C (stamped)/27 (written), dwelling 226, family 234, Clay Snyder household; digital images, Ancestry.com (www.ancestry.com : accessed 2 April 2014); National Archives microfilm publication T9, roll 1133.
[2] McVay Cemetery (Aleppo Township, Greene County, Pennsylvania), Hannah M. Snyder tombstone; personally read by Candice Buchanan, 23 March 2014. "Hannah M. / Wife of / H. C. Snyder / Died / June 21, 1880 / Aged 26 Ys. 2 Mo. / 24 Ds."
[3] McVay Cemetery (Aleppo Township, Greene County, Pennsylvania), Infant Snyder tombstone; personally read by Candice Buchanan, 23 March 2014. "Infant / Son of / H. C. & H. M. Snyder / Died / June 23, 1880."