November 2009 Making Connections

By Family Tree Editors Premium

Making Census
Page 27 of the July 2009 issue of Family Tree Magazine states, “Five states or territories took an 1885 census … Colorado, Dakota Territory, Florida, Nebraska and New Mexico.” But Ann S. Lainhart writes in State Census Records (Genealogical Publishing Co.):

Many state or territorial censuses were taken in 1885, 1892, and 1895. … Some of the states with censuses for these years are Colorado (1885), Florida (1895), Iowa (1885, 1895), Kansas (1885, 1895), Nebraska (1885), New Jersey (1885, 1895), New Mexico (1885), New York (1892), North Dakota (1885), Rhode Island (1885), South Dakota (1885, 1895), and Wisconsin (1885, 1895).

Researchers should check out this excellent book, because censuses also exist for many individual counties within a state between 1880 and 1900. Lainhart also provides details of the data you can find in each census cited.
Joan Griffis, Danville, Ill.
Editor’s note: The referenced passage—as well as the article as a whole—focused on federally funded or administered special censuses. States did indeed take many censuses on their own (as described in the article’s sidebar), and Lainhart’s book is an excellent reference for identifying them.

The article “Special Help” shows a copy of the 1850 mortality schedule for Cabarrus County, NC, which highlights a cause of death for a 3-year-old child by the name of Mary Scotte. The caption for this photo states: “Three-year-old Mary Scotte’s cause of death was ‘in the brain,’ according to this 1850 mortality schedule … ”

The child’s cause of death was not “in the brain,” but rather “in of the brain”—an abbreviation for infection or inflammation of the brain, which in modern medicine translates into encephalitis, also known as sleeping sickness.
My own aunt died from this when she was 2. Her cause of death in 1925 was listed as “in of the brain.” It was an important point in tracing our family medical history when looking for problems that have been passed down genetically.
Patricia Quinn Meigs, via e-mail

Editor’s note: Many of you wrote in with this alternate translation of the cause of death, and we thank you for your sleuthing skills.

Éire Fare

Just a quick note to say thank you for publishing the article on the Irish Family History Foundation’s online service
 (“Éire Force,” July 2009). I was just a bit disappointed it didn’t mention that the online research system is backed up by a professional genealogist in each county genealogical research center. Each center has computerized all its original parish records for all denominations, which are the backbone of the research service. Each center also has all the civil births, deaths and marriages (1864 to 1911), the 1901 census, land records of the 1830s and 1840s, gravestone inscriptions plus a range of other genealogical records pertaining to each individual area, such as street directories and wills. Plus, the local genealogy centers are familiar with the area and nearly always have local contacts in the parish—who can identify the old homestead and whether family still resides in the area.

Nora O’Meara, Genealogist, Irish Family History Foundation

Slave Ancestors
I found the article on African-American genealogy (July 2009) regrettable for a number of reasons, but most especially for the lack of historical knowledge on the African experience in America.
If one engages in a serious study of slavery in America, it will be quite evident that the early economy of the American republic was very much dependent upon the products of enslaved labor, and anyone engaged in the chain of labor profited, whether they were slaveholders or not. A gratuitous apology for American slavery has nothing to do with conducting genealogical research, nor does the identification of mixed-race slaveholders who were just as much European as African.
Furthermore, a series of generalized assumptions dilutes the entire article. The status of an African’s mother was recognized only in certain colonies or states for limited periods in history. The author failed to assess the impact of state-sponsored legislation, which was the real foundation of American slavery. Nor is it necessary to engage in a lineage search of the slaveholding family.

Finally, the most valued treasure of a pre-1865 slave state probate inventory of personal property is the listing by name of Africans held in bondage, not just age, gender and value alone. My 20-plus years as a research historian and a genealogist has proven this on countless occasions.
John H. Whitfield, via e-mail

Your recent article “Tracing Slave Ancestors” was very well-written. Ms. Berry did an excellent job of laying the groundwork for researching African-American ancestors, especially before 1865. You would be surprised at how much information you come across on the slaves themselves by researching the slave owner’s family members and business dealings.
While researching a slave in South Carolina, I came across numerous receipts for his being hired out to other slave owners in the area for carpentry work. So not only did we find out he was a carpenter, but we were also able to identify pieces of furniture he made.

I do have one slight bone to pick with the article. The photograph caption on page 55 insinuates that the structure is a former slave cabin. It’s not—the structure shown was most likely a smokehouse, with its small door, overhanging eave, no visible windows and shelf board on the front wall.
Sam Thomas, Curator, T.R.R. Cobb House, Athens, Ga.

Working Forward
I was glad to see the article on reverse genealogy in the July 2009 issue. I’ve been using that method with much success for about 25 years, and have written articles on it. In my case, I’m lucky because I’m a genealogist for the American Historical Society of Germans from Russia (AHSGR), Central California Chapter, located in Fresno. Our home office is in Lincoln, Neb. We have a smaller group of ancestral surnames to work from.
When Catherine the Great of Russia invited settlers to colonize the new areas, thousands of Germans responded. The Russians kept very close track of the colonists with regular censuses, including agriculture censuses for tax purposes. We now have many of the records from 1767 to 1857. Instead of having to search all over Germany for a surname, I can check an area such as the Volga Settlements. When I find the surname, I check the villages to find the name and to follow it forward.

I often have an idea of what village to look for, so that narrows my search even further. I can find the village in immigration and naturalization records—American records are easy. I can usually trace an ancestry across at least 300 years with this method.

Jerry Goertzen, via e-mail

Aw, Shucks
I wanted to let you know I just subscribed to Family Tree Magazine. I’d been buying the copies at our bookstore, and I was impressed with the positive articles from the editor and others. I especially like the Maine and Canadian research content. I’ve been doing genealogy for about 30 years and love it. It seems that family research never ends. Thanks again for putting together a great magazine.

Florence Dery, via e-mail
From the November 2009 Family Tree Magazine