Martha Gerdeman


The past two columns have dealt with federal census schedules and the non-population schedules, and just what kinds of information about your family can be found there.

First, a digression. In my opinion, there are two kinds of people who search for ancestors. Privately, I refer to one group as “name collectors.” You have probably met them. They say things like, “I have 12,573 names in my database.” That’s nice, but what do you know about all those people? That’s what most of us want to find out.     

Like most folks, I have quite a few farmers in my background. About 1830 the first man of my mother’s surname moved from New Hampshire to Ohio. Twenty years later, he had died, and two of his sons owned part of his farm. (He had four children and divided the land four ways.) The Agricultural Schedules from 1850 through 1880 tell me quite a bit about the parts of the farm he left to two of his sons.

In 1850 my g-g-grandfather George owned 500 acres, worth $10,000, with livestock worth $416. He had raised 2200 bushels of corn in 1849 and produced 250 pounds of butter. His brother, Charles, owned 750 acres worth $12,000, and he had $926 worth of livestock. By 1880 George’s son, Charles, owned 165 acres worth $16,000—in buying power much less than the $10,000 his father’s land had been worth.

On my father’s line, in 1850 my third great-grandfather, who had moved to Iowa, owned 185 acres worth $3500. He had grown 500 bushels of corn. (From searching the government land office records, I know that he had first purchased land and then was assigned a Revolutionary War land patent by someone else.)

What about other schedules? I knew that I had three direct ancestors who served in the Civil War. All three were Union soldiers; sorry y’all. Two of them died — both of diseases. By the way, one was from measles that went into pneumonia. No vaccines back then!

The third was a great-grandfather. He enlisted on May 2, 1864, and served four months as a 1st Sergeant in Company I of the 182nd Ohio Infantry. How do I know that? From the 1890 Veterans’ Schedule. Incidentally, I finally found him by searching all veterans whose first name was “Charles” in the county where he lived. Whoever indexed him on Ancestry had somehow turned Folsom into Frtum.

Another fact I know about great-grandpa Charles is that he was married twice. His first marriage was in December of 1862. In February of 1864, his young wife died. Three month later he enlisted in the army. Could there be a connection between those two events?

Then there is the Mortality Schedule. As mentioned last week, everyone who had died between June 1 and May 31 in 1849, 1859, 1869 and 1879 should have been listed on the Mortality Schedule in the following census year. I knew that yet another third g-grandfather had died in 1859, so I checked the 1860 Mortality Schedule. He was there: cause of death was a broken thigh; he had been bedfast for six months.

Also listed, however, was a 6 year old of exactly the same name who had died after three weeks of “intermittent fevers” in Illinois. The surname is not a common one, so I began searching further. That was the first clue that one branch of the family had migrated to Illinois.

And a second g-grandfather had not died of heart disease, which seemed to run in that line, but of consumption, after being ill for 100 days. Now consumption is usually the old name for tuberculosis. But it seems to me that 100 days is not very long to suffer from TB. I suspect that either he was in bed for that length of time or the disease was actually some other lung condition.

So, don’t neglect those non-population schedules. And, incidentally, some of the states took their own censuses, and those are on Ancestry as well.

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