The Bog of Lost Scholars

June 2, 2007

More Fictional Characters on the Census

Filed under: Genealogy — castiron @ 6:37 pm

In Weston, West Virginia, on the 1870 census:

Arthur Dent, 23, druggist, born in Illinois.

(Illinois. Sure, that’s what he said….)

April 30, 2007

Dear Google….

Filed under: Genealogy — castiron @ 8:00 pm

Dear Google:

In your quest for helping everyone find everything, please at some point consider putting your amazing search and digitization skills to genealogical records, including the U.S. census, state and county records that are over a hundred years old, etc. While I do not wish to denigrate the amazing job that has done in digitizing materials, Ancestry also charges a yearly fee to view these materials — and recently, has started displaying ads by them. Annoying, moving ads that often try to open popup windows.

Google may be advertising supported as well, but Google’s ads don’t distract me when I’m trying to scan a long list. Alas, right now I have no choice; if I want to be able to search the U.S. census, it’s Ancestry or nobody.

So, Google, please make thousands of genealogists and family historians happy, as well as social historians and geographers and so forth, and give Ancestry some actual competition. Send those census microfilms and the probate and land records of a thousand counties to your Magic Digitization Sweatshop, and give us bits.

An annoyed subscriber

April 24, 2007

Odd Neighbors

Filed under: Genealogy — castiron @ 12:00 am

Found on the 1870 census while looking for someone else: J.S. Snape and family.

Further down the same page: A. M. Riddle and family.

Yes, folks, you didn’t have any idea that there was a wizarding community in Kentucky in 1870, did you?

(The citation: Year: 1870; Census Place: Poplar Grove, Owen, Kentucky; Roll: M593_493; Page: 291; Image: 582)

March 25, 2007

Wandering Myers Kin

Filed under: Genealogy — castiron @ 11:02 pm

The latest chunk of my database has been Myers relatives. My Myers family comes from the Adams County area of Pennsylvania. I don’t know much about them, so I’ve been busy tracking what happened to my scattered Nth-great-aunts and -uncles.

In the case of most of them, it’s “leave Pennsylvania”. Two of them seem to have gone to Trumbull County, Ohio; a few went to Tippecanoe County, IN; some ended up in Michigan. I’ve managed to find most of them on the census, though there’s one daughter who I’m uncertain on (I don’t have her husband’s first name, and if it’s the guy that the 1850 census suggests, something unfortunately clearly happened before 1860).

I am, however, mystified as to why my great-aunt, who compiled the initial genealogy that I’m working from, put a non-existent son named Dan in almost every single family. Seriously. Every single Myers son in this family should have a son named Dan, according to her; unless every single one of them traditionally used the name for any stillborn sons, it’s a major error on my great-aunt’s part. (Or else the guy who initially compiled this information was named Dan Myers, and she accidentally copied his name off all his family group sheets.) Yes, I have learned that my great-aunt’s research, while accurate most of the time, must nonetheless be independently verified.

March 4, 2007

The Importance of Initial Letters

Filed under: Genealogy — castiron @ 2:10 pm

The Soundex system, a method of coding surnames to make it easier to find names on census and other records in spite of variant spellings, is a wonderful thing, but it has its limits. In particular, if the initial letter of the name is spelled wrong, you’re never going to find the person unless you get lucky.

This weekend I got lucky.

In my census crawl, I’m currently up to my relatives in Adams County, Pennsylvania. These folks are more challenging to research than my Frederick relatives, because while I have plenty of books on Frederick (marriage license records, church records, the sometimes wrong but generally helpful biographies in History of Frederick County, Maryland), I don’t have this data for Adams County; I’m stuck with the undocumented family tree my great-aunt made.

So I’m up to my several-times great-uncle George Myers, born about 1817. I have names for a few of his kids, but no name for his wife, and I was having no luck finding him on the census. But one of his daughters, Elvina/Alvina, was listed as marrying someone surnamed Worthway — no first name, alas. So I tried searching on Worthway.

This is not a common name at all, and even so, I didn’t find the daughter.

But I had one last thing to check: she’d had a daughter named Nellie, who married someone surnamed Terry. I checked the census for Nellie Terry.

Lo and behold, on the 1920 census for Cleveland, I find a Nellie Terry, her husband Theodore, and her parents: Elisha and Elvina Northway.

Yeah. No wonder I wasn’t finding Elvina. The Soundex search does you no good when you’ve got the wrong first letter!

At any rate, once I had the correct surname, I could track them back, find that Elvina was born in Ohio, and ultimately find her father George Myers. Hurrah!

January 14, 2007

More Bad Ancestry OCR

Filed under: Genealogy — castiron @ 12:16 pm

In the census index: Ashak Bagell.

On the census page: Abrah. Engelbrecht.

Okay, I’ll grant that the census page is hard to read. Still, this is further strengthening my suspicion that Ancestry used a computer to OCR the census records, because a human would have at least said “hey, that first name could be Abraham”, and a human who knew Frederick MD surnames would likely have said, “Oh, Engelbrecht!”

(And why am I looking at Abraham Engelbrecht? One of my usual Frederick tangents. I was originally working through my database in an orderly fashion, and was up to Oliver Storm, my great-great-uncle. Searching for him, I got interested in his parents and grandparents. So I pulled out Engelbrecht’s Marriage Ledger to confirm a few dates, and eventually I got to Oliver’s aunt Salina…who turns out to have married Jacob Engelbrecht’s son Philip, which makes her kids, including Abraham, distant cousins of mine.)

December 10, 2006

A Small Social History Note

Filed under: Genealogy — castiron @ 12:30 pm

Having looked at a slew of census pages, I’ve noticed one major change between the pre-1930 censuses and the 1930 census:

In the censuses before 1930, the enumerator was almost always a man.

In the vast majority of the 1930 censuses I’ve looked at, the enumerator was a woman.

I wonder why the change. Side effect of the Great Depression? Men with jobs couldn’t afford to leave them? Families needed all the extra money they could get, so wives started doing the job? Someone decided that women would be more familiar with their neighbors than men would be, so women would make better enumerators?

November 19, 2006

Eveline. No, Emma. No, Katherine.

Filed under: Genealogy — castiron @ 12:36 pm

I’ve been looking a bit at the family of Clara Linkenhoker Cronise, who married one of my Nth cousins. Her family’s been pretty easy to find on the census; I’ve got the names of her father and her six siblings.

Her mother, though….

  • On the 1870 census, her name is Eveline.
  • On 1880, it’s Emma.
  • On 1900, it’s Katherine.


[ETA: Yes, it’s not impossible that these are three different wives, but since Katherine is listed specifically as Clara’s mother rather than stepmother on 1900, I think it’s just a name issue. Multiple middle names, transcriber error, family member’s perverse sense of humor….]

October 19, 2006

Nettie and Florence Cronise

Filed under: Genealogy — castiron @ 8:36 pm

After a couple weeks of flailing randomly about the census, and a couple more weeks of trying to focus on particular families but getting distracted, I finally decided to start at the beginning of my database and work through in numerical order.

This week I got to the family of Henry and Susanna (Fundenberg) Cronise. Henry and Susanna come from Frederick, Maryland, but moved to Ohio and lived out their lives there. My great-aunt had one of their daughters as Katherine Barbara Cronise, who married Jacob Staub and had children, Annette (“Nettie”) and Florence. When I found the family on 1850, Jacob wasn’t listed, and Katherine, living with her parents, was listed as a Cronise, but Nettie and Florence Staub (and an older sister, Alice) were also in the family.

In 1860, Nettie and Florence are still there, and have the surname Cronise. Hmm, I thought. Nettie disappeared after 1870, but I found Florence on the 1910 census, living with her mother. Then I happened to look at what was listed for Florence’s occupation.


A bit of websearching led me to an article on Nettie and Florence Cronise. Turns out that both of them were lawyers — in fact, Nettie was the first woman admitted to the bar in Ohio, and married another lawyer named Nelson Lutes. (Here’s a picture of Nettie Cronise Lutes.)

(I also learned why the surname change — their grandfather had adopted them. I’m still not sure whether their father died or just vanished. [ETA: Another article indicated that their father was an alcoholic, and Katherine divorced him.])

October 17, 2006

Dear Census Transcriber….

Filed under: Genealogy — castiron @ 8:41 am

Dear whatever person or software transcribed the Frederick County 1900 census for

I do actually recognize that the 1900 census is one of the biggest pains to transcribe; not only did the writer have crap handwriting, but the pages have notes over the names that make it really hard to read if you don’t already have some idea who you’re looking for. I absolutely grant that.

That said, how the heck did you get this:

Oliver M Zimmerman, 77
Helen C Zimmerman, 46
Mabelle R Zimmerman, 44
Curtis T Zimmerman, 35

from this:

Ann M. Zimmerman, 77
Luther C. Zimmerman, 46
Isabelle R. Zimmerman, 44
Curtis T. Zimmerman, 35

If Curtis’s name hadn’t been transcribed correctly, I’d never have found these folks without a slow browse.

(On the bright side, at least the surname was transcribed correctly….)

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