Monday, February 08, 2010

Madness Monday: Update to James W. BARBER in the 1910 U.S. Federal Census

When I wrote my Madness Monday post two weeks ago on the enumeration of James W. BARBER in the 1910 U.S. Federal Census, I had a reader, Kathy Nitsch, send me some information that corrected and clarified what I had written in that post. In it, I had written, "...James was renting the farm and listed as an employee..." On the census sheet, James has "Emp" listed in column 20. Using Google, I looked up the list of abbreviations for the 1910 census, and on several sites I found, "Emp" was listed as standing for "employee." However, Kathy referred me to a website that had the enumerator instructions for the censuses from 1850 through 1950 listed, which is a very useful resources (one worth bookmarking!). The instructions for the 1910 U.S. Federal Census very clearly state:
Column 20. Whether employer, employee, or working on own account.—For one employing persons, other than domestic servants, in transacting his own business, write "Emp" (for employer). For a person who works for wages or a salary, write "W" (for wage earner). For a gainful worker who is neither an employer nor an employee, write "OA" (for own account). For all persons returned as having no occupation, leave the column blank.— 

Further explanation states "Employer.—An employee is one who employs helpers, other than domestic servants, in transacting his own business."

So it appears that James had hired help to assist him on the farm, a farm he rented, probably because he was too crippled to do a lot of the work himself. As Kathy pointed out, it probably wasn't very profitable to farm a rented farm with a hired worker, and it's likely that James gave up the farm after harvest to live with one of his sons in Lansing by year's end.

I also wrote:
I could obtain the microfilmed copy of the agricultural census taken that year and the farm schedule number would help me locate the farm he was renting. It would give me information on how successful this farm was; what crops were raised, what the harvest had been, how many acres, etc.

Kathy informed me that the 1900 and the 1910 Agricultural Censuses were destroyed by an Act of Congress, so I actually will not be able to find census data on this particular farm for 1910.

The last thing mentioned was a question: Was James BARBER's neighbor, Chancey STREETER, an in-law of James and Elizabeth's daughter, Lavinia (BARBER) STREETER? I actually remember looking at Chancey's name and wondering why it looked familiar! I did some initial checking of the Michigan vital records at FamilySearch Record search and discovered that Chauncey was the son of William and Catherine STREETER who had come from New York, whereas Lavinia's husband Everett was born in Ohio. If there is a connection, it is further back and it's likely that this is just a coincidence.

So what have I learned from this? One, there is always more to learn about a resource about which we might think we are very knowledgable or one in which we have a lot of experience. Also, always check the neighbors, as they may turn out to be relatives. Third, pay attention to those niggling thoughts: I should have noticed that the STREETER name was a possible connection, even though it's very likely that it's not. And most importantly, blog about or somehow share your brickwall ancestors with others; they will have an objective viewpoint and may notice details you've missed. Reach out to others to help you solve these cases!

Next week, we'll look at James's enumeration in the 1900 U.S. Federal Census.

This Madness Monday series featuring my brickwall ancestor, James W. BARBER (1841 - 1912) has been written to highlight and analyze all records of this individual with the hope that I can eventually uncover information that will lead to his specific birthplace and the names of his parents and any siblings he may have had. Other posts on this topic include:

The Obituary of James W. BARBER
Cemetery Records of James W. BARBER
James W. BARBER in the 1910 U.S. Federal Census
The Death Notice of James W. BARBER's son, Orlando

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