Monday, January 25, 2010

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

Source: 1910 U.S. census, Genesee County, Michigan, population schedule, Montrose Township, sheet 10 A, dwelling 213, family 216, James and Elizabeth A. Barber; digital image, ( accessed 24 January 2010); citing NARA microfilm publication T624, roll 643

The image above is the 1910 U.S. Federal Census page on which my ancestors James W. BARBER and Elizabeth A. COLE are enumerated. You can click the image above to view an enlarged copy in my online photo album. From the photo album, you can click on the magnifying class in the upper right corner to zoom in even more, as well as pan around the image. Both Ancestry and Family Tree Magazine have free census forms on their websites which can help you view and understand the column headings.

I've also created snippets of the above image to make it more viewable and to facilitate the reference to the columns with my comments.

This is Montrose Township, Genesee County, Michigan. No village or street names are given, nor house numbers, implying a rural area. You can see that this is dwelling 213 and household 216. James is listed as the head of the household, male, white, age 68. Viewing this image from this magnification, it does look like his age is listed as 69, but when I zoomed in and compared the digit to other nines on the same sheet, it was obvious it was an 8. This age fits correctly with his year of birth, 1841, as his birthday was 4 July and he was enumerated on 15 April (also the official census day). His marriage to Elizabeth was his first one, and they had been married 49 years, placing their marriage year at about 1861, consistent with the fact Elizabeth appears on the 1861 Canadian Census as single (official census date of 14 January) and their first child was born circa 1863.

Elizabeth, the wife is listed as a female, white, age 63 (consistent with her 15 October birthday and the 15 April enumeration day), married to James as her first marriage for 49 years. She was the mother of 10 children, nine of whom were living. Their son Benjamin had died 5 August 1888 at the age of six.

The next snippet tells us that James and both his parents were born in England, and all were native English speakers. Next, his year of immigration was listed; it is very difficult to read, but by zooming in, I was able to determine it was 1859. I believe this date is James's immigration from England to Canada, not from Canada to the United States for the following reasons: he is shown living in Canada in 1871 on that country's census; his wife was in Canada in 1861; and the 1871 Canadian census and the 1880 U.S. Federal Census show the birthplaces of their first six children were in Canada, spanning the years 1863 through 1875. Furthermore, this date of 1859, in which James would have been about 18 years old, is more consistent with his obituary, which stated that he immigrated at the age of 16.  The snippet above also shows he was naturalized by 1910 and in another post I'll share my difficulty in finding any naturalization records for him. The last column tells us he could speak English fluently.

Elizabeth's information states she was born in English-speaking Canada (Ontario vs. Quebec) and that her parents were born in New York. While I know for certain her mother (Lavina WILLIS) was born in New York, I have conflicting records on the birthplace of her father (James COLE); some records say Ontario, others New York. His parents came from Vermont, so it's possible they settled in New York during their migration to Ontario. Elizabeth's immigration year appears to be 1857; again, incorrect, as I have found her in 1861 in Ontario on a census. At this time in history, women maintained the same naturalization status as their husbands or fathers, so the naturalization column is blank. She was fluent in English.

This last snippet shows that James was a farmer, employed in general farming, and was an employee. There are no marks in the unemployment columns, which mean he was employed. The two columns marked "yes" are for literacy; he could read and write. He rented a farm, and the farm schedule number was 107. If the 1910 agricultural census had not been destroyed by an Act of Congress and instead had been microfilmed, I could obtain a copy and the farm schedule number would help me locate the farm he was renting. It would have given me information on how successful this farm was; what crops were raised, what the harvest had been, how many acres, etc. Since James was renting the farm, he was likely doing the farming for someone else. It's interesting to note that at this time it had been a year since his fall and subsequent injury.

As typical for the day, a woman was considered to not have an occupation unless it was paid. Farm work was hard for anyone, man, woman or child, and since James was injured, Elizabeth may have had to do a lot of heavy work to help out, even at age 63. However, whatever work she did was not enough to warrant her being listed as a farm laborer.

The last three columns left blank inquired as to whether the person was a Civil War veteran, blind, or deaf and/or dumb. This is important to me, because in the back of my mind, I wondered if James had ever served in the Union Army during the Civil War. Did you know that some 10,000 Ontario men crossed the border to serve in this conflict? One of my step-ancestors and one of my husband's ancestors were among them. I had thought that if this happened with James, it could explain his 1859 immigration date as coming from Canada to the U.S. (and being off by two years, since the Civil War started in 1861). But this blank column assures me that this was not the case. To double check, I did search the 1890 Veterans Schedule and did not find any James Barber living in any of the places in which my James was known to reside. The dates of service of these men also do not coincide well with the birthdates of James's children in Canada.


With the exception of the immigration and possibly the naturalization information, everything appears to be correct for James and Elizabeth on this census page. Those of you who've done extensive census research know that this is not always the case! There really is no new information here compared to what I've gathered with other records, but it's always nice to analyze each document to be sure I haven't overlooked anything.

In my next post, I'll look at another document from later in 1910 that shows a different residence for James.

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


Kathleen Brandt, Professional Genealogist said...

Great use of Monday Madness and staying focus. Good luck on your search.

Dr. Bill (William L.) Smith said...

Excellent case study report. Thank you for sharing this detailed analysis for our benefit as well as your own. It is a great reminder of how rich the census data really is!

Bill ;-)

Sanjay Maharaj said...

I am thrileld by your research and in-depth analysis, good luck and great work

Miriam Robbins said...

Thank you for your kind words. Stay tuned for a post later this week on an update with some corrections and a clue that a helpful reader e-mailed me.