Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Tuesday's Tip: Using the U.S. Special Census on Deaf Family Marriages and Hearing Relatives, 1888-1895

March 13 marked the beginning of Deaf History Month 2015, which concludes on April 15. During this month, I will be listing tips and strategies for researching your deaf ancestors and relatives in historical records.

Last week, I explained how my ancestor, Ezra DICKINSON, and his three deaf children could be traced through most of the U.S. Federal Censuses from 1830 through 1910. There is another special census that was taken over the course of the years 1888 to 1895 that specifically enumerated deaf individuals in the United States. Titled "the U.S. Special Census on Deaf Family Marriages and Hearing Relatives, 1888-1895," it set out to gather statistics on deaf family members and their hearing relatives to determine if deafness was genetic, and if so, how it impacted family members. Because specific information about deaf individual's parents, siblings, spouses, and children was obtained, this census gives a unique outline of a deaf person's family tree that is much better constructed than what you would find in regular census records.

When you click on the link to the database for the U.S. Special Census on Deaf Family Marriages and Hearing Relatives, 1888-1895, be sure to scroll down to read the historical background about the census, and the information under "About this Database," which Ancestry.com has included. It is very helpful to understanding more about this census.

I entered the surname "Dickinson" into the search engine for this database and came up with 14 results. You can see that John Fletcher Dickinson and his wife Chloe Bates, as well as Thomas "Sherman" Dickinson and his wife Jennie Hensinger both appear twice in the list of results, one as the main individual, and one as the spouse (Sherman appears a third time without a spouse in this list). The nice feature of this census (and the search engine for this database) is that women's maiden names were given, increasing the chances of finding deaf females who married, as well as discovering maiden names that may have been unknown up to this point in your ancestral search.

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These census forms consisted of four pages. The first page of these forms can be downloaded at Ancestry.com, but the following three cannot. I used my photo editing software to create screen shots of the three final pages of the form. In today's post, we will be examining the census record of John Fletcher Dickinson and his wife, Chloe A. Bates. Here is the first page.

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From the notes on the first page of the form, you can see that Benjamin Talbot (who may have been an interpreter or family friend) had difficulty extracting information from John. It's too bad he just didn't have John look at the form and fill it out himself. We do know from other records that John and Chloe married 19 March 1856 in Trumbull County, Ohio and that they had at least four children, none of which were deaf.

Here's the second page, in two parts:

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On this page, John's father's name, Ezra, is given and his own full name is also listed. This is the first place I discovered that his middle initial "F" stood for "Fletcher." He also names his brother Sherman (married twice and living at Auburn, Indiana) and his sister Harriet (married to a hearing man) as his deaf siblings. He gives the birth years for all three, states he is deaf since birth (which conflicts with information he gave on the 1880 DDD Census Schedule), and that he attended the Ohio State School for the Deaf while living in Hicksville. He also gives the year he was admitted, how old he was when admitted, and how many years he attended. Finally, he gives his occupation and current residence.

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John's wife Chloe gives her information on page 3. Her father was William R. Bates, and she was born in 1824. She was the only deaf person in her family and became so at the age of one and a half due to inflammation of the brain. She also attended the Ohio State School for the Deaf, while she resided in Hiram. She spent six years at that school. She may have met John at that school, although calculating the dates, it would have been her last year and his first year there that probably overlapped.

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The final page has remarks, the date the information was completed, and a signature of an individual who was probably the enumerator. Note they referenced the 1890 census cards. Where could those gems possibly be today?

While I do not show them here, Sherman's records have even more information. Half are duplicated twice, which accounts for his name being listed three times in the search results. He gives their mother's maiden name (Cynthia Phillips) as well as the fact that he was one of 12 children, three of which were deaf. Unfortunately, I have been unable to locate John and Sherman's sister Harriet on this special census, no matter how creative I made my searches. I believe she wasn't enumerated. Even on special censuses, people got missed!

If your deaf ancestors or relatives were alive during 1888 to 1895 in the United States, be sure to check out this special census. It likely will provide useful information to construct your family tree and to learn about their education, if they had any.

Next week, we will delve into historical records at schools for the deaf.

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