June 1, 2009 - The Blow-Hard Season and Not Enough Info

01 June 2009


June 1st, and the beginning of the hurricane season. Six months of blustery bliss... trying to understand if that monster of a whirlwind is headed to my house, and how much time do I have to get up the shutters and throw the patio furniture in the pool, and check for any would-be missiles laying down somewhere around the house. Have I got enough propane for the bar-b-que and gas for the generator? Are there enough meds and bottles of water to last for a black-out? Has complacency set in? Probably. Humid nights and sticky floors, now til November 30.

I’m assisting another friend with her genealogy and I’ve come across a puzzle. The 1900 and 1910 US Censuses for Alabama were enumerated for a couple of the family we’re researching. The following:

  • The Head of the household is recorded at 39 years in 1900 and 51 in 1910; marriage 14 and 20 years, respectively.
  • The Wife is recorded at 39 years in 1900 and 46 in 1910; marriage 14 and 20 years, respectively.

Ages, theoretically should be either 39 and 49 years for the Head or 41 and 51 years for 1900 and 1910, respectively. His wife's ages should be realistically calculated at 39 and 49 years or 36 and 46 for the two Censuses. The "error" in the difference of years can be considered a normal error. The reporting of ages at census-taking-time can result in all kinds of mathematical inconsistencies. I have found that if the difference is not too great, plus or minus five years, I'm not going to stew over what is the actual date. I can always use the words "circa" or "about" until I find a document or other sources that provides me with some type of conclusive and primary proof.

The 1900 Census enumerates that the Wife is the "Mother of how many children" as 10, and the "Number of these children living" is 8. Ten years later, the 1910 Census has the Wife is noted as the "Mother of how many children - Number born" at 11, and the "Number now living" at 2. Sequentially and mathematically this is not an issue. Interpreting the Censuses it means, at face value, that the Wife had had, by the reporting date of 1900, 10 children and within the next 10 years she had had an additional child to bring the total number of children to 11. As the 1900 Census indicates that eight children are living at the reporting date, it means that two of her children had passed way at least by the same 1900 reporting date. The 1910 Census provides the sad news that nine of her children had passed away since the last reporting date in 1900.

The reporting is a sad realization. My next course of action in our research is to find some type of documentary proof of the passing of the nine siblings. But now here's the issue. Family lore and tales today had at least four of the children living in 1954. Further research indicates a coincidental possibility of a 5th sibling living in 1920 with a family of his own.

I thought I was aware of possibility of enumeration errors and the provision of unknowns, but if this is an error, how do I find out the actual answer? Could this be an enumeration problem? And then, (me thinking… which at times can be dangerous), could this be a falsehood provided due to any number of reasons; knowledge and understanding, race, war and draft issues, etc., etc.?

I've got a somewhat similar situation in my CROSSLEY family. I think I've checked out all possible angles trying to figuring out the blood line relationship... but there is a wee-bit of a hiccup of a problem... I'll present that mystery at another time.




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