Tag Archives: census records


I recently visited FamilySearch, the world’s largest genealogy organization provided by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  Over the last while, they have been working on digitizing and indexing the microfilmed records held at the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah. Of course, it will take quite a while to complete this project — they have MILLIONS of records — but there are some useful records already available.

I was delighted to find that digitized images of records from the Catholic Diocese of Belleville, Illinois, are available online. They aren’t searchable yet, but they are easy to browse through. I found baptism, marriage and burial records for some of my great-great-great grandparents and their family.

Some of those records had some interesting clues to expanding my family search. For example, I already knew that my great-great-great grandparents, Christian Stern and Anna Maria Jan (or John), were married in Belleville, Illinois, on 15 Jul 1847, and I found the original record on FamilySearch in the records of the Cathedral of St. Peter. One of the witnesses is Charles Jan — likely a relative. Charles is also listed at their first daughter’s godfather.

So, I decided to search the 1850 census for Charles Jan in the Belleville area. I found a Charles John, born about 1800 in Germany, living in Centreville (now Millstadt), Illinois — the same town that my great-great-great grandparents lived in. Given Charles’ age, he could possibly be my great-great-great-great grandfather, though I don’ t have any other evidence of that yet.

Next steps: find more information about Charles John and see if there are connections to Anna Maria John.


House History: The owners

The 1894-5 Buffalo city directory shows only one house on our block, and it wasn’t ours, which makes sense because our house was supposedly built in 1900. The 1900, 1910 and 1920 US Censuses list the owners of our house as George A. and Carrie L. Rowe. George was a physician in Buffalo (the 1902-3 Buffalo city directory shows his office at 60 Niagara Street), born in 1854 in Ohio. He married Carrie, who was also born in Ohio in 1865, in about 1887. The 1910 census asks each woman how many children she had and how many were living. Carrie never had any children.

Each year they had a servant and/or boarders living in the house with them. In 1900, they had a boarder named Louise Otto, a 15-year-old girl born in New York in 1885. They also had a servant named Mrs. A Rahler or Kahler, a 19-year-old woman born in England in 1880. She was married, though her husband is not listed in the household, and she had been in the United States for 19 years, immigrating in 1881.

In 1910, they had a different servant, Mabel Ellsford, living in the house. Mabel was a 34-year-old widow who immigrated from England only four years earlier in 1906.

The 1920 census shows one “roomer” living in the house with Dr. George and Carrie. She was Marie B. Moreland, an unmarried 41-year-old woman born in New York. Interestingly, her occupation is listed as secretary in a physician’s office. There were plenty of doctor’s in Buffalo at the time, but could she have been Dr. George’s secretary? How awkward would that have been?!

Sometime between 1920 and 1927, Dr. George died. The 1927-8 Buffalo city directory lists “Rowe, Carrie L (wid Geo A)” living in the house. The 1930 census also lists Carrie as a widow with three single women boarders. They were Helen Maxam (age 35, born in Michigan), Henriette Conrad (age 40, born in New York) and Marjorie Mahoney (age 50, born in Michigan). All three were stenographers: Helen worked for N&E Power Company (not sure what N&E stands for yet) and Henriette worked for an insurance company. Marjorie doesn’t list where she worked. Interesting details in this census include the fact that the house had a radio set and it was valued at $8,500, the lowest on the block which ranges from $8,500 to $20,000.

Carrie is still listed as the owner in the 1933 Buffalo city directory, but she probably died sometime in 1933 or 1934. Subsequent city directories from 1934 to 1967 list other residents. They are:

  • Mrs. Maritta C. Sanders, 1934 (listed as owner)
  • Mrs. Agnes C. Mutchler, 1936 (not listed as owner)
  • VACANT, 1937
  • Mrs. Eliz Spencer, 1938-1946 (not listed as owner, 1938-1941 indicate she was living alone)

The only other Buffalo city directory available online was for 1956. It lists Mrs. Eliz Spencer as the owner, but I’m not sure at what point she actually purchased the house. Looking at the ownership, I’m wondering if the house was foreclosed on sometime between 1934 and 1936 during the Great Depression, and Eliz Spencer finally bought her home of about 10 years once the depression and World War II ended.

House History, Part 1

A few weeks ago, I was poking around the top floor of our new home, and found a bit of history that we hadn’t noticed before. In a closet just inside the door on a section of wall where the old wallpaper had come off was some writing in pencil:

Paper hanged by C. W. Brayman 1900 Niagara Street, City March 7, 1922

Paper hanged by C.W. Brayman
1900 Niagara St. City
March 7, 1922

Blane and I bought a 110-year-old house in Buffalo, New York, last month. It’s the type of house I’ve fantasized about owning–a house with history, and one where we can do a little bit of restoration work. The people we bought it from have been in the house for about 35 years, and they told us they had purchased it at an estate sale when the original owner died. This would make us the third owners of a house that has been alive for more than a century!

My first thought when I saw this inscription on the wall was how I could have missed it for so long. We’ve both been up on the third floor several times. It looks like it has only been used as storage space for many years, but is finished with three bedrooms and a hall closet. The wallpaper in the hallway is fabulous! There are bits of old furniture that were left behind, so we’ve been exploring and dreaming about what we could do with the space.

My second thought was wondering who C. W. Brayman could have been, and started thinking about the history of our new home. I immediately logged on to Ancestry.com and started searching for C. W. Brayman in the 1920 US Census. I very quickly found Charles W. Brayman, age 20, living with his parents, Charles A. and Louise Brayman, and step-sister, Catherine Werle [?], in an upper flat of 1920 Niagara Street, Buffalo, NY.

Who’s your Daddy, Mary?

mary-compton-cropped2I recently tracked down a living descendant of Elias Compton, the best candidate for father of Mary Compton, my 3rd-great-grandmother. (Read about her here and here.) My potentially newfound cousin is a descendant through Elias’ daughter, Elizabeth, and is descended through a line of daughters. I am descended from Mary Compton through a line of daughters also, which means we may have matching mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA). She agreed to be tested, so I ordered a DNA test kit and am having it sent to her. If her results match mine, that would be a good indication that Mary Compton is Elias Compton’s daughter.

I have been searching for YEARS trying to find some sort of written documentation of Mary Compton’s parents. Her marriage record lists a David Compton, but doesn’t indicate what relation he is, if any. Circumstantial evidence suggests that she is Elias’ daughter, though. For example:

  • Elias Compton (and family) were among the very first settlers in Polk County, Iowa, settling there in 1845, specifically in Keokuk Prairie. Mary Compton was married at Keokuk Prairie in 1846 (at the home of David Compton), and later census records say that she had been living in Iowa since 1845.
  • No other Comptons are listed in the 1846 Iowa state census, other than Elias and his sons.
  • Elias Compton’s family moved to Iowa from Indiana, which is where Mary was born.
  • The 1880 US census says that Mary’s parents were born in New York and Ohio. Elias was born in New Jersey, and his wife, Sarah, was born in Pennsylvania–not exactly correct, but close which works for me considering that some of their other documented children got their birthplaces wrong in the same census!

So, hopefully I’ll have some good and definite news in a month or two. The nice thing is that this will push my family tree back SEVERAL generations. My newly-found cousins have the Compton family tree extending back to England in the late 1500’s.

Isidore Silber

I just pulled out the death certificate for Isidore Silver that I have (mentioned in today’s other posting) because I hadn’t packed it with my stuff to take to Poughkeepsie (glad I decided to blog before leaving), and found another piece of evidence that makes me REALLY believe that this is the same Isidore Silber that I’m looking for. There are actually three reasons I think that this is the right person, despite the huge discrepancy in the parents’ names.

  1. Isidore and Sarah Schwartz Silber were living in New York City at the time, which is where this Isidore Silver died. I have census records that confirm this. All census records have their last name spelled as “Silver” which is understandable. Their children match my mother’s recollection of her aunt’s and uncle’s names, so I’m confident that the census records are a match.
  2. This Isidore died during the right time period, and a search of the New York City Death Index doesn’t give any other possibilities.
  3. Despite dying in New York City, the death certificate says that Isidore Silver was buried in Poughkeepsie. Most of the Silbers and Schwartzes (from my family anyway) lived in Poughkeepsie at the time.
  4. The most compelling piece of evidence, though, is something I discovered only yesterday. Isidore Silver was living at 342 East 80th Street at the time of his death, according the the death certificate. His wife’s older brother, William Schwartz, lived at 341 East 80th Street, for more than 20 years–just across the street!! (I found William in the census yesterday after going through some old letters in preparation for today’s trip, and finding a letter that said that “Uncle Willie” had a barbershop on East 79th Street and a son named Mac [who turns out to be Max in the census]).
I was looking forward to this weekend’s trip to Poughkeepsie, but I’m really excited now! I feel like there will be some big finds, and everything is falling into place right now!

Margaret McDonald

I spent the day yesterday trying to track down my husband’s great-great grandmother. I know a lot about her, and have a solid family tree leading back to her. I also know a lot about the people that I think were her parents and siblings, and have started a family tree for them. My current concern is establishing a firm connection between the two trees.

Margaret McDonald was born in Inch, Wigtownshire, Scotland sometime between 1848 and 1854, specifically in the Village or Cairn, or Cairnryan. She married William Welsh on 1 Nov 1878 in Wallacetown in Ayr. Together they had eight children, one of which was my husband’s great grandmother, Margaret, better known in our family as Granny Mackie.

All this is well documented through census records, and birth, marriage and death registers. However, the mystery begins with the latter records. Margaret McDonald’s death register (dated 8 July 1931 in Lochrutton, Kirkcudbrightshire, Scotland) says that her parents were Charles McDonald (who was a fisherman) and Margaret McDonald (maiden name McDonald), and that she was married to William Welsh. Her marriage register to William Welsh, however, says that her parents were Thomas McDonald (who was a fisherman) and Margaret McDonald (maiden name Adair). I have been unable to find a birth record for her.

After searching census records for a couple with both names, I found that there was a Charles McDonald married to a Margaret Adair who just happened to live in the Village of Cairn in Inch, Wigtownshire between 1848 (when they were married) and 1874 (when Charles died). Charles’ occupation was also listed as “fisherman” for the last two censuses of his life. Finally, the 1851 Scotland Census shows that this couple had a daughter named Margaret who was two-years-old at the time.

Putting all this together, I determined that this two-year-old Margaret McDonald had to be the same person. Unfortunately, though, I have been unable to find ANYTHING else that would connect her to this family. She is not listed with the family in any other census and was presumably working as a domestic servant (as some of her presumed brothers and sisters were doing at that young age). I have traced this family from the 1851 to the 1901 censuses, and have found birth registrations for all the children listed in the censuses (and have even found one son that is not listed with the family in any census). Of course, the only child that I have been unable to find a birth registration for is Margaret. In fact, I have been unable to find a birth registration for ANY Margaret McDonald that could remotely be the same person.

So, yesterday was spent finding records for her presumed brothers and sisters to see if I could find any connections to Margaret. I did find one marriage record that listed Margaret McDonald as a witness. However, the bride’s mother (and Margaret’s, for that matter) was also named Margaret McDonald, so I can’t say for sure if the witness was her sister, Margaret, or her mother, Margaret.

So, right now the whole connection is pretty circumstantial, and based on very little evidence. But since there is a lack of other possibilities, I’m pretty confident that Margaret McDonald is the daughter of Charles McDonald and Margaret Adair. Still, it would be nice to find something solid to confirm that.