Category Archives: Census

Read the Instructions… If You Can

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Yesterday, I mused about my great-great-grandfather John Kelley and why he’s listed on the 1860 agricultural schedule with no livestock and no crops. I gave three theories why this might be:

  • He raised something completely different, something that isn’t listed on the schedule.
  • He didn’t tell the enumerator what he raised.
  • The enumerator didn’t write it down or didn’t copy it over from his notes to this final copy.

No Story Too Small readers are awesome! Some came up with additional theories. Jade pointed out that the schedule was supposed to report the activity of the year prior to the official census date of June 2; perhaps John had recently acquired the land and hadn’t yet harvested anything. Great suggestion! In this case, however, John had acquired the land after his mother died in 1852.

Jade also wondered if there was a crop failure. We can’t discount that. (I’ve often said that if you want to gamble, don’t go to Vegas; just own a farm.)

Purslaneforever wondered if perhaps John leased the farm to someone else and that’s why the crops don’t show up. That got me wondering — how would a leased farm show up in the 1860 agricultural schedule? Would it be under the land owner or the person leasing it?

I couldn’t find the enumerator instructions for the 1860 agricultural schedule. There’s good reason for that. According to the Census Bureau, “No printed instructions were issued with reference to the schedules of 1860.” (Instructions for 1850 – 1900 are available as a PDF from the Census Bureau).


Really? They give the enumerators a form with 48 columns without any instructions?!

There were instructions for the 1850 schedule:

“1. Under heading 1, entitled ‘Name of individual managing his farm or plantation,’ insert the name of the person residing upon or having charge of the farm, whether as owner, agent, or tenant.”

The enumerator in 1860 (Dawson (?) Teal) was not the same enumerator as 1850 (J. Shelley). Would he have followed the 1850 instructions and listed farms under the name of the person having charge of the farm (in other words, the lessee/tenant)? Or would he have listed everything under the owner, regardless of who had charge? Or would he have split the two: listing the land under the owner and the crops and livestock under the lessee/tenant?

Unfortunately, we may never know. My experience with Perry County land records is that leases were not commonly recorded in this time period. Also, there would be informal arrangements that wouldn’t even have been written down, let alone recorded at the courthouse.

So, we should add a fourth possibility to why John Kelley didn’t have any livestock or crops listed:

  • He leased the land to someone else and the enumerator opted to list the crops and livestock with the lessee.

I’m a big proponent of going through the enumerator’s instructions to see how they were supposed to record things. It would have helped had the 1860 agricultural schedule had some instructions!

Not John Kelley's farm, but for some reason, this is how I picture it. Maybe I'm just bitter that I don't know what he raised in 1860.

Not John Kelley’s farm, but for some reason, this is how I picture it. Maybe I’m just bitter that I don’t know what he raised in 1860.

Decent Enough to Die in a Timely Manner: William H. Skinner (52 Ancestors #15)

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If there is a genealogical corollary to Murphy’s Law, it might be that the ancestor you’re looking for died one year before that state started keeping death records. (Raise your hand if that’s happened to you!) It happens so often, that I’d like to give a special “Thank you” to my 3rd-great-grandfather William H. Skinner for dying at the right time.

William was a farmer in Reading Township, Perry County, Ohio. He was born in 1809 in either Ohio or Pennsylvania (depending on which record you want to believe). He died in Reading Township 3 May 1850.

Ohio didn’t start keeping civil death records until 1867, so why am I thankful that William died in May 1850? It’s because of a wonderful “other” part of the federal census called a mortality schedule. In the 1850, 1860, 1870, and 1880 censuses, there was another schedule taken at the same time that was record the deaths of those who had died in the previous 12 months. The 1850 was “officially” taken on  1 June, so the mortality schedule was supposed to include those who died between 1 June 1849 and 31 May 1850. William squeaked in by dying on 3 May.

William Skinner, 1850 mortality schedule, Reading Township, Perry County, Ohio.

William Skinner, 1850 mortality schedule, Reading Township, Perry County, Ohio.

The mortality schedule tells us that he was a farmer, age 40, born in Ohio, and died in May of “liver complaint,” which he had for 11 days. (Just think — if he had lived for another month, we likely wouldn’t know what he died from. Though come to think of it, “liver complaint” is a rather catch-all term…  But at least we know it was medical and not like he was run over by a runaway horse or something. With this family, I’ll take what I can get.)

William’s widow Matilda and seven of their children (including my great-great-grandfather George and 11-month-old Marion) were enumerated in Reading Township later that summer.

William is buried in Hopewell Baptist Church Cemetery in Reading Township.


  • William Skinner, 1850 mortality schedule, Reading Township, Perry County, Ohio, page 925.
  • William Skinner tombstone, Hopewell Baptist Cemetery, Reading Township, Perry County, Ohio. Visited the cemetery several years ago. At that time, William’s tombstone was broken and lying on the ground. It has since been restored, as seen in the photo on FindAGrave.
  • Matilda Skinner household, 1850 federal census (population schedule), page 353a, household 456, family 456.
  • Stephen Skinner Family Bible, The Holy Bible containing the Old and New Testaments, (Philadelphia: National Publishing Co., no date). Owned in 1983 by Bertha Stalbaum, Valparaiso, Indiana; present location unknown. Photocopy at the Ohio Genealogical Society, Bellville, Ohio.

Two Worthless Brothers

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John R. Young and Douglass H. Young were born and raised in Washington County, Ohio and they were worthless. Now, before you think that I’m being harsh, hear me out.

John and Douglass were two of the sons of John and Jane (Douglass) Young (my 3rd-great-grandparents). In 1870, John, Jane, and 8 of their 12 children (yes, 12) were living together in Fearing Township, Washington County. Included in the household were John, Douglass, and their wives and children.

John Young 1870 census

John Young household, 1870 U.S. Census, Fearing Township, Washington County, Ohio, p. 130.

See that note on the right-hand side of the page? That’s a note added by Joseph Palmer, the enumerator in Fearing Township, and it brackets John R., Douglas H. and their families:

Note on Young 1870 census“Not worth anything nor doing anything. — Living with Parents, J. Young”

Yes, the enumerator called out John and Douglass for being worthless and not doing anything. (I’d like to point out that my ancestor, their brother Thomas, was not included in that note. This is one time I don’t mind my ancestor not being mentioned!)

Who said genealogy wasn’t interesting?