Using Your Citations to Reveal Clusters In The US Census.

Citations are an art and there is usually more than one way to correctly write one.  And given that I am obsessed with discovering clusters in my genealogy I took a good long look at how I could write my citations in the U.S. Census to maybe reveal some new information.

Now, we all know, or we should all know, that the census taker doesn’t take the exact same route ever decade.  We also know that just because two households are next to each other that they may or may not be next to each other in actuality.  But reviewing who lived next to who or in the same area gives you some clues.

I write my 1850 census citation as such:

1850 U.S. census, Cleveland County, North Carolina, population schedule, dwelling 1098, family 1098, James Hambright; farmer, $700 real estate.Age: 58; farmer, $700 real estate

I don’t write down where I found the census or when because you can find them in multiple places and that information is just not that interesting to me.  With the county, state, dwelling, family and name, I should be able to find it again.

When I look at the census citations for James in my Family Tree Maker listings, I see:

I can look at the ages, are they consistent? How did his real estate and personal value change?  James increased his real estate from $700 to $3000 in 10 years.  Did he inherit land or was he industrious?  Also the decline from $3050 to $300 in personal value from 1860 to 1870 may mean that he owned slaves.

Now I go an look at the 1850 source listings:

I can look at who else I have in my database that  lives around him.  Is richer or poorer than his neighbors?  Any known relatives?  But I am pretty spotty in Cleveland County in 1850.  Since I’m currently working on a cluster in York County, I have a much more solid view of people living in the same area:

I started with my Maritin’s who are dwellings 90 through 94 and then started pulling census records for everyone around them.  I pad the dwelling and family numbers with 0 (zeros) so that they line up nicely.  I notice that Thomas Martin, the father of the other Martins, owns real estate, and the rest don’t. Other records suggest they live on his property, and that they all inherit the land upon his death.  About half the names listed owned no real estate and are listed as laborers.  Want to bet they worked for the farmers listed here?  I also have a good idea of what land records to look at to lay out this neighborhood.

You might also notice that I included an image number for these citations. I don’t usually do that.  But in York county, there are duplicate dwelling/family numbers and the page numbers are duplicates as well.  I was getting confused, so I put it this way in the citation so that I could see who lived near who.  You’ll notice that I’m missing age in these and I occasionally miss occupation and what is owned.  I have also opted not to put in who can read, etc.  Though it might be an interesting thing to add.  Or names in the household.

It’s up to you.  What is relevant and makes it interesting to you.

I’ve not figured out how to get this listing in RootsMagic and you can’t do it in online trees.  If someone knows differently,  please let me know.

And I have spend HOURS and HOURS revising my citations and working on how to write and format them to reveal a picture of  who lived near who and what the neighborhood looked like. It is not a project for the faint of heart, as it can be very time consuming. But it has helped me to gain understanding. This cluster from Lexington, Virginia in 1850 shows a neighborhood of people who were not farmers but used a different skill set:

It gives you a different view of the area your ancestor lived.

What works for you?  Don’t use your citation to just mark where you found something, use it as an organizational tool to help reveal information about your ancestor.

2 thoughts on “Using Your Citations to Reveal Clusters In The US Census.

  1. Sandy Murray

    Anne – excellent idea and format. Census citations are always so pesky that I haven’t organized them all consistently yet. Do you know of any way to list those in Ancestry trees easily?

    1. Anne Gillespie Mitchell Post author

      I don’t know how to do that in Ancestry Trees. I don’t think you can. I’ve only figured it out in FTM

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