Monday, June 04, 2012

Gathering More Info Before Jumping

Yesterday, Ol' Myrt here posted To Jump or Not to Jump where I discussed a 1870 census page suspecting that Mary, Margaret, Ann and Emma were polygamous wives of Anson Call, a seemingly wealthy Utah farmer listed as 60 years of age.  My caution was to avoid jumping to any conclusion prematurely and I suggested my DearREADERS look at other records that may mention or infer relationships before deciding something is a "fact".

One thing I failed to suggest: the other husbands may simply have been away for very legitimate reasons. As the west developed and Indian skirmishes persisted in what was known as the Utah Wars, those men could have been away serving in the military or fulfilling church assignments. Those assignments could have been lengthy like missionary work, or rescuing stranded wagon trains on the Oregon and Mormon Trails. (At that time in LDS Church history, it wasn't uncommon for a married man to leave his family and serve many years on a proselytizing mission. That was dedication to the cause for both spouses, but I digress.)

Regardless of the reason, the 1870 federal census indicates Anson Call was living next door to several households where women with the last name Call were enumerated as the eldest in their homes.

The next logical place to look is the 1880 census. Fortunately, relationship to the head of household is a feature of that federal enumeration. I located Anson Call at living next door to many but not all people who were his neighbors in the 1870 federal enumeration.

Source Information: and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. 1880 United States Federal Census [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations Inc, 2010. 1880 U.S. Census Index provided by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints © Copyright 1999 Intellectual Reserve, Inc. All rights reserved. All use is subject to the limited use license and other terms and conditions applicable to this site. Original data: Tenth Census of the United States, 1880. (NARA microfilm publication T9, 1,454 rolls). Records of the Bureau of the Census, Record Group 29. National Archives, Washington, D.C.
When doing research, I frequently use Microsoft Excel to do comparisons. Here's my workup for this Anson Call and his Call "neighbors" scenario. I've color-coded in green those who only appear in the 1870 enumeration, and assigned the peach color to those who only appear in the 1880 census. What we have left in the remaining white cells is my first evidence that Mary, Margaret, and Emma are polygamous wives of Anson. The 1880 lists them all in the same household, but differentiates them by family numbers.

Novice researchers assume the children listed under each wife are her children, however competent genealogists recognize relationships of children to mothers in this case must be identified thru additional research. Along this same line, there is no explanation as to why Anson's son Byron Call (16 in 1880)  and daughter Louisa (12 in 1880) weren't listed in the 1870 at age 6 and 12, respectively.

Even if a document lists a relationship, we must attempt to find additional evidence to support or refute that info.

Some of Anson's children in the 1880 census were too young to have appeared in the enumeration ten years earlier.
By 1880, several children listed in the 1870 had reached marriageable age, so I am not surprised to see them missing from Anson's household. I also expected to see Anson's supposed wife Ann at age 63 on the 1880 census, but it may be that she had passed away between 1870 and 1880.

I wouldn't limit my research to federal census records. It is time to branch out to other surviving record groups from the Bountiful, Davis, Utah area. I probably won't dig deeper on this line, since it is on my father's first wife's family. But I appreciate having these two census records for illustrating my points.

Do you use a worksheet or table as Ol ' Myrt here has done? Have you found a better way to compare and contrast info when working through genealogical problems?

Happy family tree climbing!
Myrt     :)
Your friend in genealogy.

Twitter: @DearMYRTLE
Second Life: Clarise Beaumont  


  1. Good way to explain how to compare. Your suggestion is good for muti family members. My favorite is census tracker sheet [one per family], the Excel copy from Gary Minder's CensusTools. Before/in about 1986, WI State HS had hard copies of the form called "Census History of....." by Netti Schreiner-Yantis. That form was my best used form until I figured out how to put it on a computer into a word document, then Censustools came out.

  2. Census tools is useful because additional columns of census info is provided, without the hassle of setting up thise Excel columns on your own.

    As we move beyond census to kand, tax, probate records familiarity with creating our own worksheets is useful.

    Now that my daughter Carrie has gotten into genealogy, I will start moving those worksheets to Google Docs so I can share "where I am" in my research.

    As you may surmise, I don't put names, dates and relationships into my genealogy management software database until I am convinced the people are "mine".

  3. Though this would alot of time and expense, I would also need to see birth/baptism-christening/marriage/death records (parents often listed in marriage & death certicates) and finally a probate or will on this man to give final judgement if all consider/know he is their father.
    On first "glance" it does "appear" this way.

  4. I am a frequent user of Excel in genealogy. I especially like it for surveys of information that is difficult to 'get back to'. Examples: surnames in the city directories at Fold3 or surname mentions in Newspaper sites, especially those that don't OCR well. For census work though I like to print a blank copy form from Ancestry and log the information that way. I have a physical, offline copy to work with and when I'm done, into the surname file folder it goes for later reference.

  5. As a couple of others have mentioned, I like using the blank census forms and manually writing in the information for comparisons. It is faster than setting up Excel spreadsheets for me, but for someone who uses Excel often, it may not be. And you don't have another piece of paper to file or put in a notebook somewhere.

    One piece of advice I really liked was putting the people in the historical context. Sometimes we are so focused on dates and locations as genealogists that we fail to consider what things are happening to society in general that would affect the behavior of the people we are researching (such as, the Utah Indian Wars, or missionary service to the LDS church). As genealogists, we need to be students of history, as well as, records and documents.

  6. Family #290 in 1870 have a Lynthia Call aged 6. Could this be the Scynthia Call aged 16 in family #286 in 1880?