52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks: In the Census (Week 05)

In the Census

Oh boy, sometimes those census records can really throw you for a loop. Sometimes they might even change the entire way you think about a family you are researching. There is never a family that confused me more than the Mays family. Any Mays researcher out there will agree with me. They are hard to pin down! This week I’m going to spotlight Rebecca Mays, for sheer stubbornness!

1850 United States Census
1850 U.S. census, Morgan County, Kentucky, population schedule, Township not stated, p. 133-B, dwelling 634, family 634, William Mays Jr household; digital images, Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com: accessed 6 Jan 2018); citing National Archives and Records Administration microfilm M432, roll 214.

In the 1850 Census, everything seems fine. Nothing out of the ordinary here. We won’t even go into the fact that I don’t believe I have ever found a document that states William Mays Jr was the son of William Mays Sr. Especially since I know from watching many webinars that sometimes the Sr and Jr were added by enumerators if there was an older and younger man of the same name living near each other. I’ll get to that in my Do-Over when it’s time to stress over that! This census is important because it’s the earliest one that is going to give me ages of the children closest to the birth. This is especially important for Rebecca, who is aged 9 in this census.

1860 United States Census
1860 U.S. census, Morgan County, Kentucky, population schedule, West Liberty post office, p. 484, dwelling 230, family 227, William Mays household; digital images, Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com: accessed 5 Jan 2018); citing National Archives and Records Administration microfilm M653, roll 388.

This is where Rebecca starts to play with our minds a little bit. Between 1850 and 1860, William and Rebecca swapped places in the birth order. Things don’t get any better as the years go. To save space, I made us a chart of the family through the years.

The Mays Family in the Census

Rebecca Mays, you are making this harder than it needs to be! Note: You will probably have to view this image in a separate tab to see the text.

For the chart, I decided to leave blank spaces when children left the household. I was hoping it would help give a clear view of the family group and it did! 1870 was really a crazy census year for the Mays family. The oldest 4 children had left the household, no big deal. Then there is Rebecca. Oh, Rebecca. She managed to gain 3 years between 1850 and 1860, which actually isn’t that unusual for census ages. It’s between 1860 and 1870 that Rebecca clearly found the Fountain of Youth! She only aged 2 years in that time! When you look ahead to 1880, you can see Rebecca’s age actually goes back to what her age would have been if she’d stayed consistent through her lifetime.

Sidenote: I see you appearing out of nowhere Jane! Or is it Elizabeth J. Mays pulling a fast one like her sister Rebecca. I just don’t know anymore!

It wasn’t an indexing error.

Those of us with a few genealogy years under our belt might say that it could be a transcription error in 1870. That maybe it was just really hard to read and so it looks like 18 but was actually 28.

1870 U.S. census, Elliott County, Kentucky, population schedule, Precinct 1, p. 446-B, dwelling 148, family 148, William Mays household; digital images, Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com: accessed 1 Feb 2018); citing National Archives and Records Administration microfilm M593, roll 459.

Nope, it sure is clearly saying Rebecca is 18 years old. Oh, Rebecca. I appreciate you and all your age games!

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2 thoughts on “52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks: In the Census (Week 05)

  1. Linda T says:

    The 1850 and 1880 reports for Rebecca seem to be correct, but they had some careless census takers in 1860 and 70. I hate having to rely on census reports – always so many errors and misspellings!

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