Thursday, May 8, 2014

Surveyors and census takers run amok

(1) Ashtabula County, Ohio, isn't what you think. Yes, its land is divided into mostly rectangular townships, and they in turn are divided up into numbered most rectangular lots. But when the lots were divided by metes and bounds. (That's what you get when you cross the Connecticut Western Reserve with the Northwest Territory.)

But some of those metes and bounds may memorialize some lovely spring day when the surveying crew went fishing instead. After specifically describing three sides of the lot, the fourth side is to begin "so far south as to include fifty-five acres of land."

In other words, nobody knows exactly where that last property line is. Bad surveyor, no biscuit.

(2) We've all followed someone up the census decades, hoping desperately that they will make it to 1880 so as to product at least some sort of record of where their parents were born. Well, don't give up just because their grave marker says they died 3 January 1880 and the census date of record was 1 June 1880. Not only can any record be mistaken, sometimes the mistake is in our favor!

The census taker visited the Boggs household in New Brighton, Pennsylvania, and wrote down all the information for Margaret J. Boggs . . . and later put a line through it because she had died back in January. But the information, including her parent's alleged birth states, remains legible.

When in doubt, always prefer that wacky original to the fair copy.

Ashtabula County, Ohio, Deeds Z:271-2, Hiram & Sophia Boyd to Erastus Porter, 21 October 1839; Recorder, Jefferson.

1880 US Census, Beaver County, Pennsylvania, population schedule, New Brighton, ED 195, p. 291C, dwelling 24, family 28, James Boggs household for Margaret; digital image, ( : viewed 27 April 2014), citing NARA microfilm publication T9, roll 1097.

s griffith vandusen, Find A Grave memorial 54,029,186 created 23 June 2010 for Margaret J. Boggs 1831-1880, digital image of grave marker ( : viewed 29 April 2014), citing Grove Cemetery, New Brighton, Beaver County, Pennsylvania. Marker shows age at death 49 y 2 m, implying 3 November 1830 birth, contrary to memorial's statement. 

Harold Henderson, "Surveyors and census takers run amok," Midwestern Microhistory: A Genealogy Blog, posted 8 May 2014 ( : viewed [date]). [Please feel free to link to the specific post if you prefer.]

1 comment:

Cathi at Stone House Research said...

Those wonky land surveys sometimes provide work for today's forensic genealogists when the title needs quieting. So I say, bless those surveyors!

Gotta love that 1880 census taker. S/he's right up there with the ones who list the county of birth as well as the state.