Just when I think I have found every fact or record available about an ancestor, something catches my eye in a census column that I had not noticed before. According to my records, my great grandmother married in 1868 and her first child was born in 1872. I could not find her in the 1870 census. Subsequent censuses named five children. Then, I found two trees on Ancestry.com, listing her as having two children (George and Mary), born before the five children I knew about. No documentation verified the claims and I couldn’t find any record of the children, so I was skeptical they existed. Finally, I searched the 1870 census page-by-page for the county where I suspected they lived (the same county where they married). I finally found my great grandmother and her husband, along with a one-year-old son named George. So George did exist, but apparently died as a child, because he doesn’t appear on later census records. Mary, however, was never listed on a census. Then one day, while checking my great grandmother’s data on the 1900 census, I read the columns carefully that pertained to her, headed “number of children born” and “number of children living”. The responses were “7” and “5”! Even though I have not found birth, death, or burial data for Mary, I am now inclined to believe that Mary existed. My great-grandmother’s name was Mary. Her only full sibling’s name was George. I may never know more about these children, referred to so slightly in the census records, but apparently they were an important part of my great grandmother’s story. What can you find in your ancestors’ census records, if you read the columns carefully and know what the census taker’s instructions were? To find out, register for the class A Universe of Stories in the U.S. Census on Wednesday, July 24 at 7 p.m. in the Bostwick Room, Chardon Branch.

Cheryl is the GCPL Genealogist. She recommends The Secret of Platform 13 by Eva Ibbotson. She says, “My 8-year-old grandson loves it and so do I.”

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