Consensus on Census


If you are going to research your family history, the consensus among all those who search out genealogy is the U.S. Census is an indispensable resource.

Here’s one example of how the U.S. Census can help quickly and open doors to further family history:

My great-grandfather, Harry C. (Charles) Schofield left Chicago in 1897 on a cattle train to be a cowboy in South Dakota. All precipitated by the estrangement he had from his family in Illinois.

He met Florence (Flossie) Shaul and they had 15 children (including two sets of twins). The last child, Everett, dying a few days after his birth, followed by Flossie a week later. (All of this I obtained from birth and death certificates that I requested from the state of South Dakota.) The year was 1929 and left my g-grandfather as a single parent, But with how many children at home?

I had all the children’s names and birth dates. So, I did some math and based on the birth dates of the 14 remaining children, in 1929 five of the children were ages 18-24. So, probably at least nine of them were left to be taken care of. They were the ages of 2-15 years old. [NOTE: I recommend using MS Excel, as you can copy and paste the year and ages right out of on line and put in a spreadsheet for quick calculations. Also, you can save the file for future reference and updating.]

When you have this type of question, your best and quickest resource is the U.S. Census. The United States has been taking census counts for once / decade for over 130 years. Census info can be reviewed best from 1880, 1890, 1900, 1910, 1920, 1930 and 1940. The 1950 and forward decades’ censuses are not open yet to the public. In general you will find many such documents are not opened to the public until an expected life expectancy is covered. (In other words, they do not want people using the info incorrectly / harmfully for current living people.)

So, I looked at the U.S. Census for 1930, a year after Flossie and Everett had died. [NOTE: I used You can use for free at the Marshall Lyon County Library and the Southwest Minnesota History Center on SMSU campus, Rooms SS#137, 139 & 141.]

And I found the following in the 1930 census:

Harry C. Schofield – head of the household – 50 years old

Richard Schofield – 20 years old

Alfred 16

Albert 16

Edward 14

Joseph 12

Matthew 10

Martin 8

Forrest 6

Myrtle 4 and 3/12, meaning 4 years and 3 months old

Harry H 2 and 6/12 = 2 years and 6 months old.

It was as I expected there were 9 children under the age of 18 living at home. With one child older, Richard age 20. Most likely home to help. But perhaps there was another reason?

So, I continued to the 1940 census to see whom was home. I was expecting to see three children remaining at home that were under 18 years old and perhaps Richard, at age 30?

I found this:

Harry C. Schofield – head of the household – 50 years old

Myrtle 14

Harry 12

As expected there was never another adult female wife for my g-grandfather. He never did remarry, which is what my father had known.

And Richard was gone. So, most likely he had just been home in 1930 to help with the farm and family. (But I will ask my Dad at Easter about his Uncle Richard.After all the computer is great, but real live relatives information should never be overlooked. )

But what was not expected is that I was missing a child, Forrest. He should have been 16 years old and listed in the 1940 census. So, I searched Forrest Andrew Schofield in ancestry. com.

I did not find an on-line death certificate at, but I did find some info in a shared public family tree.

Forrest had died on June 1, 1940 at the age of 16. Prior to the taking of the census obviously. But no further ancestry. com details on his death.

So, the U.S. Census had provided me a new family history breadcrumb trail that I plan to follow. Because finding out family medical history is a priceless treasure of genealogy to be profited by current and future generations of descendents.


One thought on “Consensus on Census

  1. These have been really intriguing posts, Angie. I think almost everybody wants to know more about their family origins, but not everyone knows the best source to start. I love the pointers you have shared in your posts about finding your oldest, closest relative, using the U.S. Census information that is available to the public, and so forth. I am sorry to have heard about the gasoline incident. You are right that uncovering these types of things could lead to decreasing incidents in the future, though.

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