Census Records

One Household: 2 Adults, 10 Children …

… and those 10 children the offspring of 3 separate (but related!) marital pairs.

I’ve written about this before (see, for example, “Blended Families”): the blended family is nothing new. When a widower married a widow, and one or both parties to the marriage had children from a previous marriage, the resulting new household might contain a complex combination of children from two or three marital pairs. That complexity was not necessarily registered in the census returns.

In some (many?) cases, the widow’s children from her previous marriage will be listed in the census under the surname of her new husband (the children’s stepfather), even though legally, and often practically as well, those children carried the surname of their biological father.

Moreover, since a widower’s children from a first marriage carried the same surname as his children from a subsequent marriage, the census listing will generally not (as in, almost never) distinguish between the children produced by a first marriage and the children produced by a subsequent conjugal relationship.

Here, for example (and I am taking my census geekitude to a new level with a colour-coded representation), is the household of George Vallely and his second wife Mary Moyle in the 1861 Census of Canada:

vallely_george 1861 census

Geo Vallillee [George Vallely] household, 1861 Census of Canada East (Quebec), Pontiac County, Bristol, p. 56, lines 10-21.

The first four children (the “greens”) are the children of George Vallely and his first wife wife Anne O’Hanlon. The next four children (the “blues”) are the children of George Vallely’s second wife Mary Moyle and her first husband John Bean. But note that they are listed here with the surname Vallillee (Vallely), even though their surname was Bean. And to further complicate matters (well, whoever said genealogy was supposed to be easy peasy and trouble-free?), the surname Bean was sometimes later rendered as McBane  The final two children in this census listing (the “yellows”) are the offspring of the widower George Vallely and the widow Mary Moyle.

So the “greens” were the half-siblings of the “yellows” (they had the same father: George Vallely). And the “blues” were the half-siblings of the “yellows” (they had the same mother: Mary Moyle). But the “greens” and the “blues” were not blood relations at all: they were related only by marriage.

Well, “only by marriage.” The above-listed children of the the three marriages (George Valley to Anne O’Hanlon; John Bean to Mary Moyle; Mary Moyle to George Vallely) were all Roman Catholics, and according to Catholic canon law, they were all related by affinity. It was forbidden for Edward Vallely (son of George Vallely and Anne O’Hanlon), say, to marry Jane Bean (daughter of John Bean and Mary Moyle), say, even though they had no blood relation at all, because one of Edward Vallely’s parents (his father, George Vallely) had married one of Jane Bean’s parents (her mother, Mary Moyle).

In sum: I think it’s fair to assume that the Canadian census returns will not adequately capture the nuances of Roman Catholic canon law. Also: don’t assume that every child given the same surname in a census return is the offspring of the same marriage.

1842 Census of Canada East (Quebec)

The 1842 Census of Canada East (Quebec) is available at ancestry.ca (subscription-only), but also at FamilySearch (free of charge). At FamilySearch, the database is titled Canada, Lower Canada Census, 1842. At both sites (and it appears that FamilySearch is the source of ancestry’s census database), the census is searchable by name, and the search engine seems fairly powerful — capable of handling variant surname spellings, that is.

A No-Name in the Nominal Census

1921 Census of Canada

In my previous entry, I noted that you are generally not going to find married women’s maiden names in the Canadian census returns. And even well into the twentieth century, you will occasionally find a census listing where a married woman was enumerated but not named at all.

Here’s an example, from the 1921 Census of Canada, where a married woman was enumerated but not named:

Alexander Moran household, 1921 census of Canada, Ontario, Ottawa St Georges Ward, p. 3, lines 33-36.

Alexander Moran household, 1921 census of Canada, Ontario, Ottawa St Georges Ward, p. 3, lines 33-36.

The above shows the household of Alexander Michael Moran and Anna (“Annie”) Maria Benton, with their two sons Allan Jerome Moran and Orville Alexander Moran. And for some reason (I guess the enumerator forgot to record her name?), there is a blank where the name of Wife Anna (“Annie”) should be, though the birth places of her parents (Ireland), and her religion (R.C., for Roman Catholic), have been duly recorded.

And by the way, there is an error in the recorded birthplaces of Alexander Michael Moran’s parents, both of whom were given the birthplace of Ireland in the 1921 census. While his mother was certainly born in Ireland (County Longford), his father was just as certainly born in Canada (Huntley township, Carleton County).

The census is one of the most important sources of genealogical information for any family history researcher. It is absolutely indispensable. But always remember that the census return is only as accurate as the accuracy of the information that was supplied, and that was recorded. In the enumeration and recording of information for any given census return, there were numerous opportunities for mistakes, misunderstandings, faulty assumptions, and sometimes just plain laziness. Always check the information found in a census return against the information found in other sources (civil records, church records, city and county directories, headstones, obituaries, and so on).

Canadian Census Quirk: Married Women’s Maiden Names

A Scottish quirk?

For the most part, you are not going to find married women’s maiden names in the Canadian census returns (nor in the English or US census returns either, for that matter). Census enumerators were neither required nor expected to record married women’s maiden names; not surprisingly, most of them did not do so.

But occasionally (very occasionally indeed), you will find a census enumeration where the enumerator did record the maiden names of married women. A useful quirk, from the perspective of the genealogist, and a bit of a research bonus if you’re lucky enough to find such an emumeration.

From the 1861 enumeration of the Township of Algona in Renfrew County, here, for example, is the household of Cornelius Harrington, who is listed along with his wife Margaret Ryan (here spelled “Reyan”), his sister-in-law Johanna Ryan, and his children Michael and Bridget:

Cornelius Harrington household, 1861 census of Canada West (Ontario), Renfrew County, Algona, p. 1, lines 39-43.

Cornelius Harrington household, 1861 census of Canada West (Ontario), Renfrew County, Algona, p. 1, lines 39-43.

That “U C” — for the birthplace of Michael and Bridget Harrington — stands for Upper Canada. The “R C” of course stands for Roman Catholic.

My guess is that this census enumerator was Scottish (and I suppose I could look this up, but for now I’ll leave it as a guess). In Scotland, it was customary to call a married woman by her maiden name even after marriage. To be sure, most Scottish or Scottish-Canadian enumerators of the Canadian census followed the English practice (which was what they were instructed to do, after all) of listing married women by their husband’s surnames (which was a married woman’s legal surname, of course). But in the only other example I have seen of an enumerator of the Canadian census listing married women by maiden names, that enumerator was Scottish.

Pre-1901 Irish Census Records Online

First, the bad news (not that it’s news: if you’ve been pursuing Irish genealogy at a level beyond that of absolute beginner, you already know about the sad loss of the nineteenth-century Irish census returns):

There are no surviving census returns for 1891, 1881, 1871, and 1861. And there are very, very few surviving census returns for 1851, 1841, 1831, and 1821.

Yes, I know: it is to weep. John Grenham explains the sorry situation at his Irish Roots column.

And now for a bit of good news (and this really is a new and welcome development):

The surviving pre-1901 census records (and to reiterate: most pre-1901 Irish census returns did not survive) are now available online, and free of charge, at the National Archives of Ireland’s website (census.nationalarchives.ie).

Shaun O’Connor at Ottawa Family Tree has a nice post on the topic, with a summary of what’s available.

Scarlet fever deaths in March Township, 1870-1871

You know you’re a census geek when you find yourself reading the “Nominal Return(s) of Deaths” from the Canadian census returns.

The “Nominal Return of the Deaths within the last twelve months” (1871 Census of Canada, Ontario, Carleton County, Township of March) for the Township of March records twenty deaths in the township for the period roughly covering April 1870 to April 1871 (census enumeration officially began on 2 April, 1871, and the schedule of deaths was to cover the past twelve months).

Of these twenty recorded deaths, I count three adults, and seventeen children.

I am counting James “Houricane” [= James Hourigan, son of Thomas Hourigan and Mary Moran] as an adult, though he was only eighteen years of age when he died, in October 1870, apparently of “Inflammation on the Lungs.” In oral family history, as recorded, for example, by Peter Alexander (“Alec”) Lunney (see “‘My Maternal Ancestors,’ by Alec Lunney”), James Hourigan’s death has been attributed to the Great Fire of 1870. While his death did not occur on the night (the night of August 17, 1870, that is) of the Great Fire, perhaps his “Inflammation on the Lungs” was a result of injuries sustained through exposure to the fire? Or did James Hourigan’s untimely death, coming so soon after the dramatic event of the Great Fire, get mixed in with accounts of the fire, so that it was (mistakenly or confusedly) handed down as a result of that fire, when it was the result of some other cause entirely?

Three of the deaths (one adult, with two of his children) were undoubtedly the tragic result of the Great Fire of 1870. John Hogan, aged 35, and his sons John (aged 9) and Richard (aged two months) were “Burnt to death on the night of the great fire of the 17 of August.” A ghastly incident. I’m sure I have come across an account of John Hogan’s desperate, and unsuccessful, attempt to save his two young sons — in a local history, perhaps? At the moment, I cannot remember where.

In addition to James Hourigan and John Hogan, the other adult death was that of Mary Williams, who died of “Dropsy” in June 1870, at the age of 33. 1

Nominal return of deaths in March township

Nominal return of deaths in March township

So: three adult deaths, at least one of them the result of Great Fire of 1870 (but possibly two, if James Hourigan’s “Inflammation on the Lungs” was fire-related), and two childhood deaths also the horrible outcome of that fire. The remaining fifteen deaths were those of children, several of them infants, and most of them very young.

A Michael (here given as “Michel”) Moran died of “infantile debility” at the age of one month (no connection to my Morans of Huntley Township that I know of, by the way).

At least eight of the children died of scarlet fever (or “Scarlet Feaver,” as written above). And some of the deaths are not attributed to any recorded cause: for “Disease, or other cause of Death,” there is just a blank, with no information supplied. But some of these blanks immediately follow upon ditto marks for the cause of “Scarlet Feaver” — perhaps more ditto marks were implied, so that even more of the deaths were the result of scarlet fever? In any case, of the fifteen childhood deaths that can presumably be attributed to childhood illness (and not to the dreadful calamity of the Great Fire), over half (at least eight) were reportedly the result of scarlet fever.

Scarlet fever (a highly contagious bacterial infection) was once a horrible scourge, but thankfully is no longer: “once a very serious childhood disease,” it is now “easily treatable” by antibiotics.

So many childhood illnesses that used to run rampant, unchallenged and unchecked, through villages and towns and communities, and carry off too many infants and children in their wake: now readily treated, or easily prevented through vaccination.

  1. On “dropsy” (= excess fluid buildup) as a “symptom rather than a cause of a disease,” see “Dropsy, and Researching Other Archaic Medical Terms” at Kim Smith’s Dead and Gone.

Aside

Ancestry.ca is currently reporting “11 days til’ 1921!” I take it this means 11 days until the 1921 Census is indexed and searchable by name.

The 1921 Census of Canada

is finally available, though not yet indexed by name.

It is now available free of charge at ancestry.ca (but without index by name, so you need to know where your ancestors lived in order to readily find them). According  to John Reid of Anglo-Celtic Connections (who always has the latest scoop on anything related to the LAC), it will be available at ancestry.ca with “a geographic index only,” but “Ancestry [ancestry.ca] is working on a name index to be available to their subscribers this fall, and made freely through LAC after three years.”