29 June 2014

Tracking someone through the census records

One way to track a person or family through their years is through the US Census records. In this particular example, Chrispin Pierson Van Horn will be tracked.  

First begin with what you know. For example, Chrispin was born 21 September 1839 and passed on 09 February 1902. He is buried at the Old Doe Run Presbyterian Cemetery in East Fallowfield Township with his wife Maria Rice. 

1850 (at right)
Chrispin lived with his parents, George and Jane Van Horn, as well as his seven year old brother Franklin, five year old Martha E., and two year old Joanna. A 30 year old team driver named Samuel Tyler also lived with the family. They lived in Kensington in Philadelphia. George was a lawyer. The family was all born in Pennsylvania.

George and Jane Van Horn, Chrispin and his two sisters and two brothers now show up in Valley Township, Chester County. He was 20 years old then. Chrispin, his 45 year old father and 17 year old brother Benjamin were farmers. His mother Jane was 47. Sister Martha E. was 14. His other sister Joanna was 10 and his brother William was eight. Everyone was born in Pennsylvania. The Census also reveals that George owned the land. Did George retire from the legal field and move the family out to farm in Chester County? 

Sometimes census records can add more questions. By 1870, Chrispin, now 30, is married to Maria B., age 27. They have three young children: six year old Sarah J., four year old Thomas A., and 1 year old Mary A. His wife Mary and eldest daughter Sarah (whose middle name, by the way, is Jennie) were born in Pennsylvania. This census confirms he was born in Pennsylvania as well (this agrees with the 1860 census). Thomas and daughter Mary (who later by the way will be referred to often by her middle name Alice) were born in Delaware! He does not own property at this time and the family is living in Solebury Township, Bucks County. The Post Office is New Hope. 

Chrispin shows up in 1880 on East Dauphin Street in Philadelphia. This is the one I question. Yes, this census shows he is 40 and his wife Maria is 40. Their daughter, Jennie, is 15. The ages are close enough to be correct and the names are certainly correct. But what happened to Thomas? He would be 14 at this time. And where is Mary Alice? She would only be 11. I know from other resources that Chrispin and Maria do have six children all total. Lott was born in 1870 and died the following year. Eliza Mae was born in 1872 and passed the following year. Anna Louise was born in 1876. She lived until 1879. hence, none of those three would actually appear by name on any census. 

Living with Chrispin, Maria and Jennie are also four other people. They are a 20 year old step son Joseph N. Bayles and a 16 year old step son John F. Bayles. Was Maria married prior to her marriage with Chrispin? Chrispin’s sister-in-law Matilda Borden (age 34) and 16 year old niece, Harriet Borden, also live with them.  

What throws me is Chrispin’s occupation. In 1860 he was a farmer. In 1870 he was a lawyer. This makes sense. The first he was on the family farm. The latter, 10 years had passed, he was schooled and became a lawyer. However, in 1880, he lists his occupation as a stone mason. What could possibly happen to make such a drastic career change? 

The 1900 Census has 61 year old Chrispin and 33 year old Thomas living in East Fallowfield Township, Chester County. Maria has passed as Chrispin is listed as a widower. The census does reveal that the two were married in 1861 and were married for 39 years.  

Chrispin died 9 February 1902. Using only the census records, he has been a farmer, a lawyer and a stone mason. He has lived in Philadelphia, Bucks and Chester Counties. The information found on the census records can now be used to confirm (or cancel out) other information in order to get the full picture.
Locations listed are located in Pennsylvania (USA), unless otherwise noted in post.