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Census Records Can Teach Us About Our Ancestors' Naming Patterns, Continued...
Published: 09 April 2010
By: Shirley Gage Hodges   Biography & Archived Articles


In my last article, I promised to explore some of the ways that we can learn more about our ancestor's naming patterns using census.

You sometimes have to wonder what people were thinking when they named their children.

I found "Evil Blessing" in Butler Co., Ohio.

(Census Year: 1800; Middletown, Ward 2, Butler Co., Ohio; Roll: T623_1244; Pg: 1B; ED: 20.)

I found it even more amazing that in the 1900 census there were 53 Evils in the index.

I found it interesting to discover that some people even named their children after elements. There were 8 individuals in the 1880 census named Carbon.

Names were often handed down, too, so you might see an extended family tree with a Christopher Columbus Jones found in each of three or four consecutive generations. I found 7 people in the 1850 census with the name of Christopher Columbus.

If you have an unusual surname it can be very helpful when you are doing census research. Unfortunately, it can sometimes also be like the "Irish Blessings and Curses".

By my estimates, any very unusual surname is likely to appear less than 300 times in the census Indexes. It sometimes becomes necessary to check out every occurrence of the name in that database. You can then enter these into your own software and attempt to figure out how each one fits into your family. The information extracted from these records can provide clues that can be valuable for further research into the surname.

On the negative side of this we have to accept that these surnames are so unusual that the enumerator who recorded them for the census may have been unfamiliar with them. They may have misspelled them, perhaps even changing them into other surnames that they were more familiar with. Because of this, it is a good idea to use Soundex searches, when available, to help locate spelling variations of these names.

When I searched for the surname Crisher on Ancestry.com I found the following number of occurrences:

1     1790 United States Federal Census
1     1810 United States Federal Census
2     1840 United States Federal Census
22     1850 United States Federal Census
33     1860 United States Federal Census
23     1870 United States Federal Census
46     1880 United States Federal Census
32     1900 United States Federal Census
50     1910 United States Federal Census
31     1920 United States Federal Census

If you think numbering your children instead of giving them names would be original, forget it. Back in 1835, there was a colonel Benjamin Stickney who led a contingent of the Ohio militia against Michigan troopers in the Toledo War. That he was captured is not historically note-worthy except it did bring to light he had a son Two who was also nabbed. His eldest son, One Stickney, was not involved in the battle. Alas, there was no Three Stickney.

I found "One Stickney" in the 1840 Census.


(Year: 1840; Lucas, Ohio; Roll: 410; Page: 257.)


I found "Two Stickney" in the 1850 Census.


(Census Year: 1850; Manhattan, Lucas, Ohio; Roll: M432_706; Page: 80; Image: 161.)


I found the entry on the 1880 census for the Jacob Banks family very interesting. You will notice that the last three children on the record were named "Seventeen", "Eighteen" and "Nineteen".


(Census Year: Year: 1880; Census Place: Precinct 3, Lamar, Texas; Roll: T9_1314;
Family History Film: 1255314; Page: 122; ED: 77.)


In the 1870 census in the same location there was only one other child listed; Ellen who was 15. I did not find this family in the 1860 census. It is possible that with Jacob being 20 years older than Susan that he could have been married before and had other children by that marriage.

In the next article I will discuss the type of information that we find in census records about our ancestors' occupations.


Until next time :)

Shirley Hodges, biography & genealogy lectures; email: genealogyshirl@hotmail.com


Editor's Note: Shirley Hodges is the author of the popular Guide to United States Census, 1790-1930





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