Thursday, February 8, 2018

#52 Ancestors 1880 Census Dennis, Cape Cod, Mass. (Week 5)

My sister and I have a hypothesis that there is a high degree of consanguinity amongst Cape Cod residents in the 1800s. Consanguinity refers to two people having a common ancestor. The more recent the ancestor, the higher degree of consanguinity. We want to prove this idea using the census of the Town of Dennis (Cape Cod) Massachusetts in 1880.  So first we typed in all the names from that census into a spreadsheet.  You can see the sheet here

A quick look shows a list of individuals from #1 to #3292.  But that number is a little bit high. More detailed study shows that the same person was enumerated as #194 and #275 -  Johnathon Howes- listed as a widower and the only member of family #59 and with his daughter and grand-daughter in family #77.  A little later under person #959 we see Allen Frank listed. But the enumerator got his name backwards.  He is really Franklin L. Allen and is counted again as #1270 son of James Allen. Emily B Small #984 is the same person as  #1076 where she is daughter of Alvin Small.  #1161 Ferdinand Williams Baker is duplicated as is his brother #1162. James Roderick Baker #1805 (listed as James K Baker) so you can see that census details are not always dependable.  We did a lot of work to try to include people’s full names in our census spreadsheet.  George M Whelden and brother William Magnum Whelden are also counted twice as #1204&2606, #1332 & 1673. George Biron Nickerson is duplicated as is his wife Sarah Swift (Whelden) Nickerson #1333.  You will notice we have included Sarah’s maiden name.  The information about maiden names is not in the census and must be derived at great effort by the genealogist. Their daughter Anna M Nickerson is also duplicated as #1334. Ruthie P (Overton) Kelley #1273 is also enumerated as #1378.  The three members of the Van Buren Chase family are counted twice #2217. Amos and Lydia (Crowell) Crowell are #1650, 1651 and #1900, 1901. 
In addition to duplication, the census taker often took liberty with spelling. The name Howes was often spelled House.  Kelley spelled as Kelly. Harward spelled as Howard.  Bearse as Birs. Patterson as Peterson. Joy as Jorg. Eldredge as Eldrey. Long as Lang. Barstow and Barston. Small as Smalley.  Then there is Edward B Phillips who is enumerated as Phillip Edward, family name and given name were swapped.  Whittemore was recorded as Whitman. Megathlen as Nigathline. William Alister is listed as Alister William.

My sister and I entered all these people into an Ancestry tree ( and then we started tracking down their ancestors.  We had already collected a lot of this ancestral information because of our work on the Sears family which is heavily concentrated in Dennis.  Then we wrote a computer program to compare each person in the 1880 Dennis census with every other person in the census to see if they had a common ancestor- i.e. they were cousins.  Remarkable!  So for example, my great-grandfather Elkanah Howes Sears is a cousin to 1,367 people (over 40% of those in town are his cousins!) The "most related" person at our current analyis is Mercy Baker - a baby when the census taker stopped by- daughter of Wilbur Cornelius Baker (1856-1898) and Mercy Ella Baker(1857-?) [yes Mercy Ella was also a Baker] who is related to 2,355 townfolks - 71% - Has little Mercy got a few cousins or what?

We have a map of the residences of people in town in the 1880s and one point of interest is that the enumerator did not collect the information house by house, street by street. The order of the people in the census is not the same as the order of their houses on the street.  He often skipped houses, maybe to come back later.  Or maybe he just wrote down the information from memory to save a lot of walking around town?

All this goes to show a great deal of information can be gleaned from the census not just from neighbors close by but from the analysis of the whole town. Enjoy your search of the census!

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