This Is Why You Don't Skip Censuses

by Amy Johnson Crow

Posted on October 11, 2013

It's tempting to skip something like the 1870 census because it doesn't list relationships.  It's also tempting to think, "Oh, I know what's going to be in that record, so why bother looking for it?" The thing about genealogy is that you never know what's going to be in any given record.

Take, as an example, the 1870 census for Fearing Township, Washington County, Ohio. Joseph Palmer went "above and beyond" in his duties as census taker. Throughout the township, he routinely added comments about the people he listed. Sometimes, it was relationships, such as Jacob and Eve Closs, listed as "living with daughter."


Or Adam and Margaret Baker, listed as "living with son in law":


Palmer also made some comments about property. The real and personal property in the Thomas V. Lane household is listed with Patience Lane. Palmer added the note for Thomas, "Property in wife's name."


Palmer also did a bit of editorializing. He found Lorenzo Bartmess's claim of having $1800 in real property to be "doubtful."


This is why you don't want to skip censuses. You never know what you're going to find. 

Amy Johnson Crow is a Genealogical Content Manager for She is a Certified Genealogist and blogs regularly for Roots & Branches, the official blog. Amy has deep roots in the Midwest and Mid-Atlantic states and she has rarely been to a cemetery that she didn't like. 

Find Records Now for Free

Start your free trial today to learn more about your ancestors using our powerful and intuitive search. Cancel any time, no strings attached.

Start free trial