Sunday, March 3, 2013

Census Sunday: Where I came to my senses

Census, senses. I wrote a quick post after a quick look at a census a little while ago (see 
Workday Wednesday: Doll house work in the 1880s?).  But I jumped to the wrong conclusions. As reader Wendy pointed out in her comment, it doesn’t say “doll house work”, it says “does house work”.  I went back to do a little more research after the post and noted that there were about five women between the ages of 17 and 73 on that page and the next that appeared to have the same occupation but I still misunderstood what it said. There were other entries where women were noted to be “keeping house” so I assumed that these five women were doing something else. In these instances, though, the women that “did housework” as opposed to “keeping house” were not the primary women of the household nor were any of them the wife of the head of household.  I made a chart in OneNote showing this:

House #257
Fanny Maxson, age 22, married but living with her father William Langworthy
House #260
Louisa Champlin, age 32, living with her mother Mrs. Sarah Champlin
House #266
Charlotte Jackson, age 22, living with father-in-law Thomas Jackson
House #267
Emma Mills, age 17, living with uncle Edward Percival
House #274
Luraney Trowbridge, age 73, living with brother-in-law Harlow Hopkins

It wasn’t until I used OneNote to clip a screenshot of the actual census entry for each of the households that I noticed that the word I mistook for “doll” was “does”. It was an easy mistake and I meant no harm by it, but it certainly could perpetuate an inaccuracy.

1880 U.S. Census, Portville, Cattaraugus Co, NY, p. 69
(A big thank-you to fellow blogger Heather Kuhn Roelker for sharing the snipping tool tip with me so I could share this image on my blog!)

This example of misinterpretation can also serve as a caution to history researchers, though. Be careful how you interpret things! Because I have an interest in dollhouses, that’s the first conclusion I came to. As historical researchers, even those just “dabbling” in family history, we have to make sure that we are interpreting history correctly. We may think we are just pointing out the facts, but historical research is more than that.

I quote Mark Flowers on his blog post The Uses of History regarding Davidson and Lytle’s book, After the Fact: The Art of Historical Detection (which I highly recommend)

“the purpose of their book is to show that history is not simply ‘what happened in the past.’ Instead, in Davidson and Lytle’s view, history is an active process of selecting evidence, analyzing documents, using a variety of political theories, and more. The purpose of a good historical work, then, is not to simply convey the exact facts of everything that happened in the past, but to provide a framework and theory for understanding how and why those things happened.”
South Colonnade, arches and statues by Henry Hering. Statue representing Research, with magnifying glass, and a statue representing Record, woman holding a book. Overview of south arch on the second floor area. Field Museum of Natural History interior. 1922.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Sibling Saturday: The Ties That Bind

I checked out the most recent daily blogging prompts from GeneaBloggers and found some new ones to work with. I was particularly excited about Sibling Saturday and noted the relevance of it for what’s going on in my life right now.

I am visiting my sister in Michigan to help with family events going on right now. For one, my great-nephew (my sister’s grandson) just welcomed his new baby brother into the world on Tuesday. He is enamored with him and doesn’t want to go anywhere without "his baby." His parents are very happy that this five-year-old is so taken with his new sibling and shows no jealousy at all. (I say props to the parents for doing a nice job of being mindful in the raising of their children).

Last year, my sister had my mother and my brother move in her to help care for them. My mother had a stroke some 20+ years ago. She successfully lived on her own for a number of years, but her strength no longer allows her to live without assistance. My brother has Down’s Syndrome and also cannot live alone. My niece commented that while I am visiting, my mother has all of her children under one roof. I am so glad this works.

I am the product of a second marriage for both my parents and my youngest brother Bryant (the one with Down’s Syndrome) is my only full sibling. I have one half-sister from my mother (with whom I am staying with) and a half-sister and half-brother from my father. I spent the majority of time growing up with my youngest brother, but at various times, my other siblings were around. My mother’s first daughter is thirteen years older than I am and left home to be married when I was five. My father’s first children were raised by their mother for the most part, although they stayed with us from time to time.

While going through old photos here at my sister’s, I found a rare one of me and both of my brothers as we’re waiting for the school bus.  

Our siblings. They resemble us just enough to make all their differences confusing, and no matter what we choose to make of this, we are cast in relation to them our whole lives long.
--Susan Scarf Merrell