Southern California Genealogical Society

Point of View - State Censuses Fill the Gaps
By Jean Chapman Snow

I know from Bible records that my great-grandfather's older half-brother, Jabez, was three when the family moved to Otsego, New York, about 1799. But it wasn't until 1820, when 23-year-old Jabez became head of household himself, that his name appears in a census record.

Here's how I gained much insight into his life by filling the gaps between federal censuses with New York state censuses and other data.

1820 U.S. Census
In the 1820 census, I found Jabez Chapman, listed with "2M 16-18, 1F 16-26." That is, two males age 16 to 18, and one female 16 to 26. The female would be his wife, Olive. The two males are too old to be his sons. My guess is, both were helpers.

Jabez, like his father, grandfather and great-grandfather, was a blacksmith. I found an 1829 ad he placed in the local paper: "WANTED a journeyman blacksmith, one who is a good workman and a man of steady habits. . . ." So as early as 1820, he must have employed helpers who lived with the family and thus would be counted as members of his household.

1825 New York Census
The listing in this state census was:
Jabez, 2M 18-25, 1F under 45 (Olive) and 1F under 16
From federal censuses, I’d guesstimated daughter Ann’s birth year as 1826, but I’m sure this female is baby Ann, born in 1825.

1830 U.S. Census
The information in the federal census this year showed:
Jabez (who was now 34), 2M 15-20, and 1M under 5. 1F 5-10, 1F 30-40.
Son Charles was born about 1827, but Olive was really 28.

1835 New York Census
Unfortunately, this census has been lost both at the county level and in a fire at the New York State Capitol

1840 U.S. Census
Jabez, 1M 10-15 (Charles) 1M 15-20, 1M 20-30, 1F 15-20 (Ann), 1F 30-40 (Olive), 1F 60-70!
This older woman is a new person in the household. Olive’s mother? I know Jabez’s mother died before 1812, when his father remarried.

1845 New York Census
This census was lost with the 1835.

1850 U.S. Census
All the members of the household are named and their ages are given. Jabez, now 53, has moved some 20 miles from Cooperstown to Hartwick, and is now an innkeeper; his real estate is worth $1,500. Olive is 50, Ann Eliza, 24 (next year she’ll marry Philip Northrup, also of Hart-wick). Charles, in his own household, is a merchant in Cooperstown.

1855 New York Census
The state census, like the federal one, now shows names and relationships. Jabez and Olive have lived in Hartwick ten years, so they must have moved there about 1845. Jabez’s hotel, a frame house, is worth $800. (Its value has dropped $700 in five years?)

1860 U.S. Census
Surprise! Jabez and Olive are not in Hartwick any more. I find them about 70 miles away in Troy, in Renss-elaer County. What in the world are they doing there? He's a blacksmith again, at 64, living in what appears to be a boarding house. Why a move to Troy? I learn from both Spafford and French that Troy had extensive iron manufacturing -railroad iron, stoves, firearms, agricultural implements - employing 2,500 men, with 43 blacksmith shops. Maybe Jabez felt blacksmithing in Troy offered more income than a hotel in Hartwick.

Could his 1860 appearance in Troy be to seek greener pastures? A deed index shows Jabez sold property in 1843 and 1855. I'll order them.

1865 New York Census
I can't find Jabez! He's not in Troy. I searched the entire ten Wards (French gives an 1864 population of some 33,000 Gulp!). No Jabez. He was not in Hartwick. With Ann? Charles? More research needed.

1870 U.S. Census
Jabez and Olive are back in Hartwick. Now he's a gardener. Maybe he sold the hotel before he’d moved to Troy? Maybe that 1855 deed was to sell the hotel?

1875 New York Census
Jabez, 78, and Olive, 74, are still in Hartwick. His wood house is now worth $1,500, so perhaps he did make good money in Troy. The page of Agricultural Statistics shows him with one acre of improved land and $50 worth of stock. A cow? A horse? And a building other than a dwelling worth $200. A barn? Can I find what a horse was worth in 1875? Probably.

1880 U.S. Census
Jabez, now 84, is in Girard, Erie County, Penn., with his widowed daughter, Anne Northrup. I found them using the 1880 CDs. Since I know Olive was alive in 1875, I need to search only five years to find her death.

I find an interview with Jabez on his 99th birthday in a clipping from a Cooperstown newspaper (in my possession), copied from the Girard paper. How much longer would Jabez live? I wrote the Erie County Clerk to inquire if they had a death certificate for him. They did, and a burial record! He died 24 Jan. 1897 at 100 years, 3 months, 16 days.

So is it worth checking state censuses? You bet! Add that data to your birth, marriage and death records, deeds, city directories, newspaper articles and gazetteers. If your research state took a census, you may hit gold.

You’re not sure whether the state you’re researching in had a state census? Ann S. Lainhart's "State Census Records" is an excellent resource.

"No state or territorial census,” she writes, " appears to be extant for Connecticut, Idaho, Kentucky, Montana, New Hampshire, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Vermont, and many of these ‘in-betweens’ are not extant for every county or year."

Be sure to check the Family History Library, your state library, and any special libraries or repositories, as there are often differences. Example: though the New York State Library had collected all the state censuses, a 1911 fire burned most. Some may be found at the local county clerk’s office or a Family History Center.

Florence Clint’s “New York Area Key” has helpful tables showing the holdings of both New York State and Family History Libraries. Clint also includes census extraction forms.

Is Pennsylvania your area? Check out her “Pennsylvania Area Key,” a thorough job. Our SCGS library also owns the “Ohio and Colorado Area Keys,” by C. W. Flavell.

For census extraction forms created by Gary Minder from 1790 on, visit his Web site at With my slow Internet connection I haven’t yet tried to download his Excel format forms, but I will.

You don’t have Excel (as I do not)? You can download a free MS Excel Viewer, which allows you to copy and print the forms. Minder requests a modest $10 (honor system) fee if you’ve downloaded or received any of his spreadsheets and found them useful. Sounds reasonable to me!

Are you stymied by the heartbreaking loss of the 1890 census? Note that many states or territories took a census in 1885, 1892, or 1895 which may fill that 20-year gap: 1885 for Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Kansas, Nebraska, New Jersey, New Mexico and Wisconsin; 1895 for Florida, Iowa, Kansas, New Jersey, Wisconsin; and 1892 for New York. Put all your findings together, then don your thinking cap. Are you intuitive like Miss Jane Marple or analytical like Hercule Poirot? Both methods work!

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