The census – a dismal science used to put flesh on the bones.


The Rosenberg Library

The United States Census is a decennial census mandated by the United States Constitution. Originally designed to allocate representation it has been expanded to cover a host of ideas, some good, many bad and most superfluous to the original intent – in other words it almost perfectly mirrors the American polity. Much of the information in this blog starts with facts gleaned from a census entry. Margaret Edythe Young’s father immigrated in 1869 and we trace him from the passenger list to the 1870 census forward for most of the next 70 years and explore his family – including Margaret Edythe – from that starting point.

The census has never been a simple thing. The first census in 1790 wanted the following information:

  1. County / City / Names of Heads of Families
  2. Free White males of 16 years and upwards, including heads of families.
  3. Free White males under 16 years.
  4. Free White females including heads of families.
  5. All other free persons.
  6. Slaves

All of that is fairly straightforward and would certainly fulfill the mandate for apportioning representation.

Since it is the first one that concerns our subject let us jump forward to the 1870 census. By now the government wants to know:

  1. The name of every person whose place of abode on the first day of June 1870 was in this family
  2. Age at last birthday – if born within the year state month
  3. M – male – F – female
  4. Color – [w] White [b] Black [m] Mulatto [c] Chinese [i] Indian[American]
  5. Profession, occupation of trade of each male person over 15 years of age
  6. Value of real estate
  7. Value of personal estate
  8. Place of birth naming the state, territory or country
  9. Father of foreign birth
  10. Mother of foreign birth
  11. If married within the year state month
  12. Attended school within the year
  13. Cannot read
  14. Cannot write
  15. Whether deaf and dumb, blind, insane, idiotic, pauper or convict.
  16. Male citizens of the U. S. of 21 years of age and upwards.
  17. Male citizens of the U. S. of 21 years of age and upwards where rights to vote is denied on other grounds than rebellion or other crime.

What a difference 120 years makes. In fairness to the rights of privacy inquiries regarding profession, and whether or not they could read or write were not to be asked of infants and inquiries from “father foreign born” forward are to be answered [if at all] merely by an affirmative mark, as “/”.

Of course the true tragedy is that the citizens of Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Tennessee, Alabama, Mississippi, Arkansas, Louisiana and Texas were effectively denied the vote and would be until 1876 when presidential politics made it convenient to have their votes counted – and by which time the worst excesses of “reconstruction” had raised the possibility of a second civil war to the level that minor skirmishes were already occurring. Apparently the 13th, 14th and 15th amendments were never meant to apply to “ordinary” citizens.

Galveston Government Offices

Just as there was a cultural counter revolution after the War for Independence by 1880 the War between the States had abated. Society had begun to reshape itself, driven by market forces, as it always must if it is to survive. The census again expanded its quest for data and wanted to know:

  1. Name of the street and number of the house
  2. The name of every person whose place of abode on the first day of June 1880 was in this family
  3. Color – [w] White [b] Black [m] Mulatto [c] Chinese [i] Indian
  4. M – male – F – female
  5. Age at last birthday – if born within the year state month
  6. Relationship of each person to the head of this family – whether wife, son, daughter, servant, boarder or other.
  7. Single, Married, Widowed/Divorced, Married during census year
  8. Profession, occupation of trade of each person male or female
  9. Number of months this person has been unemployed during the census year
  10. Is the person sick, or temporarily disabled, so as to be unable to attend to ordinary business or duties? If so, what is the sickness or disability?
  11. Blind, Deaf & Dumb, Idiotic, Insane, Maimed, crippled, bedridden, or otherwise disabled?
  12. Attended school within the census year, Cannot read, Cannot write
  13. Place of birth of this person naming the state, territory of the United States or the country if of foreign birth
  14. Place of birth of the father this person naming the state, territory of the United States or the country if of foreign birth
  15. Place of birth of the mother this person naming the state, territory of the United States or the country if of foreign birth

This is the first census that finds the Young family in Galveston but since none of the children who will figure in our narrative had been born yet we will not include its particulars here.

The original data for the 1890 Census is no longer available. Almost all the population schedules were damaged in a fire in the basement of the Commerce Building in Washington, D.C. in 1921. Some 25% of the materials were destroyed and another 50% damaged by smoke and water.  In December 1932, following standard Federal record-keeping procedures, the Chief Clerk of the Bureau of the Census sent the Librarian of Congress a list of papers to be destroyed, including the original 1890 census schedules. The Librarian was asked by the Bureau to identify any records which should be retained for historical purposes, but the Librarian did not accept the census records. Congress authorized destruction of that list of records on February 21, 1933, and the surviving original 1890 census records were destroyed by government order by 1934 or 1935.

What we do have are the questions asked. The race questions were expanded to include the categories of,  white, black, mulatto, quadroon, octoroon, Chinese, Japanese, or Indian [American], reflecting an increasing racial awareness and questions that covered  the place of birth of person, and their father and mother,  if foreign-born, number of years in US, whether naturalized and whether papers have been taken out reflecting an increasing nationalism. Prehaps the most startling change to what it now meant to be an “American” were the questions about whether a soldier, sailor or marine (Union or Confederate) during Civil War, or widow of such person recognizing, if only implicitly, that members of the Confederacy – or at least of the former Confederacy – were in fact citizens and might have rights as such.

The most amazing thing about the 1890 census was not that it proved the disappearance of the American frontier – that is a very amorphous thing that still pokes it head up here in Alaska and there on the moon throughout the 20th century and still lives in the hearts of all real Americans and will endure so long as there is liberty – but its methodology. Data was entered on a punch cards, and tabulated by machine. This technology reduced the time required to tabulate the census from the eight years needed for the 1880 census to one year for the 1890 census. The total population of 62,000,000 was announced after only six weeks. The public reaction was incredulity, as it was widely believed that there  were at least 75,000,000 people in the country. No account of hanging chads was given and although the results were off by nearly 20% from the projection no recount was made and no verification of the methodology was sought – a more cynical person than I would wonder why the records were destroyed.

Customs House

The 1900, 1910 and 1920 censuses are at the heart of this story. All of the people are there, all of the locations are there and by looking at the data presented more than a few things are evident about the world they lived in – both how much alike ours it was and how different – and a few odds and ends that lend humanity to what is otherwise very little more than something like a glorified phone book.

The 1900 census had expanded to 28 questions with some of the new ones trying to establish family data like:

  • Number of years of present marriage
  • Mother of how many children
  • Number of these children living

and the education questions had been expanded to include, “Can speak English”. There were also detailed questions about home ownership including:

  • Owned or rented
  • Owned free or mortgaged
  • Farm or house
  • Number of farm schedule

Interestingly the “race” question had dropped the multiple categories and only wanted to know “Color or Race”.

The 1900 census gives us a picture of the Young household weeks before the 1900 Storm struck and it looked like this:

Name:     Jno Young
Home in 1900:     Galveston Ward 7, Galveston, Texas
[Galveston, Galveston, Texas]
Age:     48
Birth Date:     Feb 1852
Birthplace:     England
Race:     White
Gender:     Male
Immigration Year:     1870
Relationship to head-of-house:     Head
Father’s Birthplace:     England
Mother’s Birthplace:     England
Spouse’s Name:     Mary Young
Marriage year:     1876
Marital Status:     Married
Years married:     24

Household Members:
Name     Age
Jno Young     48
Mary Young     40
Jno W Young     17
Edith Young     15
Irene Young     7
Julius Mimms     17
Celsus Brown     17
Annie Gibson     21

A few of the interesting things that catch our eye are that 31 years after he came over steerage from Ireland his census record shows that he had been transformed into what Joyce called a “west Briton” who now showed his antecedents as “English”. Edith’s name is – as almost always misspelled – the census taker obviously lacking the artistic temperament required to spell it EDYTHE. Irene is actually Laureene – I have yet to come across a census document that gets it correctly.

The neighborhood they lived in looked like this:

Ella B Thompson        Theo K                Aug 1846      Texas     White Wife
Nora J Thompson     Theo K,Ella B     Dec 1873      Texas      White Daughter
Lucy F Thompson     Theo K,Ella B     Nov 1875     Texas     White Daughter

Jane Pritchard                                          Aug 1840     Ireland     White Head
Mary A Pritchard  Jane                         Feb 1870     Texas     White Daughter
Claire H Russell  Jane                            Jul 1873     Texas     White Daughter
Hugh Pritchard     Jane                          Dec 1895     Texas     White Son
Eliza Harni                                                 Jul 1843     Texas     Black Servant

Joseph Franklyn     Th*Sa                     May 1832     Germany     White Head
Th*Sa Franklyn      Joseph                   Apr 1840     Germany     White Wife
Cecelia Franklyn     Joseph,Th*Sa     Mar 1880     Texas     White Daughter
Julius Franklyn     Joseph,Th*Sa       May 1884     Texas     White Son

Albert Beckett     Hannah                     Oct 1851     Louisiana     Black Head
Hannah Beckett     Albert                    Jan 1859     Louisiana     Black Wife
Eugene Du Pree      Hannah                Nov 1875     Texas     Black Step Son

James Harris                                          Jan 1851     Virginia     Black Head

Julia Hunt                                               Oct 1852     Mississippi White Head
John H Hunt      Julia                          Feb 1886     Texas     White Son
Fannie Johnson                                   Sep 1877     Texas     White Niece
Minnie Grey                                         Jun 1830     Virginia     White Aunt
Olympia Freybe                                 Aug 1842     Texas     White Boarder
Aetna Freybe                                      Nov 1875     Texas     White Boarder

Jns C Mcdonald      Minnie                Nov 1851     North Carolina White Head
Minnie Mcdonald      Jns C                Sep 1853     Texas     White Wife
Clara Mcdonald      Jns C,Minnie     May 1884     Texas     White Daughter
Barella Mcdonald  Jns C,Minnie     Feb 1886     Texas     White Daughter
Lillie Windfrey                                      Aug 1872     Texas     Black Servant

Jns R Gross      Ida M                          Jun 1848     Canada Eng  White Head
Ida M Gross     Jns R                           Jan 1864     Texas     White Wife
Herman M Gross     Jns R,Ida M    Jan 1890     Texas     White Son
Effie Laurie Gross Jns R,Ida M      Aug 1895     Texas     White Daughter
Bertha M Gross     Jns R,Ida M      Apr 1898     Texas     White Daughter
Laura Robinson                                  Sep 1859     Louisiana     Black Servant
Hamilton Riggs                                   May 1860     Texas     Black Coachman

Sloan Hartley                                                                          White Head
August Delsetelsen                Nov 1847     Belgium     White Gardner

Jno Young     Mary                                Feb 1852     England     White Head
Mary Young     Jno                                Oct 1859     Louisiana     White Wife
Jno W Young     Jno,Mary                 Jul 1882     Texas     White Son
Edith Young     Jno,Mary                   Sep 1884     Texas     White Daughter
Irene Young     Jno,Mary                  Sep 1892     Texas     White Daughter
Julius Mimms                                        Dec 1882     Texas     Black Coachman
Celsus Brown                                         Oct 1882     Texas     Black Gardner
Annie Gibson                                         Dec 1878     Texas     Black Cook

Mary Handlin                                       May 1826     Ireland     White Head
Joseph Sabele                                      Sep 1873     Texas     White Grandson

Chas W Bulger      Ida                         Aug 1851     Indiana     White Head
Ida Bulger      Chas W                        Jan 1856     Indiana     White Wife
Clarence Bulger      Chas W,Ida     Mar 1881     Kansas     White Son
Laura Kent                                           Jul 1873     Texas     White Board

This neighborhood was by no means remarkable. There were large houses occupied by families with servants and small cottages. Because there were no apartments for rent – at least not in the way that they litter and blight the urban landscape of today – there were families who took in boarders. The boarders would have been known to the families that they shared a home with – no mere credit check but a thorough knowledge of “their people” and their prospects – they would have taken their meals with the family and, if smart, gone to church with the family. Head of household meant exactly that.

What may seem remarkable to some is that there were at least two black households on the street. The young have been miseducated to believe that all black history before 1954 was either slavery, segregation or abject poverty with the poor blacks being crushed under the uncaring heel of their white oppressors. As usual what they don’t know isn’t nearly as dangerous as what they know for certain that just isn’t so.

Galveston wasn’t exactly a boom town but it was a growing city – the largest in Texas then. At the time of the census Ward 7 covered everything from 29th Street to the western end of the island. The “suburbs”,  for want of a better term, ended before 40th Street – the cemeteries are all located from 40th Street west simply because it was not inhabited and with continual epidemics and dubious, if any, embalming they were not viewed as healthy things to live near.

There is a very real possibility that the black families occupied houses that were older than their white neighbors. In any event there were no restrictive covenants, there would have been no effort to buy out or burn out the black families and Galveston was cosmopolitan enough to support a homogeneous society. Galveston had a thriving black community that was in many ways more prosperous and upwardly mobile then than it is today. If you really want to turn a man into the worst kind of slave pay him for not working.

Manuel Bettencourt's House

By 1910 the census has expanded with more questions and there were two John Young households in Galveston as follows:

  • Name: John Young
  • Age in 1910: 58 Estimated Birth Year: 1852
  • Birthplace: Ireland Relation to Head of House: Head
  • Father’s Birth Place: Ireland
  • Mother’s Birth Place: Ireland
  • Spouse’s Name: Mary A Young
  • Home in 1910: Galveston Ward 7, Galveston, Texas
  • Marital Status: Married Race: White
  • Gender: Male
  • Year of immigration: 1870
  • Name    Age
  • John Young    58
  • Mary A Young    51
  • Edith M Young    22
  • Loanne Young    17
  • Agness Vukovich    13

John Young had become an Irishman again, the census taker still could not get either of his daughter’s names spelled correctly [apparently government workers were every bit as competent then as they are today] and the household had gone from having three black servants to one Austrian teenage [13] au pair who had been brought over in 1907 as a favor to a friend in the shipping business.

  • Name: John W Young
  • Age in 1910: 28
  • Estimated Birth Year: 1882
  • Birthplace: Texas
  • Relation to Head of House: Head
  • Father’s Birth Place: England
  • Mother’s Birth Place: Louisiana
  • Spouse’s Name: Maud Young
  • Home in 1910: Galveston Ward 9, Galveston, Texas
  • Marital Status: Married
  • Race: White
  • Gender: Male
  • Household Members:
  • Name    Age
  • John W Young    28
  • Maud Young    26
  • John W Young    5
  • Cora May Young    3
  • Ernest Harrison    17

The son had grown up, married, served in the army and started his family. Neither the census taker nor the tabulator seemed to notice that his father, who lived less than 2 miles away, was an Irishman at home and and Englishman at his son’s house. Given his financial acumen and the fact that he had embarked on his immigrant’s journey from Glasgow he may well have been a Scot!

What had changed was the neighborhood. What the 1900 Storm did not ravage the fire that followed it razed and although many of the addresses may have been the same they were occupied by new people – often from the latest wave of immigrants.

  • Etta MacInerney                      abt 1856      New York     Head
  • Daniel B MacInerney     Etta              1880         Texas     Son
  • Mary A MacInerney     Etta              1889         Texas     Daughter
  • Frank Arpas     Appile              1875         Hungary     Head
  • Appile Arpas      Frank              abt 1877      Hungary     Wife
  • Charles J Schutte Ricka C              1851         Germany     Head
  • Ricka C Schutte     Charles J              1862         Germany     Wife
  • Henry J Schutte     Charles J,Ricka C     1888         Texas     Son
  • Scharlatte Schutte Charles J,Ricka C     1889         Texas     Daughter
  • Helen F Schutte     Charles J,Ricka C     1892         Texas     Daughter
  • William Schutte     Charles J,Ricka C     1896         Texas     Son
    Gertrude Schutte     Charles J,Ricka C     1898         Texas     Daughter
  • Hellmuth H SchutteCharles J,Ricka C     1901         Texas     Son
  • William M Paul     Annie G              1865         Ohio         Head
  • Annie G Paul     William M              abt 1879      Texas     Wife
  • Ramond Paul     William M,Annie G     1891         Illinois     Son
  • Julius Muller     Ida M              1888         Texas     Head
  • Ida M Muller     Julius              1870         Texas     Wife
  • H Marnutz Gades      Julius,Ida M          1891         Texas     Son
  • Effie L Gades      Julius,Ida M          1896         Texas     Daughter
  • Bercha M Gades      Julius,Ida M          1898         Texas     Daughter
  • Robert L Gades      Julius,Ida M          1903         Texas     Son
  • Martha Wuschinsky                  1890         Germany     Servant
  • John Hagerman     Jerusha              1856         Texas     Head
  • Jerusha Hagerman     John                  1861         Arkansas     Wife
  • Jerusha Callins                       1891         Texas     Niece
  • Bernice Callins                       1894         Texas     Niece
  • Francis C Billet                      1864         Texas     Head
  • Nathan Freeman     Harriet              1846         North Carolina Head
  • Harriet Freeman     Nathan              abt 1849      Alabama     Wife
  • Bell P Overland                      1867         Texas     Head
  • Allstin Overland  Bell P              1890         Texas     Son
  • Lamar Overland     Bell P              1893         Texas     Son
  • Connor Overland     Bell P              1900         Texas     Son
  • Margaret L Newman                   1842         New York     Lodger
  • Virginia A Newman                   1871         Texas     Lodger
  • Manuel F Bettencourt     Nellie C          1852         Portugal     Head
  • Nellie C Bettencourt     Manuel F          1861         Massachusetts Wife
  • Toney L Bettencourt     Manuel F,Nellie C 1885         Portugal     Son
  • Arlindo Bettencourt     Manuel F,Nellie C 1886         Portugal     Son
  • Edward Bettencourt     Manuel F,Nellie C 1891         Portugal     Son
  • Bart C Bettencourt                  1855         Portugal     Brother
  • Edward C Pitkin     Virginia R              1862         Michigan     Head
  • Virginia R Pitkin Edward C             1876         Texas     Wife
  • Virginia C Pitkin Edward C,Virginia R     1901         Texas     Daughter
  • Virginia R Allan                      1816         Virginia Grandmother

The important people to me on this list of neighbors is the Bettencourt family. It was Toney [anglicized to Anthony] the boy from across the street who would marry Margaret Edythe Young in St. Patricks church and move around the corner to 3402 Avenue O where they would appear together for the first, last and only time in the 1920 census. The house with her artist’s studio behind it still stands in Galveston today.

Anthony Lewis & Margaret Young Bettencourt's House

The census kept expanding used to gather more and more information. By 1930 they wanted to know if there was a radio in this house not to mention the value of the house if it was owned or the monthly rental if it was rented. A poignant entry is that John Young’s son who served as a captain in the coastal artillery during the First World War has he service noted as “WW” there not having been a “II” yet and that one still having been the war to end all wars. The last census form we saw wanted to know everything except the color of hair dye that we use on our dogs – a Touch of Grey on the muzzles only – and has galloped beyond its mandate to provide a count for the apportionment of representation to yet another intrusion of the nanny state. It is sad that our progeny will not have the same sources to find our footprints through time that we enjoy for our ancestors – but they may be safer for the lack of any record.

Photos in this post are all by the author.

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