Sunday, December 13, 2009

Working with the Federal Population Schedules

I must be a sucker for punishment because every once in a while I get the urge to revisit a problem that's been irking me for some time now; missing people/families in the federal population censuses. I have a few of these issues where either I just can't find them or they're simply not there but probably the most irksome is finding Mary J. Bromagem (abt. 1839-1908) in the 1900 Chicago census. I found her in the 1899 Chicago city directory and her 1908 death certificate confirms that she died there in 1908. Since the 1900 census can contain considerable personal information (month and year of birth, marriage information, info about children, etc.) it was extremely important to find her, and I did eventually find her with the help of a great census finding aid for the city of Chicago at This website describes enumeration district boundaries and has tons of great maps for the 1870-1930 to help you pinpoint your subject's residence and try to find them that way rather than going through the endless searches with no results.

I used this website to help me locate the family of one of Mary's daughters in the 1900 census by helping me figure out what ED they were living in. First I had to locate them in the city directory and get the address. Then I went to the website and into the 1900 pages. At the same time, I opened up another window and entered the general address into yahoo maps. Thanks to the site, I knew that Chicago has gone through some street name and numbering changes since 1900 so the address as it was, is no longer the same. But at least I could look at the current map and compare it to the ED maps to get the correct ED. Then all I had to do was return to, select the 1900 census for Cook County, Chicago and select the correct ED and go through those pages looking for the address. They were missing from the chronological page but showed up at the end of the enumeration district section. It was easy to see why I couldn't find them in my initial name, age, etc. searches

It looks like the enumerator was unable to get in touch with the family so he probably obtained basic information on the family from neighbors; in this case probably the neighborhood kids because the only one of the three "Stephens" family members shown with a first name is their son. He's shown as Roy-a nickname for his middle name, LeRoy.

So I was able to cross that missing family off my list. At the time I found this page though, I did not have the address and information for LeRoy's grandmother, Mary J. Bromagem, so a quick scan for the rest of the page didn't turn up anything deemed useful. Also, since this page was the list of those the enumerator couldn't talk to and the subjects were placed out of order and away from their neighbors, there didn't seem to be any other important info on the page. I recently came back to this census looking for Mary J., as I often do from time to time, and a family group about 9 households down from the "Stephens" family jumped out

The address for the "Birmish" family (as has the name), 5416 Laflin is the same address shown for Mary J. Bromagem and her son, George, in the 1899 city directory. Also, if you look at how the name is written, it looks like it could be have been written as Birmishon/Birmishom and enumerator notation "pg 3" was written over the last two letters of the name. While Birmish is a long way from Bromagem, Birmishon/Birmishom is much closer. Also, the Stevens family, Mary's daughter, son-in-law, and grandson, is shown at 5432 Laflin while the Birmishons are at 5416 Laflin; they're only a few houses away from each other. The final piece is that Mary "Birmish" is shown living with a son and from the 1899 city directory I know she was living with her son, George. I'm convinced I've found her in the 1900 census, unfortunately I don't get to take advantage of all of the great info shown for others in that year.

So it looks like the enumerator for their neighborhood was unable to reach both the Stevens' and the Bromagems in the 1900 census. But at least I found a great finding aid website and got some great experience in locating people in big cities with a few challenges thrown in for good measure. All in all, not a completely wasted exercise. It still irks me though that all that info was lost. Sometimes that's just the way things go with the census I guess.

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