52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks
|Posted on February 10, 2018 at 12:20 AM|
Week 5 - 52 Ancestors in 52Weeks: In the Census
My 3rd Great Grandfather’s Life 166 years ago
By Nicole Hicks
The United States Federal Census is one of the most significant documents used by genealogist. The US census is a decennial census mandated by the Constitution. This means that it is required by law that a federal census is taken throughout the United States every ten years. Also, by law, a census record must be at least 70 years old before it can be released to the public. We genealogist await the 1950 census with baited breath as it will be released in 2022. The census records give us some insight about where our ancestors were we're living at a certain point in history. It also shows who was living in the household at the time the census was taken. The first federal census was taken in 1790, the most recently was in 2010, and the next census will be taken in 2020. Black Americans did not appear in census records until about the 1850s and only if they we're free people of color. But most of the time the 1870 census is the go-to census to determine where Black families were living 5 years after emancipation.
In the 20 years that I've been doing family history research I found little tidbits of information about my family that were very interesting and worth further investigation. My best example is of my 3rd great grandfather, Buncomb Saxon (1831 – 1901).
My first introduction to Granddaddy Buncomb was in the 1900 federal census in Williston, Barnwell County, South Carolina. On this census, he indicated that his father's birthplace was Africa. Tracing this down has proven to be almost impossible. But over time my research skills have developed and I'm still hopeful that I will learn who my 4th great-grandfather from Africa actually was. But again, it's still very telling information about a person that no one alive could even talk about, until now. Also, in the 1900 census my Granddaddy Buncomb indicates that he owns property. Naturally, I found this intriguing. How did a man who was a former slave come to own property in rural South Carolina in 1900? Fortunately, another cousin researching families in that same location stumbled across a record that showed who my 3rd great grandfather brought property in 1876. A bill of sale shows he purchased 44 acres of land from a man named Heyward Brown. Several years later, I learned who Heyward Brown was and about his connection to Granddaddy Buncomb.
Another piece of very useful information that the 1900 census provided was the fact that my third great-grandfather was a widow, about 68 years of age, and was born approximately October 1831. That made me excited! Even though I don't have an exact date in October 1831, how cool would it be if his birthdate had been October 8th, my birthday! His occupation is listed as farmer, he speaks English, he is unable to read, but he is able to write which I found very curious. Living in his household were his youngest daughter Lettie, age 14; his third oldest daughter, Ealer, age 39 and widowed; and his granddaughter, Ella age 16.
Because of a few misspellings and spelling variations (Buncombe Saxton, Bunkern Paxon), it took several months to locate Granddaddy Buncomb in the 1870 and the 1880 census. I learned the name of his wife and my 3rd great grandmother, Charity. I was able to find my 2nd great grandmother Pricilla or “Cilla” as she was more commonly called and her siblings in both of those census years.
It may not seem like much, but I just summarized the life of a man who was born 166 years ago using data “In the Census”! He was my mother’s, mother's, mother's, father! Before my research, no one knew of his existence. I was so proud to add another branch to my family tree. And I am very proud to be his descendant. Because of these census records, I have some information about him that will allow me to do more research and tell more of his story, my history. And I have! But I will save those stories for another day and another blog!
If you pay very close attention to the information “In the Census”, you could write a short story about the family you are researching, their lives, their geographic location, and the time period in which they lived.