Before we take a break from our Mequon neighbors of the 1900s and return to Jonathan Clark and his family in the mid-1800s, let’s take a look at a few more “macro” and “micro” things one can find by taking a closer look at a U.S. census population schedule. Once again, here’s the Becker family of Mequon, as found on lines 32 to 34 of this 1900 U.S. federal census population schedule:
In Part 2 we talked in some detail about the kinds of information that this form recorded for each person enumerated, including name, age, sex, marital status, birthplace, immigration information, profession, schooling and more. This information is so useful, interesting and sometimes surprising, that researchers often record the key details and consider their work over. But, there’s more.
First, let’s take a close look at the very top of the form.
At first glance, it’s the kind of generic, fill-in-the-blank, bureaucratic blah-blah that hardly seems worth much notice. It has the expected title in the middle: “Twelfth Census of the United States,” and the type of census document, “Schedule No. 1. —Population.”
And we see the location identifiers in the upper left corner: “State”–Wisconsin, “County”–-Ozaukee. But the next two spaces can give us an insight to the kind of place these people lived. For “Township or other division of county,” the enumerator has been especially helpful, going beyond the required township name. So instead of just “Mequon” [township], we have “Mequon–All E. of a N & S line between sects 2 & 3.” More on this in a moment.
Notice how the “Name of incorporated city, town, or village, within the above–named division” is left blank, as is “Ward of city.” That confirms that we are looking at people living in a rural, unincorporated area. Conversely, if you were searching for people living in a city or other incorporated area, knowing the ward number would be quite useful in locating the residence on maps of the era.
This census page was enumerated by Bernhard E. Mohrhusen on June 13, 1900. But the “official” enumeration day was June 1, 1900. So in theory, a child born on June 2 should not be counted on the 1900 census. And a child born between June 1, 1899 and June 1, 1900 would have their age listed in months; a five month old would have an age of 5/12. But none of the children on this page are less than one year old, so it’s a moot point here. The 1900 census is special, as it records birth year and month. Other censuses don’t, so knowing how to calculate backwards from the official census day makes it possible to estimate birth years from more limited census data.
Finally, in the upper right corner are the Supervisor’s District number, Enumeration District number and the Sheet (page) number for that particular district. Keep an eye on these numbers. Sometimes mistakes were made when the paper sheets were microfilmed or, more often, when the microfilm page images were digitized, indexed and made available online. If you are having trouble finding someone and you know you’re in the right general area, make sure the online images are in numerical order, and that no pages have been omitted.
And remember the enumerator’s extra specific location of “Mequon–All E. of a N & S line between sects 2 & 3”? Why is that a nice bonus? Well, with a handy farmer’s or township map like this:
you can locate the part of Mequon township where the people in this particular enumeration lived. I have added a vertical red line to show the enumerator’s “N & S line between sects 2 & 3.” If we keep in mind that the census taker is only enumerating people living east of that line (i.e. to the right), then we can (probably) ignore for now the other “Becker” land owners to the west (left) of the line.
(As a point of reference, I have added a large red circle around the old Jonathan M. Clark farm which, in 1900, was still occupied by its second owners, the John Doyle family. The Clark/Doyle farm is just to the west of the red line at the top of the map, in section 3, T9N, Range 21 East.)
N. Becker’s farm appears to comprise two adjacent parcels in sections 19 and 30 of T9N, Range 22 East. I have outlined these two parcels in red rectangles. One contains 20 acres, the other 42. How do we know this 1892 farmer is the same N. Becker as the one on the 1900 census? We need to check land records to be completely sure. But we can also compare the eight neighbor families on Becker’s 1900 census page: Koehler, Luedtke, Henn (Kenn?), Haberkorn, Wessel, Kemp and Huppert. At least five of the eight are already living nearby in 1892: Luedtke, Haberkorn and Wessel in sec. 19, Koehler and another Luedtke in sec. 31, and Kemp has a farm on the lake in sec. 20. If I was looking for land records for Nic. Becker, I’d begin with sections 19 and 30 of T9N, Range 22 East.
Further research can sometimes lead you to the original census bureau enumerators’ route maps. If you don’t have a farmer’s map like our 1892 example, knowing the path the enumerator walked can help you reconstruct a map of the neighborhood and figure out who lived next to whom. Downloadable PDFs of all the official enumerators’ instructions, which include detailed information on the various census questions and the methods of census taking and recording can be found at this U.S. Census Bureau website.
So this is a beginning for Finding Your Mequon Roots. There are many, many other sources, online and in various libraries, official repositories and local historical societies, including some of the excellent resources in the sidebar, to the right. Have fun hunting. And if you find interesting Mequon history sources or stories, please let me know.