In our last post, we discovered that none of our Bonniwell gold rush expedition members could be found on the surviving population schedules for the 1850 federal census in California.1 Does that mean they were not to be found anywhere on the national 1850 enumeration? Well, no. It turns out that while the Bonniwell men and their companions were physically present in California, they managed to be enumerated in…Wisconsin?
Currier & Ives. Home Sweet Home, c. 1874. New York: Published by Currier & Ives. Library of Congress.
There’s no place like home
You might think that once every ten years, when the census enumerator came to call, he or she would simply speak to a responsible adult at each address and write down the information for all of the “inhabitants” of each household. And that is pretty much how it was done.2
Naturally, there could be complications. What if some members of the household were away, perhaps working the fields, or at the mill? Maybe someone had to go to town, or farther away, on business. What about a child that is out of town at school or college? Or… what if the head of household had gone prospecting in the wilds of California’s gold district?Continue reading