Census records add leaves to family tree

Posted July 19, 2009, at 7:53 p.m.

It helps to remember which United States censuses are good for what. The first census was conducted in 1790, but of course only the head of household was listed by name.

Starting in 1850, everyone in the household was enumerated, but there wasn’t any information about the relationship of household members to one another. Was the woman listed after the head of household his wife, his daughter or neither?

Beginning in 1880, census takers wrote down what relation each person was to the head of household. Finally!

In addition, we can access the 1880 census for the whole country free on the Mormon genealogy Web site at www.familysearch.org. Moreover, we can see who lives nearby by clicking on the “next” or “previous” button. Of course, we have to keep in mind that the census has been transcribed, so misspellings and other errors are possible.

The 1900 census is special for listing each person’s month and year of birth, instead of just the age.

The most recent census released to the public, in 1930, has many people who are still alive. It also lists such information as whether the household had a radio.

It can be very helpful to find a number of relatives living in the same area, as was the case with my Steeves ancestors and cousins on Mill Street in Sangerville.

No doubt the main factor in their living there is that so many of them worked at the mill at the end of the street.

My forebears, Harry and Thressa J. Steeves, ages 53 and 51, were heads of one such family. The census listed them as aliens who had immigrated to the United States in 1911. Their occupations were, respectively, fireman and weaver. They paid $22 a month in rent.

Also living with them was their nephew, Ralph, a 12-year-old who was born in Maine.

I’ve always known that “Uncle” Ralph wasn’t really our uncle, but didn’t know the exact relationship. Fortunately, my mother, Joyce (Steeves) Moore, remembered that Ralph’s mother was a sister to Thressa, but had died young. So Nana and Grandad raised him.

In the same household were a young married couple, Guy R. Clukey, 21; and Amalia S. Clukey, 23, Harry and Thressa’s daughter. Guy was a dresser at the mill.

Also living on Mill Street were Harry and Thressa’s son, Arthur C. Steeves, 29, a spinner at the mill; his wife, Leona E., 26; and their children: Willard L., 8; Richard H., 6; Barbara B., 4; Lois B., 2; and Iris E., 2 months. The census taker listed Arthur as coming to the U.S. in 1912, but I’m pretty sure he came here in 1911 with the rest of the family.

Next door were Arthur and Florence Levensalor.

Their tenants were my grandparents, Stanley G. Steeves, 25; and Edith R. Steeves, 24. Stanley was listed as a weaver at the mill, an alien who had come to Maine in 1911. The couple paid rent of $15 a month.

Like his parents, Harry and Thressa, Stanley and Edith were listed as having a radio. Perhaps it was a wedding present to them in 1928.

So where was my mother, Stanley and Edith’s only child?

Very simple answer. This part of the census was enumerated on April 18-19, 1930, by town librarian Addie Hamilton. My mother hadn’t been born yet.

But there sure were a lot of Steeves relatives in the census for Sangerville that year.

The immigrant ancestors for this branch were my great-grandparents, Harry and Thressa Steeves.

My mother has become a great-grandmother herself in recent years.

On July 12, we had the first get-together that included all four of her “greats”: Dylan Saucier, who turns one month old on July 21; Aidan Saucier of Minnesota, born last year; and Lexi, 6, and Andrew Perry, 3, Dylan’s big sister and big brother.

I love watching my mother snuggle up and look into their little faces! And since I remember my own great-grandmother well, censuses and other records help leaf out my family tree in a very personal way.

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The annual Descendants of Thomas Shorey Reunion will be held on the second Sunday of August, Aug. 9, at the Ammadamast Grange Hall on Route 188, Enfield.

Those attending are asked to bring a salad, covered dish or dessert. It also would be appreciated if you would bring genealogical information.

Lunch will be served at 12:30 p.m. Bean hole beans will be supplied.

Send genealogy queries to Family Ties, Bangor Daily News, P.O. Box 1329, Bangor, ME 04402; or e-mail queries to familyti@bangordailynews.net.

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