Never give up. Recheck what you checked before. Review your notes. Step away from it for a while. I did all this and still never found one of my ancestral families in the 1895 Minnesota State Census.
A couple of weeks ago I was at the National Genealogical Society Conference in Richmond, Virginia. While there I had a couple of conversations with fellow genealogists about how those of us who had been working on our family history for many years sometimes forget to return to the basics.
I thought about it and for my Stuart family I believed I had gone over the basics several times. I had them on every other applicable state and federal census, but using city directory addresses, ward maps, and other tools, I still could not find them in the mostly unindexed 1895 Minnesota State Census.
Of course, the frequent moves of this family added to the problem. Then that surname of Stuart made it worse: Stuart, Stewart, Stuard, and all the other variations you might expect. My great-grandfather was Alexander Charles Stuart, or A.C. Stuart, or Alexander Stuart, or Alex Stuart. I even have his own signature using the spelling of Stewart. (Not a helpful man.) Several clues told me they were either in Stillwater or St. Paul, both of which are in Minnesota. I figured they arrived in Minnesota in 1893-94. His brother James E. Stuart, a well-known Postal Inspector, was extremely easy to find year after year in Chicago; newspaper indexes yield much on his postal and military career.
My branch was definitely not a wealthy family and I suspect that many of the moves from state to state, within a state, and just about every year once they arrived in St. Paul, Minnesota, was due to keeping one step ahead of the rent collector. Alex also left his family behind and lived with his brother Robertâ€™s family in Salina, Kansas, in the early twentieth century. I have family information and also the World War I draft registrations from Ancestry.com that show details on Alexâ€™s sons that helped place their arrival time in Minnesota.
A New Database at Ancestry
Do you keep a list of things you want to check when you have time? I have multiple lists. When I was home from Richmond I finally sat down and decided to find the Stuart family on the newly added searchable Minnesota territorial and state censuses at Ancestry.com.
Not every state had territorial and state census enumerations in addition to the decennial federal censuses, but Minnesota is one that did all the way up to 1905. Each state had its own forms and some list only the name of the head of household.
This new index was just what I needed. There on page 582, Precinct 13, Ward 6, St. Paul, Ramsey County, as of 5 June 1895, is my family. The head of household is A. C. Stuart and his wife and all seven children are listed, complete with the proper birth states. My Grandpa Earl is age nine, born Wisconsin. They were living at 497 Andrew Street. I was pretty sure I knew where that street was, but I verified that by using Mapquest.com, my own city map, and a book called â€œThe Street Where You Live: A Guide to the Place Names of St. Paul.â€ (Donald Empson, University of Minnesota Press, 2006. This is an update of an earlier 1975 edition.)
The 1895 Minnesota census has columns listing how many years and months males over twenty-one were in the state and also in the particular enumeration district. For A. C., he was in Minnesota for two years and in the enumeration district for seven months. His occupation is marble cutter, during the year preceding the census he was employed for twelve months. Both his parents were of foreign birth, and a blank column indicated he was neither a sailor nor soldier during the â€œWar of the Rebellion.â€
Ancestry has posted images and search capabilities for many state censuses. Among the growing number of states included are Kansas, Wisconsin, Iowa, New York, and Michigan. The Iowa 1925 state census gives the motherâ€™s maiden name for each person enumerated. For more on the existence of state censuses check these resources:
- Red Book: American State, County, and Town Sources, edited by Alice Eicholz. (Ancestry, 2004)
This lists the state censuses for each state.
- The Source: A Guidebook to American Genealogy, edited by Loretto Dennis Szucs and Sandra Hargreaves Luebking. (Ancestry, 2006)
State census records have good coverage in this.
- State Census Records, by Ann Lainhart
(Genealogical Publishing Co., 1992)
- Donâ€™t Forget the State Census Enumerations An Ancestry column about these terrific enumerations of the population that I wrote back in 2004.
Is State Census Research on Your List?
Add an item to your list of family history work to recheck Ancestry.com to see if state censuses are available for one of your families. Remind yourself to check every month or so. And donâ€™t forget to read the â€œAncestry Weekly Journalâ€ to see what new databases have been added each week.
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About the Author
Paula Stuart-Warren, CG, of St. Paul, Minnesota, is a professional genealogist, consultant, writer, and lecturer who is frequently on the road. She coordinates the intermediate course, American Records & Research, at the annual Salt Lake Institute of Genealogy. She writes for several periodicals including â€œAncestryâ€ Magazine. Comments and additions to her columns will reach her at < PSWResearch@comcast.net> but she regrets that she is unable to answer individual genealogical research inquiries due to the volume of requests. From time to time, comments from readers may be quoted in her writings. Your name will not be used, but your place of residence might be listed (i.e. Conway, Arkansas).
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