Once I have oriented myself with the geography of a new research area, I generally begin looking for my research subjects in the census. I will start with what I know. Usually it’s that they died in a location, so working back to the census year just before their death date, I will locate them and then work backward. This constructs the family group(s) giving a rough skeleton to their familial framework. Census records can contain many errors but I find they are a great tool to get started and create a sketch of the family structure, often for several generations.
In the case of Jeduthan Dimick, I knew from his biographical sketch in the compiled genealogy that he died in 1839 in Pope County, Illinois. Using census indexes at Ancestry.com I located Jeduthan and his household in the 1830 census in Hardin County, Illinois.
Any census before 1850 consists of the name of the head of household and then hash marks for the rest of the family members broken down by age and sex. The household for Jeduthan consisted of:
Jeduthan Dimick household analysis:
Males under 19 = 3 (possibly Fayette, Mary? and Franklin)
Males 40-49 = 1 (Jeduthan)
Females under 19 = 1 (Sarah)
Females 40-49 = 1 (wife Mary)
This is probably Jeduthan, his wife, 3 sons and 1 daughter, but we can’t be sure with no names to identify them by. However, according to the compiled genealogy I started with, Jeduthan had 2 sons and 2 daughters. It is possible the census taker counted one of the girls (Mary) as a boy, it is impossible to know, but I am fairly certain this is the right family since no other “Jeduthan Dimicks” showed up in the searches.
Chatten Scroggins, Sanders’ father, also shows up in the 1830 census, in Gallatin County, Illinois. If you remember my earlier discussion on geography, Hardin County was formed from part of Gallatin County, so we are looking at a nearby location to the Dimick family.
Chatten’s household consisted of:
Chattan Scroggins household analysis:
Males under 19 = 5 (John, James Lewis, Sanders and two unknown boys)
Males 40-49 = 1 (Chatten)
Females under 19 = 3 (Mary and 2 unknown girls)
Females 40-49 = 1 (wife Elizabeth)
This family probably consisted of Chatten’s wife, 5 sons and 3 daughters. Again, the children don’t exactly line up with what is indicated by the compiled genealogies but no other “Chatten Scroggins” showed up in my searches.
I did a similar search for the 1840 census, but knowing that Jeduthan Dimick died in 1839, it was difficult to locate the rest of the family in 1840. Likely they lived with friends or relatives in 1840 while they were getting their living arrangements in order. Since the 1840 census lists only the head of household, it is difficult to know right now where they are in the census.
The Scroggins household is located in the Gallatin County census enumeration. Sanders has moved into his own household and is living next door to his father’s home. He has only one female of about his age living with him, likely his first wife, and no children are living with him.
This is just the first step with the census records. I conducted this research through the 1870 census for the purposes of the program I put together. I would normally follow as many family members as possible through the 1940 census. I also found the families in the Illinois State Censuses that were available. Going through the census records, I was able to put the family groups together in time, place and relationship. This beginning work then allowed me to move on to other records and resources.