Researching Census Records

Census records are another good source of information for genealogists. However, I’ve observed that ages are often the census taker’s guess rather than accurate fact. I suppose it wasn’t polite to ask ladies their ages, so a woman may be 50 in the 1861 census and 55 in the 1871 census.

But family listings can yield precious data. For example, Gr-gr-grandmother Ruth Dobson married Gr-gr-grandfather John Smith, but I can find no marriage records for them. Small town church records were damaged in various ways back in the day and maybe not all marriages were registered.

Making records even harder to obtain: during some of those years in Ontario, a marriage had to be performed by a Church of England Minister to be legal.

When I began searching for RUTH DOBSON, I pulled up the following census record from the 1851 Census of Blenheim Township, Oxford County, Ontario:

John………….Age 51
Ruth……………… 50
And their children:
Mary C……..Age 30
Ruth……………….25
Jonathan D………21
Rebecca…………..18
Robert W…………14
Mary Ann W…….12
Emma………………9
John W…………….7

But was our ancestor Ruth the daughter in this family?

Ah! I find a clue in the John Smith family list in the 1861 census of Grey, Huron County:

John…………….Age 35
Ruth…………………..33
Mary……………………5
William………………..4
Amos…………………..1
W Dobson………….21
Emma Dobson……17

What would W (initials smudged 😦 ) and Emma be doing staying with Ruth and John if they weren’t family? So I’ve concluded that our Ruth is indeed the daughter listed in the John Dobson family above.

Further clues: Later John & Ruth are listed in the 1871 Census of Grey, Huron County, Ontario, with Emma: 27 and (very likely her daughter) Margaret age 10. John Wesley D must have settled there as well, as his son was born at Molesworth, Grey Township, Huron County – just like our Grandfather Allen Vance and his brother Will.

I herd from a very elderly Smith relative that one of the Dobson sons – John W ? – became a well known preacher in the Methodist Church.

And now for an interesting “relative of a relative of a relative” connection:
According to Wikki, William Aberhart, who became the Premier of British Columbia 1935-1943, was born in Kippen, Ontario to William and Louisa (née Pepper) Aberhart. William Aberhart Sr. had immigrated to Canada from Germany with his family at the age of seven, while Louisa Pepper was born in Perth County, Ontario.
Louisa’s father, John Pepper, left a widower with seven children in 1857, married Ruth Dobson’s sister Rebecca on Feb 1, 1858. He was 44; she was 24. They had four more children: George, Lucy Elizabeth, Ruth and Anne.

What really intrigues me is that this couple was listed as living in Fullarton, a small hamlet of about two dozen homes in Perth County, Ontario. That’s where we lived for ten years. Had I only known, I might have searched for a property deed with their name on it. It would have been so interesting to idenify the place gr-gr-aunt Rebecca made her home!

Something happened to this family, though. According to Pepper family records, John Pepper died in 1893 – and was buried in Mitchell beside his first wife, Elizabeth – but the 1871 census of Mitchell district lists Rebecca as “Head of household” and a “Tailoress” with three children: George 11; Lucy Elizabeth, 9; and Annie, 4. Where was John, and what happened to little Ruth?

Even with Census records, you can’t make assumptions. There’s another John Pepper family listed in the 1881 Census of Logan township, Perth County:

John 65
Mary 53
Phyllis 8
Luther J 6
Alice 3
Mabel 1

One researcher has tacked this family onto the John + Rebecca Pepper family, indicatig that john left Rebecca and found a third partner. But this other John, if he really was 65, would have been born in 1816. And that Mary, if she really was 53, wouldn’t have had those last three children. 🙂

About Christine Goodnough

I'm a wife, mom & grandma, homemaker, avid reader, blogger, and nature lover enjoying country living. I write short stories, poems, and share life experiences, adding a dash of humor whenever I can.
This entry was posted in Allen Vance Sr, History, Smith Family, Vance Family and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s