Census Comparison Worksheet

It has been some time since I posted about the Charles and Caroline Carson family of New Jersey. I needed to remind myself where I left off with respect to the census information I had collected thus far. I needed a form to see my census data at a glance. With only a bit of searching on Pinterest, I found a promising census comparison worksheet, posted by Jenny Lanctot who writes the “Are My Roots Showing?” genealogy blog.

census comparison worksheet from Jenny Lanctot, found on Pinterest

Jenny has graciously made her census comparison worksheet available for download at this link. Thank you, Jenny. I like this form, in that there is room to record information from up to five different census enumerations for one couple and up to fourteen of their children. It is similar to the way I have previously laid out census extractions in a table in Microsoft Word, but with more columns. More columns equals more data points for correlation, which is a very good thing when you are writing up your research with accepted genealogical standards in mind.

I downloaded her form and began doing the data entry in short order. It did not take me long to realize that I actually wanted to see a bit more detail than the form allowed for, so I began tweaking it just a bit. In the column on the left where the couple’s marriage information is recorded, I added a row to record the marriage officiant by name and role. I added an additional row below Twp. (for Township) to note a smaller jurisdiction, abbreviated as P.O. (for Post Office), since that level of detail is included on some census enumerations. Finally, on the main tab, I also added a row for the street address when known, as this is important for tracking our urban ancestors.

completed census comparison worksheet for the Carson family, 1850-1900The main table in my census comparison worksheet allows me to visualize 50 years of census data at a glance for one nuclear family (in this case, Charles and Caroline Carson of New Jersey). I have hidden the ribbon (using CTRL+F1 in Excel 2010) and the rows near the bottom for more siblings to make the completed worksheet easier to see in this screenshot.

In my example, I chose to only include United States Federal census information, but you could just as easily create a table that includes state census enumerations or non-population schedules such as agriculture or manufacturing. I also chose to input ages, birthplaces and occupations to improve the ability to compare across census years.

The biggest change I made was to include additional tabs in my workbook, one for each census year extracted on the main page of the form. I renamed each tab to correspond with the year, then I attached an image of the actual census page that I had previously downloaded. Lastly, I included a carefully crafted source citation so that I can simply copy and paste it into other documents or blog posts when needed.

census comparison worksheet with census image and citationI added more tabs in my workbook to include an image of the census page and a source citation, one tab for every census year on the main table. This image from the 1870 Federal census shows Caroline Carson living with an unidentified male named Lewis Rainier in Mercer County, New Jersey. We have yet to learn what relationship the two shared.

This is a time-consuming process, and one that I am unlikely to do for every family that I am researching, as I normally would simply extract the relevant census information into a note linked to a census “event” in my RootsMagic database. But, for those families that present brick wall problems, or for those families that I am writing about, it is a useful endeavor. If you have a genealogical problem you have worked on for years without a resolution, then I would recommend compiling your data in a format that allows you to visualize and correlate information differently, such as a census worksheet, a timeline or mind map.

DeedMapper Deed Entry Form

How to force the DeedMapper software program to display the Deed Entry Form every time a new deed is entered.

I received and installed the DeedMapper 4.2 upgrade about two weeks ago and immediately wanted to get started platting some of the 19th century New Jersey deeds that I have transcribed this year. Problem is, when I launched the program, I did not know where to start. I expected the Deed Entry Form to open when I opened a new deed, but it did not. All I saw was a vast empty screen:

deedmapper-main-windowThe DeedMapper Plot View screen

Here is how to activate the Deed Entry Form:


In the Plot View window, click the Edit Deed button shown above, just to the left of the Annotate button (the one that looks like a T). The Edit Deed button also appears on the Table View window.

deedmapper deed entry form
The DeedMapper Deed Entry Form simplifies deed data entry but is not enabled by default.

The Deed Entry Form was one of the enhancements in version 4 of the software that simplifies data entry but is not enabled by default. To force the program to open the Deed Entry Form every time a new deed file is started go to View > Options  and select the Text View tab. Under New deed entry on the left, click the radio button to select Deed entry form. The next time you open the program the Deed Entry Form will display automatically.

deedmapper view options window

I have used my new DeedMapper software upgrade to successfully plat three metes and bounds style surveys of land that I believe are relevant to my early Carson family research in Mercer County, New Jersey. The next order of business is to actually place these plat drawings on a contemporary New Jersey map. I have consulted a gazetteer to hone in on what hamlet or township various features described in deeds were located in to track down the proper maps.

deedmapper data entry form with first call
The land described in this 1842 deed from Abraham Rogers and wife to Aaron Eldredge was acquired by Daniel Carson just a few years later. The data entry form above shows the first call in the survey.

Carefully reading, transcribing and platting deeds surveyed using metes and bounds methods will reveal relationships and neighbors, and is a useful exercise in your genealogy research.

Establishing a Death Date for Charles Carson

Carson Family Group Sheet (Pt. 4)

Fourth in an ongoing series that attempts to document the early days of my research on the Carson family of New Jersey as it originally unfolded. In this installment describing research conducted in 2002-2003, I established a tentative death date for my ancestor, Charles Carson.

I suspected that my 3rd-great-grandfather Charles Carson of Mercer County, New Jersey died at a relatively young age.

From prior research in the Federal census population schedules (highlighted in this post) I learned that he was 26 years of age in 1850, and age 36 in 1860. I estimated his year of birth as circa 1824 from those two records. The 1860 census was the last record in which he was found.

He was not among immediate family members by the time of the 1870 census. By 1881, his wife, Caroline Carson, was called a widow. Using all of this information, I can bracket his possible date of death as sometime after 1 June 1860 and before early 1881, a 20-21 year range. Thus, he would have been no younger than 35 and no older than 57 years of age when he died, depending on how early in the year he was born.

Can I narrow down that window of time?

Any American male aged 18-60 that disappears from a family in the first half of the decade of the 1860’s is a candidate for Civil War service. Charles was definitely in that age range.

Civil War service as a volunteer can be quickly verified by a look-up on the Civil War Soldiers and Sailors System (CWSS) website maintained by the National Park Service. With over 6.3 million names of soldiers indexed, representing participants from both Union and Confederate forces, it is one of my first stops when beginning new research on a potential soldier in the American Civil War (1861-1865). Names in this database were entered as found on the Compiled Service Records, created in the latter portion of the 19th century.


I clicked on Soldiers and entered basic search criteria:
First Name: Charles
Last Name: Carson
Side: Union

Search box detail. Click to enlarge this or any other photo.

Forty-seven soldiers named Charles Carson were included in my search results (including Colored Troops and Home Guards), but none saw service in a New Jersey regiment. I doubted with at least six children at home that he would have traveled to another state to join up.

I also ran a search for Charles Carson in the 1876 publication “Record of Officers and Men from New Jersey in the Civil War, 1861-1865″….by Adjutant-General William S. Stryker and found no listing for any officer or soldier named Charles Carson. This volume is available in digital form from the New Jersey State Library at this link.

If Carson died between 1861 and 1865, it was unlikely the result of any wartime service unless, perhaps, he was a career soldier, as compiled military service records were not created for “Regulars”. Since I had no information that directly suggested service in the Civil War in any capacity, I decided to table this research angle. Even though this search yielded negative results, it was necessary to document that I did consider military service as a possibility.

What other information could I uncover that might suggest a death date for Charles Carson?

It was November 2002 when I turned to GenForum, my genealogy message board of choice (which has recently transitioned to a read-only archive of former queries and posts). There on the Kansas board I found a query posted mere weeks prior that mentioned both Furman Carson and his father, Charles Carson.1 I saw other names that I knew from my own research among the list of children, so posted a response.2 It was not long before I received a notification that a reader had responded to my query. We compared notes and in short order determined that our 2nd-great-grandfathers were brothers. Some of our family information meshed quite well, but some of it differed. For example, she identified our known common ancestor as Charles C. Carson, and showed his death in 1896, and not “before 1881” as my research indicated. My cousin also had information on the purported maiden surname of his wife Caroline.

How to resolve this conflicting information? With more research, of course! As I would learn, much of this information was provided to her by a third party, without source citations. I began to attempt to verify my new cousin’s alleged facts, but also continued to look for records that would support my hypothesis. I found it difficult to believe that Caroline’s husband Charles simply dropped off the grid between 1860 and 1896. I was aware of other males named Charles Carson living in the greater Trenton area in the mid to late 19th century, so figured the 1896 death date attributed to my Charles really was that of another man. But, I would have to prove this before dismissing it completely.

I next searched the 1880 U.S. census index to learn whether Charles Carson had reunited with his wife and children. He was not living in the household. In fact, Caroline Carson was again identified as a widow.3 I now had three independent sources that either suggested or stated outright that Caroline was widowed, certainly by 1880, but possibly long before that.

1880-caroline-carson-household-chambersburg-new-jerseyThe printout of the 1880 census household of widow Caroline Carson

Fast forward a few months to early 2003. The Old Mill Hill Society (OMHS) had a web presence at the time, consisting mostly of transcribed records like city directories and obituary indexes. Included among these records was something called the “Chronological Indexes”, a succinct listing of events in the local newspaper, published on New Year’s Day, which covered events of the prior year. Four Chronological Indexes were then online: 1856, 1857, 1863, and 1870. Like any good genealogist, I worked with what was available and reviewed them all. Imagine my surprise when I read this stark entry for May 1863:

“22. Charles Carson was injured in Hutchinson’s saw mill, and died on the 24th.”4

Charles Carson death in the 1863 chronological index

Could this be the first tangible clue that my Charles Carson died 24 May 1863 as a result of injuries sustained in a sawmill accident two days prior? It certainly fit within the timeline that I had already established. I was cautiously optimistic. I needed to learn more about this man and more about the accident that claimed his life. The fact that the entry was included in an annual roundup of news items meant that it was reported on or near the time of the event.

I made a new research plan with this last record in mind. My plan included locating the following items:

  1. The 1863 death record for Charles Carson in Trenton, New Jersey
  2. Any news articles regarding the accident and subsequent death
  3. A probate file in Mercer County, New Jersey for Charles Carson
  4. Hutchinson’s sawmill to learn if it was near the last known residence of the Carson family

Check back for a future installment to see how well I executed my plan.

Notes and sources:

1 Jean [Owens], “Re: Kansas surnames,” discussion list, 23 Oct 2002, Genealogy.com, GenForum: Kansas Genealogy Forum (http://genforum.genealogy.com/ks/  : accessed 16 Nov 2002), message 12392.

2 Dawn Bingaman, “Re: Kansas surnames Carson – Hopkins,” discussion list, 16 Nov 2002, Genealogy.com, GenForum: Kansas Genealogy Forum (http://genforum.genealogy.com/ks/ : accessed 16 Nov 2002), message 12547.

3 “1880 United States Census Household Record,” database, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org: accessed 02 May 2003), entry for Caroline Carson, District 1, Chambersburg, Mercer County, New Jersey, citing National Archives microfilm publication T-9, roll 789, sheet 500A.

4 Franklin S. Mills, “Index to the Year 1863.” Daily True American (Trenton, New Jersey), 1 Jan 1864, transcription, Old Mill Hill Society website (http://oldmillhillsociety.org/research/chronoindex/Index1863.htm : accessed 11 Jun 2003). This website was located using the Wayback Machine and can be viewed today at this link:
Sharp-eyed readers will also note there was another Carson entry among the news items. See 9 May 1863: “Mary Ann, wife of David C. Carson, died in the 33d year of her age.”