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Claiming Your Family in the Census

What I Was Looking For

I was excited when the 1930 census was made available to the public. I would be able to see my father as a 2 year old in the census and my mother as a 1 year old. So I began my searches.

I searched for my mother in the county and state where I knew I would find her with her parents. She was the oldest so she would be the only child in the household. According to the family stories, they lived in Sweetwater, Nolan Co, Texas. Family stories said that my grandparents and my mother moved to Sweetwater between the birth of my mother and her sister. My mother was born in September 1928 in Big Spring, Howard Co, Texas and her sister was born in May 1931 in Sweetwater, Nolan Co, Texas. I believed that my mother was under a year old when they moved.

I knew they lived in town, because my grandfather was a civil engineer and didn't own a farm. I also knew that they lived next door to my grandfather's cousin, Charles Ross. So I searched for William R. Couch in the 1930 Nolan Co, Texas census.

The Family I Found

The 1930 census for Nolan Co, TX, lists:

William R. Couch as a Civil Engineer, the same as my grandfather's occupation. His birthplace and the birthplaces of his parents match what I already knew about my grandfather's family.

Flora Couch's birthplace and parents' birthplaces also matched what I knew about my grandmother's family.

Vera Couch, aged 1 1/2 years, was the right age to be my mother.

1930 US Federal Census, Nolan Co, Texas, Sheet # 25B, 17 April 1930. Note: You can also view this census on Ancestry. Both Footnote & Ancestry are subscription sites. Searches on Footnote are free, but require a membership to view documents.

I found several other families who could be mine, including, Charles Ross. Charlie Ross was my grandfather's cousin who had supposedly lived to next door to my grandparents. But this family lived a couple of blocks away. This did not discourage me, since I know that family stories frequently are a mix of fact and misinformation.

How I Claimed My Family

While I was confident I had found the correct family in the census, I still would have to be able to prove it with supporting documentation. A lineage society or professional genealogical publication for instance, would not accept a census record as the only proof of the relationship.

Since I want my research to be viewed as credible, I would need other evidence.

I remembered the picture in my grandparents' photo album.

The one of my mother as a toddler,
...on the sidewalk in front of the house,
...with the house number on it.

William and Flora Couch Album, 1926-1937.

I knew my grandmother had written the street and town name on that page of photos of my mother playing in the snow. It could be used as one piece of evidence.

I looked at the album page and sure enough it was exactly as I had remembered it and there was the address:

406 East Ave. C,
Sweetwater, Texas. Mother was 14 1/2 months old.

Since my mother was born mid-September 1928, this photo was taken in late January or early February 1930. The census was enumerated for April 1st that year. Also, there are subsequent pictures of my mother and her siblings at this same house, so I know they didn't move for several years.

All of this affirmed for me that the stories were correct: they lived in Sweetwater in 1930.

Since I had an exact address and I knew that the 1930 census listed the house number for families living in town, I checked the census for William R. Couch's house number and street name. His house number was 406 and the street name was Ave C. [Check out the instructions for census takers.]

By the way, this is what the house looks like now [2011] via Google Maps

It was nice to know that I remembered my facts correctly, but since my mother's name is not on the photo, I will need additional evidence. The photo album has this inscription inside : 

William and Flora Couch Album, 1926-1937
 This along with other photos in the album provide evidence that this album belonged to my grandparents and along with other photos provide evidence supporting the photo identification as that of my mother, Vera when she was 14 1/2 months old. My mother also told me that the photos in the album were of her as a little girl.

Other documents that I have to support my analysis include: 

  • Delayed birth certificate for Vera Couch, with affidavit by her mother, Flora Couch
  • Birth certificate for my birth, listing Vera as my mother
  • Marriage license for my grandparents
  • Marriage license for my parents
These documents support the lineage of the individuals in the census and their connection to me.
Supporting Documentation

This may all seem silly and unnecessary since I have the census and the photos and I knew all of these people. I also have my own knowledge and experience as part of my "proof."

Documenting your research is time consuming but well worth the effort. It has many benefits for you and your readers. Click here to learn more about documentation.

But I won't be alive forever and I would hope that future researchers would be able to use my research to help them. It can only be helpful if it is accurate and well documented.

What I Learned

I have learned to use census records appropriately. The families listed on the census mean that all of those people lived in that house. It does not mean that they were a family. Not all censuses indicate relationships to the head of the household and even when they do, it does not establish the relationships of other members of the household to each other. For instance, the wife of the head of the household is not necessarily the mother of the children in the house.

I have learned that I need to find additional records that establish those relationships.

I have learned that I need documentation that ties my ancestors to me.

Only by finding supporting and clarifying documents and then by tying them to myself through further documents, can I claim a family found in the census as mine.

Click here for more on tips for using census records.

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