Very Creative Census Search

21 Jan

I was thinking yesterday about a recent find I made in the census records, when researching a couple of months ago for a client. So…. thought I would write a little about it. Make no mistake about it. I would have never found this fellow in the 1880 census; without some very creative searching.

This fellows name was Richard Guest or Guess. I had him and his family on the 1860 and 1870 census. I also had his widow living with a son and a couple of daughters in 1900. I knew, based on the 1900 census, that Richard had not died until sometime after 1890,; when the youngest daughter was born. In 1860, 1870 and 1900, the family was always found in Nashville, Davidson Co., TN.

I had tried everything in order to find this family in the 1880 census. I knew they should have been there in Davidson Co.; but just could not find them. I tried searching the children’s names. Tried searching the Wife’s name. Tried the various spelling of the last name. I probably spent 2 or 3 hours trying to locate the family in 1880. I was getting very frustrated!

After thinking on this for a while; a thought came to me. In 1860 and 1870, Richard’s occupation was listed as that of a “Fisherman”. I thought….. How many fisherman could there be in Davidson County in 1880? Surely there could not be more than a few. So… back to the 1880 ancestry census records I went. I go to the 1880 census search. I put absolutely nothing in for first of last name. I enter “Davidson County, Tennessee” into the “Lived In” field of the search page. Then; I put “fisherman” in the “occupation” field of the search page. There were 33 matches that came up.

I browsed through those 33 matches, and found 2 of these men whose first name was Richard. There was a Richard Copeland; and a Richard Johnson. I looked at both families. The wife and children of Richard Johnson did not match that of my client’s Richard Guest. However; Richard Copeland’s wife and children were a perfect match!

I was sure I had found the right man. I began searching some Davidson County marriage and death records; trying to locate records of the children of Richard. Interestingly enough; I found the death certificate of his son, Albert. His death certificate listed his name as Albert “Copeland” Guest! Although Copeland had been entered on the death certificate, where the middle name was meant to be; it still confirmed that the Richard Copeland and family; which I had found on that 1880 census; was the right family.

Later; I found a couple of marriage records of the daughters of Richard. Although the widow of Richard; and his children, were listed with the last name of “Guess” on the 1900 census; a couple of those daughter who married right before and right after 1900; had married under the last name of Copeland.

Ironically; in spending so much time to finally answer the question of where Richard and family were in 1880; I had also created a new question; that I am not sure will ever be answered. Why was Richard’s last name Copeland in 1880. The 1860, 1870 and 1900 census records all list the family as Guess/Guest. However; the 1880 census lists the last name as Copeland. The death certificate of a son, listed his name as Albert Copeland Guest. Also; I had found marriage records of a couple of the daughters; which listed their maiden name as Copeland.

Looks like I answered one question; and created some new questions by doing so!


Posted by on January 21, 2012 in Census


3 responses to “Very Creative Census Search

  1. Sue Hilfiker

    January 21, 2012 at 9:35 pm

    I believe that is the way with genealogy searching. You find one answer and it opens 3 more questions. But I do love to search.

  2. digginbones

    January 21, 2012 at 9:42 pm

    Indeed. Often times, you find the answer to one question; and end up with several new questions. But it’s not too often that you find a family that used a completely different last name. I mean…. sure. You find a surname spelled various ways. But you don’t often find one that used two different last names.

  3. Regina Neff

    January 24, 2012 at 3:43 am

    I have one for you… I knew my Great and my Great Great Grandmothers names were Sarah Jane and Martha Jane and that “One” of them had the last name Cross (turns out they both had the last name Cross)…and “one” had the last name DAVIS, but not which was which.. in my Many months of searching.. I found a Martha Cross AND a Martha Perry (both were the same person-counted on the 1880 census in two separate households.. Martha was a servant on a farm and was counted as part of their household, but her mother also counted her… at the farm, she used the name Martha Cross but her mother put her down as Martha Perry.. Sarah Jane CROSS married John (I think that was his first name) Perry.. but Martha was born out of wedlock, so her real name was Martha Cross. Martha Cross married ELI DAVIS is Athens County Ohio , my block is now with ELI DAVIS, he died somewhere around 1909 but I have no other info on him, but he & Martha had many children & I have info on all of them..


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