Sunday, June 7, 2020

Great-Great-Grandpa Was Illiterate and Other Insights from 1870 Census

1870 US Census, Salem township, Steuben county, Indiana
Because of incorrect transcription, I had a bit of a time finding my hubby's 2nd great-grandpa Joseph W. Rinehart (1806-1888) and 2d great-grandma Margaret Shank Rinehart (1807-1873) in the 1870 US Census. It was worth the trouble because of what I learned about these ancestors of my husband.

Ohio Fever?

Born in Pennsylvania in October of 1806, Joseph seems to have been part of the "Ohio Fever" movement toward the western frontier. By 1850, he was married to Margaret and he was farming in Tod township, Crawford County, Ohio. How they met, where they married, I don't yet know.

Their oldest child was 16 in the 1850 Census, and he was born in Ohio, which implies that the family had arrived in the Buckeye State by 1834. This time-frame fits with the Ohio fever movement.

Ohio to Indiana

When I finally found Joseph and Margaret in the 1870 Census, they were no longer living in Ohio. They were living in their son Hugh Rinehart's household in Salem township, Steuben county, Indiana. That's 150 miles northwest of their previous home in Ohio.

Joseph was 64, Margaret was 63. He told the Census he was a tailor. He also said his real estate was worth $3,600, while son Hugh (a carpenter) didn't own any real estate.

1870 Insights

Then my eyes moved toward the righthand columns on the 1870 Census page. And I learned a lot more!

Literacy: Joseph Rinehart was the only person in the household unable to read or write. Every other person in the household, his wife included, was able to read and write, according to this Census.

Parents of Foreign Birth: Margaret Shank Rinehart's parents were both born outside the United States. Sadly, the Census didn't ask what country. Margaret herself was born in Delaware, she told enumerators in multiple Census years. I'm still trying to pick up her trail before Ohio.

Constitutional Relations: Not unexpectedly, only Joseph (age 64) and his son Hugh (age 31) had marks in the far-righthand column asking about male citizens over the age of 21. Their right to vote was not denied or abridged. Naturally, none of the women were eligible to vote at that time.

There are small but key insights to be gained by looking at ALL the answers to questions asked in the Census, not just the basics.

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