The SAR Magazine

Spring 2019

The SAR MAGAZINE is the official quarterly publication of the National Society of the Sons of the American Revolution published quarterly.

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Page 15 of 47

12 SAR MAGAZINE 16 SAR MAGAZINE By T. Joseph Hardesty, MLS, PLCGS Library Directory, NSSAR Genealogical Research Library, Louisville, Ky. O ver the past 24 years of assisting genealogy library patrons, I continue to feel great excitement whenever an elusive ancestor has been found. This is particularly true when researching U.S. Federal Census records. Whether it was searching frame after frame of microfilm back in the day or carefully keyboarding away on or HertiageQuest, the researcher would always light up as a result of her persistence. You know the feeling. In most cases, the newly discovered ancestor may turn out to be key to settling many unanswered questions once and for all. Names, places and dates of birth are just a few of the many valuable pieces of information that federal census records reveal about our families. In addition to these wonderful facts, however, federal census records themselves have a life of their own. I believe hearing of their untold story can add value to your family history. Some would argue that early 19th century federal census records are of limited value for the family historian. From the first census of 1790 to 1840, these records would reveal only the name of the head of household and the number and age ranges of free white males and free white females. As early as the 1820 census, enumerators were asked to count free black males and free black females, as well. The difference in this one enumeration reflects, I believe, the growing concerns over slavery in our emerging nation as a whole, and in Congress in particular. Even earlier, the delegates to the Constitutional Convention meeting in Philadelphia in 1787 hotly debated for weeks the concerns over the representation of African Americans who were free versus those who were enslaved. But how did this debate play out? With the surrender by Cornwallis at Yorktown, followed soon thereafter by rapid western expansion, larger southern states saw a marked increase in free white males. Since slavery made these states the agricultural powerhouse of our fledging nation's economy, they would be a political force to be reckoned with. It may sound counterintuitive for us today, but in actuality, geographically smaller "non- slave" northern states threatened non-ratification of the Constitution if persons of color were counted in the census. Failure to ratify the Constitution was a significant fear of southern states, for their economies depended heavily on interstate commerce and access to ports and textile mills located in the North. For their part, southern states desired their enslaved population to be counted in the census, for this would translate into more representation (and power) in Congress. One can only wonder if our newborn nation would have survived infancy had it not been for persevering delegates who came to the now-famous Three-Fifths Compromise of 1787. Article 1, section 2 paragraph 3 of the U.S. Constitution stipulates who can or should be counted in the census and who cannot—namely "3/5th all other persons" (i.e., non-white). For a more in-depth description of the issues and players of this debate, read David Stewarts' The Summer of 1787: The Men Who Invented the Constitution (Simon and Schuster, 2007). As many genealogists know, the 1850 federal census was the first to name each member of the household and provide their age, sex and color as well as their place of birth, occupation and whether or not they attended school. The increasing number and variety of questions asked by the enumerators in this and future censuses reflects not only Congress' interest with a "head count" of voters and future voters in a given district, but also the needs within the district. Lawmakers on both the federal and state levels needed (and continue to require) accurate demographic data to determine which states and counties are most in need of funding to build roads and schools, and to train teachers with the goal of better meeting the needs of constituents, many of whom are foreign born, physically impaired (1830 census) or mentally impaired (question No. 13, 1860 census). Common sense would lead us to ask, "who would knowingly build a railroad to a town that may not be around in 10 years?" The practice of gerrymandering—the altering of congressional district boundaries to suit political preferences—more precise when demographers and cartographers could determine with relative accuracy the political affiliation of those residing within a given enumeration district. Throughout our nation's history, party affiliation has been strongly tied to ethnicity. If a census enumeration indicates that a state population increased by (x), then a committee consisting of members of the political parties for that state are permitted to submit new congressional district boundary maps to the federal government for approval. We have Elbridge Gerry, governor of Massachusetts, 1810–12, to thank for instituting this political "monstrosity." One can argue the fact that the 1820 census being the first to enumerate free black males and females reflects our nation's movement toward emancipation of slaves. Article 1, Section 9 of the Constitution even goes so far as to make illegal the importation of slaves after Jan. 1, 1808. Later, the 1900 census provided much helpful genealogical information, such as question No. 10, the number of years of present marriage for those married. It's also important to note that this was the first census to record the month and year of the Federal Census Records An Untold Story Elbridge Gerry (174-1814) The Gerry-Mander

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