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Census research: Gather the neighbors

Genealogy Today: Census research: Gather the neighbors

Wednesday, February 1, 2006
CONNIE LENZEN for The Columbian

In the 1900 Rockport, Mass., census, 80-year-old Benjamin Rowe Kidder is residing in the household of Frank Blatchford. His relationship is given as "uncle."

In 1880, Kidder was in the Gorham Norwood household in Rockport. He was the head of a separate family unit consisting of himself, Catherine Pool (housekeeper) and Caleb Pool, Catherine's son.

In 1870, Eliza and Benjamin Kidder were listed as a separate family unit in the David Wallace household in Rockport.

In 1850 and 1860, Eliza and Benjamin were listed as a separate family unit in the William Garvey household in Rockport.

These entries are curious. They are curious because Kidder is consistently listed in a separate family unit from the person who is the householder.

They are curious because he is with people of different surnames. Were they merely people who allowed him to board with them, or were they something more?

Kidder's census entries are a wonderful illustration of why we must study all the people in the same area as our ancestors. If they are not relatives, they may be our ancestor's "support group."

A study of their lives may lead us to our ancestor's parents.

In the case of Benjamin Rowe Kidder, there were four families living in the same dwelling in 1880. The first family consisted of Gorham Norwood, age 55; Julia C. Norwood, age 34; and Eliza Rowe, age 76. Yes, the Norwoods and the Rowes are related to him on his maternal grandmother's side.

The second family in the household consisted of Amos Rowe, age 49; Elizabeth Rowe, age 42; Lizzie C. Norwood, age 22; and Nellie G. Rowe, age 13. Again, they were all related to Kidder.

The third family consisted of Rev. Edwin D. Bowers, a 35-year-old clergyman; Sarah M. Bowers, age 32; and Charles E. Bowers, age 12. While they do not seem to be related, the presence of a clergyman in the dwelling is a clue that the family probably attended his church. There may be church records that can be studied.

The fourth and last family consisted of Kidder and the two Pools. There is probably a relationship because Kidder's maternal great-aunt wed Abraham Pool.

Did Kidder ever live with relatives on his paternal side? Yes, he did. Frank Blatchford from the 1900 census was married to Eliza, the daughter of Benjamin's brother Henry.

The next time that you find your ancestor in a census, include the enumeration information for about 10 neighboring households on each side. Then, study those people.

Connie Lenzen can be reached in care of The Columbian, P.O. Box 180, Vancouver, WA 98666. Include a self-addressed, stamped envelope for a personal reply. Or e-mail her at

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