Saturday, May 5, 2012

About That 1900 Census

It’s finally 1900. It’s actually June 13th, and the census has already been taken—well, at least in Precinct Five in the City of Denver.

There on Larimer Street is the household of Mrs. Mary Flannigan. Well, actually, it was written, “Flanigan.” But that is a trifling something we have grown accustomed to seeing.

However, it is rather dismaying to see the content listing Mrs. Flannigan’s household. The names don’t quite sound familiar. Gone are the former entries for Kate, Nellie, Rosa and Grace. In their place are new names: Kate White, Floyd McCaley, Thomas Flanigan and Floyd McCauley. (Yes, you read that right: there is a “daughter” Floyd McCaley and a son-in-law Floyd McCauley. Sounds like reruns on the 1894 Michigan State Census for “Mrs. R. C.”)

And there is a son: Thomas C. Flannigan.

There are enough changes to make me want to step outside the house and pretend to wipe my shoes on the welcome mat while stealing a second glance at the address on the doorway.

But yes, this is the place. No explanation of where Mr. Flannigan might be. After all, Mary’s entry does record that she is still married—but in those days, a number of divorced or separated women might have used that same report as a device for avoiding social censure.

In fact, Mary reports that she has been married for twenty seven years, and that she is now forty six years of age. She gives her birthday as November, 1853. And she claims that she is mother to seven children, of whom only five are now living.

Let’s see how this measures up with the Mary we already know—the Mrs. John Flannigan who used to live in Leadville, Colorado. The only record we already have for Mary’s age is the entry in the 1880 census, in which she declares she is thirty, and born in New York. This doesn’t quite match up to the age given in the 1900 census, but what woman doesn’t want to seem younger than she truly is? Besides, the birthplace matches.

To check whether our Mary is indeed the mother of seven, we need to do some explaining about another entry in that 1900 census: the addition of a son named Thomas. This Thomas evidently made his entrance into the Flannigan world somewhere after they moved from Michigan to Colorado—definitely after the 1880 census, thus leaving us without any documentation (at least online at this point). Apparently, he was born in April of 1888, possibly in Leadville.

When adding Thomas to the family constellation we already know, that would total seven children. So the report on the 1900 census agrees: Mary did have seven children. And she did lose two, both in Michigan: the infant son, Patrick, and their young daughter Florence.

So who are these others in the 1900 household?

Let’s tackle the misnomer and her “twin” first: the entries for the Floyds McCaley and McCauley. Since McCaley is doubly confirmed as a woman and a daughter, and also listed as having been married within the past year, we can assume that she would be the Mrs. Floyd McCauley (if that is, indeed, how the surname is to be spelled). Since she lists her birth date as being in November, 1879, she would match the birth record of Rosa, who arrived November 9th of that year. The fact that her birthplace is entered as Colorado rather than the Michigan birth we already have on file we can take as a reporting error. With their marriage celebrated within that year, it would seem reasonable that she claims not to be the mother of any children at this point.

What of the remaining person on this list? Kate White claims, in 1900, to be twenty six years of age, born in Michigan in August, 1873. And that is what the record agrees to for Kate Flannigan, born that month on the twenty third. Of course, stating that she has been married for eight years begs the question of where her husband is—and, for that matter, who he is. The fact that they have been parents of five children in those eight years, all of whom have since passed away, seems to be a devastating token of what life has been like for this one Flannigan daughter.

But the fact that so many of these details align with the information we already have for John Flannigan’s family helps confirm that this is the correct 1900 census entry—though also prompting questions as to John’s own whereabouts.

Missing from this picture, in addition to John, are his daughters Nellie and Grace. This is where we can say with confidence that there is still a connection between the Flannigan family and the city of Leadville. Remember Nellie and Grace showing up in the Leadville city directories for those years leading up to 1900? In the 1900 census, they show up in the household of Canadian immigrant Walter G. McKay, to whom Nellie was wed not too long beforehand. There in the McKay household on West Third Street, Grace played doting aunt to baby Sina, who arrived just over two months before the 1900 census was taken, making her the first surviving grandchild of John and Mary Flannigan.

Photograph: Tom (left) and John Flannigan in Colorado; courtesy of Flannigan descendant Connie Martel.

1 comment:

  1. What amazes me most about this beyond you perseverence, is has marvelous it is to have city directories and the like 100 and more years later at our fingertips.


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