I was looking at census data this morning from the 1880 United States Census of Bethel Precinct in Bath County, Kentucky. The family that I was looking at is the George W. Vice family who are distant ancestors in my husband's family tree. After noting all the usual facts that a census page can give, looking deeper and with more thought, this particular family entry gave me more.
On the surface of this entry I find George W, age forty-three and his wife, Kate, as she is enumerated, thirty six years old. George cannot write, but I guess he can read since that column was left empty of a slash mark. They have five children, three sons, ages seventeen, eleven, and eight and are all listed as laborers. The two daughters are fourteen and six. The older children did not attend school nor can they read or write. Everyone in the family was born in Kentucky as were the parents of George and Kate.
But looking deeper, I also find that because of a very detail oriented enumerator, Charley has a cut on his foot which must have left him unable to work on the day the census was taken. In addition ot Charley's disability, this very serious enumerator also noted that Kate had an ovarian tumor. I'm quite curious as to how that information was obtained, and my imagination runs with the possible questions that were asked to get it! The tumor must not have been malignant because Kate lives for another twenty one years! I just can't see a woman in 1880 discussing this feminine affliction with a census taker!
The other thing that I wonder about with this census entry is the attitudes of the family towards women. Of the vast number of census entries that I have looked at, the majority of them list the children in the order of their birth. Although Ann is the second born child in this family, she is not listed as such. Her name, along with her sister Rebecca, is written below that of her brothers who are listed in the order of their age. The children of other families in this enumeration district are listed in the order of their age so it wasn't the decision of the enumerator. Is it that daughters were seen as less important than their male siblings? Of course, this I will never know, but taking a deeper look at this family does give me cause to see them as more than just dates and facts about occupation and birth location. Have you ever found something interesting by looking deeper than the facts in census data?