Vacationing, A City Directory Success and “Mining” Census Records

Posted in: Alan Campbell's Blog | 1

This blog post comes to you from a valley of the Maitland River. We are camped near Auburn, Huron County, Ontario. I find it interesting to travel through the areas in which collateral ancestors used to live. As we drove through Brucefield a couple of Plewes families came to mind. When we briefly travelled the Hullett/McKillop Road, a wrong turn corrected, I thought of travelling further east to check cemeteries. A trip to Listowel to buy yarn put us in Bolton country as a few of them are buried there. Should I drive to Fordwich to check out the cemetery there, or to Mayne Cemetery where George Bolton is buried? Needless to say there are many directions in which I could strike out before we return home.

A City Directory Success
As I am away from my computer and vacationing this will be a short post. I did want to share with you a pleasing discovery related to city directories. I am trying to reconstruct a Bolton family, that of Andrew and Catherine, who moved from Canada West to the United States between the 1861 Canada West census and the 1870 United States Federal Census. I was able to find a family in Chicago, Illinois in the 1870 Illinois Census,1 with Catherine as a widow with two children, Frances A Bolton and Samuel H. Bolton whose names matched those found on the 1861 Canada West Census for Wallace Township, Perth County.2 Hoping to seek an official death record for Andrew to try to prove this connection, I learned that filing death records was voluntary in that time period so few records exist. I continued to seek later census data for the family and found that Catherine lived with a son John who was born in the United States. Marriage records were no help either as abstractions did not include parents’ names. Having already ordered and received copies of an Illinois marriage from the same time period that did not list the parents’ names I was not hopeful that those for Catherine’s children would be any more complete. Luckily a search of provided a hit on an 1870 Chicago, Illinois, City Directory that included an entry for Catherine, widow of Andrew, living on Mitchell Street.<sup<3 She had been enumerated on the 1870 United States Census for Chicago, Cook County, as living in Ward 8. I was able to find a Guide Map of Chicago, 1871 on which I was able to find Mitchell Street running through Ward 8.<sup<4 Probably both sources refer to the same woman.

The above search was a reminder that when you research in other geographical areas who keeps the records and the way of keeping records are likely to be different. In my last post I noted that one of the city directory companies in Canada did not start to include women who held jobs other than “keeping house” until 1901. Catherine would not have been included if those rules applied in 1870 in the city directory business in the Chicago area.

Mining Census Records for Given Names
I am a strong proponent of systematically mining the census records through the years for a given family. One of the bonuses is finding more than one given name for a family member. An Isaac H. Bolton was enumerated in the 1871 Canada Census living in Howick Township, Huron County.5 In the 1881 Canada Census he was enumerated as Henry I. Bolton still living with his parents in Howick Township.6 Further searches on this individual used both given names could result in more hits.

Kudos to a County Clerk
I have heard some horror stories about indifferent county clerks in the United States who made it difficult to access vital records. My kudos go to Cynthia, the county clerk for Sweetwater County, Wyoming, who responded to my emailed query, about getting a marriage record for a Perry Bolton and Nancy Collins, in a timely fashion with directions about using the online form which could then be mailed to her. In a follow up email she let me know that she had checked with the post office to see what the postal rate would be to send the copy of the registration to me in Canada so she would not over charge me. I received the copy of the marriage registration within a week and a half. I notified her by email that I had received the copy and thanked her for her efforts. Good service does exist!

As the summer winds down I hope you get time to visit the places where your ancestors lived. Collecting records online is great but I still like to walk where my ancestors walked.

Alan Campbell
Ontario Ancestors
© 2019

1. Catherine Bolton family entry, 1870 United States Census, Illinois, Cook County, Chicago, p. 390, family no. 3225, lines 15-20, downloaded from [world edition] 30 June 2019.

2. Andrew Bolton family entry, 1861 Canada West Census, Enumeration District 7, Perth County, Wallace Township, p. 9, lines 8-11, downloaded from 30 June 2019.

3. Chicago, Illinois, City Directory 1870, p. 98, downloaded from [world edition] 9 August 2019.

4. Guide Map of Chicago, 1871, downloaded from 9 August 2019.

5. Isaac H. Bolton entry, 1871 Canada Census, Ontario, District 26 North Huron, Sub-district L, Howick Township, p. 55, line 14, downloaded from 25 June 2019.

6. Henry I. Bolton entry, 1881 Canada Census, District 175, North Huron, Sub-district 3A, Howick Township, p. 18, line 3, downloaded from 25 June 2019.


  1. gilbert.gauvin

    This summer my wife and I visited the ancestral home of my paternal family in Beauport, Quebec. We stayed in a hotel that was walking distance of the original village of Gifford which was founded by Seigneur Robert Gifford in the early 1600s. My family lived in Beauport (Gifford) since 1652 and many of the houses that they in over the centuries still exist. Our goal was to do a walking tour and visit and photograph as many of the homes as possible. In essence, we walked in the steps of my ancestors.

    In the end, we visited seven houses and two cemeteries. Some of the houses had been built in the 1600s and they are occupied. My family had lived in this house for over three hundred years. Since my family had owned the limestone quarry in Beauport, all of their homes were built with stone which contributed to their longevity.

    We spent time in the two cemeteries photographing and documenting all of the grave stones in my family. My oldest sister is buried in Beauport so spent times with here and left flowers for her.

    The time that we spent in Beauport this summer was only a few days but the experience will resonate with me for the rest of my life.

    I documented each of the seven houses in my blog. I called the series, “Walking in the Steps of my Ancestors”.