Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Mom and I have fun with the 1870 US Census

Mom, who was 96 years old just last month, has been doing genealogy since the early 1970s, only recently announced to me that she was retiring from it. She might have trouble seeing the computer screen due to eye issues, but you can't dampen her interest. We were talking about the copies of death certificates I'd received in the mail from my guy at Maryland State Archive that were for Mom's mother and father and Dad's birth certificate. We had such a good time exploring every line and wringing every last drop of meaning out of it! You get that, don't you? "He died of what???"

The only great grandparent I now don't have a death cert for is Dad's paternal grandfather, Gustav Zeller (1858-1927) and that request is in. He was born and died in Frostburg, Allegany, Maryland, a small mountain town in Western Maryland as so many other of my ancestors. In fact my parents, grandparents, and six of my eight great grands were all born and died there.  If I want to find out who was doing what about 1870 I check out the census for good old District 5 in Allegany County, that's Frostburg.

US Census 1870, District 5, Allegany, Maryland; Roll: M593-566; Page: 148A; Image: 299.
My Zeller family.

After Mom and I had some fun with death certificates we went on and chatted about how much we like just browsing census pages before and after the page on which our ancestor appears. We agreed that for us the most fun census to browse is the 1870. You see, Frostburg was on the upswing then. Coal mining, the railroad, ironworks, and brickworks all fed the main pipeline of prosperity. And merchants followed and built strong businesses. The region drew immigrants like a great big magnate from the British Isles and Germany especially. Hard work and great promise drew my own ancestors from Ireland, Germany and Wales about 1840. The head of household in the 1870 census was often listed as having a surprising amount of personal wealth.

The first thing that struck me was the uncommon names for the German states. My great great grandfather Charles Wm. Zeller (1829-1901) had immigrated from Wurtemburg in 1851. He returned a year later and married Anna Mary Bruening. They were back in Frostburg in time for the 1860 census and he was listed as a confectioner and she a milliner or hat maker. Doesn't that sound like a fun couple? His son and my direct ancestor and great grandfather was Gustav. But what of all these different German states? Look at part of the census page to see, below.

When I look at the 1870 census the families listed right before my Zeller family are from Hesse and  from Prussia. My Zellers are listed as born in Wurtemburg. Where was that? I had to know and German history is not my strength. So off to Wikipedia which you can see here. I won't take time to explore here what the unification was all about but you can go see for yourself. Here's a map from that page showing where everything was after unification. You might have to go to the Wikipedia page to see the full map. Look at the golden color area. That's where the Zellers came from and where Charles returned to marry Anna Mary Bruening.

Thanks, Wikipedia!

The neighbors listed past the Zeller family were also from the German states as well as Ireland, Wales and England. It seems to me that every-other head of household was not from Maryland or the adjoining states of Pennsylvania or even West Virginia but were immigrants. The churches in town served the diverse population and my own ancestors worshiped at St. Michael's Catholic Church (Irish), the Welsh Shiloh Congregational Church, and the Lutheran Church. My Zeller people, you might think, could have worshiped at the Lutheran Church but they were Catholic. It was the old-line Revolutionary War families who were Lutheran.

And what of local prosperity? There was plenty of work to go around and pay day brought locals and those living in adjacent town to Frostburg to shop. Saturday night downtown was a busy place!


Frostburg, Allegany, Maryland. Main Street, about 1900.

Charles Zeller's confectionery and sweets shop prospered and his family grew too. Here they are in the 1870 census and look, he owns $2000 in real estate.

Other families are doing well and buying up real estate too. George W. McCulloh living three residences away has $30,000 in real estate and his wife has $5000 in her own name. He's a banker. Edward Hoffman a brewer from Saxony had no real estate holdings but his neighbor Albert Holly from Hanover, also a brewer, is holding $9000 worth of real property. Their neighbor Thomas H. Paul from New York is a machinist and has $16,000 worth of real estate holdings and $7000 of personal property. Yes, it sure looks like a prosperous little mountain town. Opportunity abounded!
Mom and I had a real good time on the phone reviewing the Frostburg 1870 census. We just don't get people who don't get us;) Imagine, not enjoying looking at the census!
Gustav Zeller in the white barber's coat standing on the front steps of the first electric trolley that came to Frostburg. Notice his hand touching his hair... to signify that he was a barber? He was a super promoter!

Gustav Zeller again, this time close-up so we can see his grooming.

Gustav's father, Charles Wm. Zeller.

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