Given Name(s) Last Name

From the Ancestry Daily News 
  Michael John Neill – 3/12/2003

I am what I am. Or am I?

When we left "Iam" Jones last week , the analysis was incomplete. This week, our analysis continues. I am a little confused and "Iam" is only part of the problem.

Iam and Matalida are Females
The failure to note the gender of "Iam" and Matilda was a significant oversight in last week's article. Enthusiasm is great, but one must not overlook details that could be crucial to an analysis.

"Iam" and Matilda are both listed as female -- there's little doubt that the census taker wrote down an "f" in the sex column for both entries. This appears to fly in the face of the idea that "Iam" and Matilda are a married couple.

Are They Both Married to Joneses?
Just because the last two entries in the Wesley Jones household were both married within the census year does not mean that they were necessarily married to each other (even if they were of the opposite sex). All that is indicated in the census is that "Iam" and Matilda were married within the census year. If the female notation of the census entry is correct, then "Iam" and Matilda were clearly not married to each other. If they were both female and married within the census year, it is possible that they were both married to male members of the Jones household and that their husbands are both not in the household during the 1860 census (after all, no males enumerated in Wesley Jones' household are listed as having been married within the census year).

Determining potential husbands for these two "ladies" will be the problem. Wesley Jones, the head of household, had no sons who had spouses in 1860 per other records. This reasonably eliminates the possibility that these two individuals are Wesley's daughters-in-law. Male members of Wesley's extended family must be analyzed to determine if any were married ca. 1860 with wives whose names are reasonably close to the ones listed in the 1860 census. While this is a possibility, it would be unusual for two wives of Wesley's nephews (or more distantly related male family members) to both be living in the Wesley Jones household. Possible, but not likely.

Were They Both Joneses?
Our analysis last week centered on the fact that Matilda was accidentally enumerated with her maiden surname of Jones instead of her married surname of Rhodes. If "Iam" and Matilda are both females, perhaps they are both children (or reasonably close relatives) of Wesley Jones and both enumerated incorrectly under their maiden name and both were married within the census year. Matilda did have a sister, Permelia, whose middle name was likely Jane (another reasonable rendering of the "Iam" discussed further in this article). While the word may very well be Jane and not Iam, there is a problem. Sister Permelia was not married within the 1860 census year and is enumerated elsewhere in 1860 with her husband and children. Of course, Jane could be a niece or another relative of Wesley's. Further research of family members and marriage records may be warranted to eliminate this possibility.

We'll put the gender of "Iam" on hold for now and re-consider the name "Iam."

Is it "Iam?"
Gender aside, the "Iam" entry's ambiguity indicates the necessity of looking at additional census entries in an attempt to interpret the handwriting more clearly. This analysis should include several pages before and after the troubling census entry, focusing on words and letters that look similar.

Iam is Jane?

An entry at the bottom of the page on which "Iam" is listed may hold the key to an alternate rendering-the household of James Vestal. In this household there appears at the end of the entry an older female whose name looks like Jane. There is a very real possibility that the name in Wesley's household is supposed to be Jane also (or perhaps a close handwriting variant such as June). A first name of Jane or June would make the name consistent with the entry in the sex column.

Iam is for "William?"

Several readers indicated that the "Iam" could stand for William. Of course, this flies in the face of the enumeration indicating this entry is a female. However, it also is consistent with the first name of Matilda Jones Rhodes husband.

I wish I had a hard and fast conclusion to the identity of the last two individuals enumerated in the Wesley Jones 1860 household. There is no magic solution to this confusing census entry. The problem is that this census entry (like many others) is ambiguous.

In summary . . .

If these two people are both females--Jane or June and Matilda Jones (as their married, not maiden surnames)--then who are their husbands and why are these females in the Jones household? And where are William and Matilda Rhodes in the 1860 census?

If these people are William and Matilda Jones Rhodes, the concerns are that William's name is "off" (no other record for him lists him as "Iam") and his gender is incorrect.

Both of these two scenarios have their own problems. However, I have reached a tentative conclusion about Wesley Jones' 1860 census entry.

"Iam" Jones and Matilda Jones are intended to be William Rhodes and Matilda Jones Rhodes--this is despite the fact that "Iam" is enumerated as a female. While it is possible that the entry is referring to a Jane (or June) Jones and a Matilda Jones as recently married women living within the household, I think this possibility is not as likely as the potential that the census taker merely goofed on the entry for the second to the last member of the Wesley Jones household.

I'll keep in mind that my conclusion may be incorrect and keep researching additional records as well. Genealogy work after all, is never truly complete.

What I have done in this case is copied down the census entry exactly as it appears and have appended a digital copy of the entry to my genealogy database. In my notes for William Rhodes I have included not only my transcription of the document, but my analysis and conclusions as well. This enables me to later revisit the information and know what was originally going through my mind.

--- Organize your case and your conclusions so you or others can track your thought process.
--- Read the entire entry and avoid the "happy dance" prematurely (Michael avoids it permanently ;-) ).
--- Compare confusing handwriting to that of other entries in the same document or series of records.

Applying a sensible methodism to Wesley's entries did not provide us a clear-cut answer, but it did force us to consider additional possibilities and contemplate additional research sources.

Michael John Neill, is the Course I Coordinator at the Genealogical Institute of Mid America (GIMA) held annually in Springfield, Illinois, and is also on the faculty of Carl Sandburg College in Galesburg, Illinois. Michael is the Web columnist for the FGS FORUM and is on the editorial board of the Illinois State Genealogical Society Quarterly. He conducts seminars and lectures on a wide variety of genealogical and computer topics and contributes to several genealogical publications, including Ancestry and Genealogical Computing. You can e-mail him or visit his website at:, but he regrets that he is unable to assist with personal research.

Copyright 2003, Inc.

Used by the author on his website with permission.

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