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From the Ancestry Daily News
  Michael John Neill – 5/7/2003

Where, Oh Where is Abraham?

Census indexes have taken some of the work out of locating people in enumerations. Some of the work--but not all of it. It is still necessary to think when using census records.

With the use of indexes, the desired forebear, Abraham Wickiser, was easily located in Harlem Township, Delaware County, Ohio, in 1830 and 1850. 1840 was the problem. Abraham was not listed in the index under any reasonable variant and a manual check of the 1840 census for Harlem Township, Delaware County did not produce the desired result. Note: I did not spend three hours getting creative with the index when the actual township where the person should have been listed was only a few dozen census pages at best. There are times when simply viewing the pages is the most efficient way to go.

Time to Stop and Think
First of all, did I have good reason to believe Abraham was in Harlem Township? I thought I did. Abraham is enumerated there in 1830 and 1850 and owned real estate in the township. He could have lived elsewhere in 1840 only to return by the 1850 census enumeration. Searches of indexes were made for Abraham in Ohio and other states in 1840, all to no avail.

My next step would have been to analyze a map of Delaware County, Ohio, and determine what townships were located adjacent to Harlem Township. These townships would be the next place to manually search the census images for Abraham. After all, he could easily have been enumerated in an adjacent township and his name could have been spelled so incorrectly that locating it in the index would be difficult. It is not always worth spending days creating oddball name spellings for an index search when the actual census can be searched manually. However, I decided to revisit the 1840 census for Harlem Township before I expanded my search.

I Reviewed
Abraham and Catherine Wickiser's 1850 census entry indicated they were aged 70 and 66 respectively. Abraham's 1830 census entry indicates the presence of a 50- to 60-year-old male and a 40- to 50-year-old female. These age ranges are consistent with the ages of Abraham and Catherine in the 1850 census. Yet the question remained: Where were they in 1840? Was it possible they were living in Harlem township and simply not enumerated?

One of the individuals believed to be Abraham and Catherine's son is a George Wickiser, also of Harlem Township. A George Wickiser is enumerated in the 1830 through 1850 censuses for Harlem Township. I will operate on the assumption they are the same George unless evidence indicates otherwise.

In 1850, George and his wife are both aged 46. In 1830, George's household has a 20- to 30-year-old male and a 20- to 30-year-old female. These 1830 age ranges and the 1850 specific ages are consistent enough to be the same couple.

Then there is the 1840 census for George.

This entry indicates the following "adults" in the household.

A 30 to 40 year old male.
A 60 to 70 year old male.
A 30 to 40 year old female.
A 50 to 60 year old female.

The entries for the 30 to 40 year old male and female are consistent with George and his wife from other census entries. But there is apparently an older couple living with George in 1840. Who are these people?

The age ranges for this male and female are consistent with the age ranges established for Abraham and his wife in the 1830 and 1850 census. But are they really Abraham and his wife? The older couple living with George in 1840 could be his parents, the parents of his wife, or another (likely related) couple. For now, we'll work on the assumption that these older individuals are George's parents. However, I will note that this is the assumption I have made.

If the older couple is George's parents, how do I know they are Abraham and his wife and not another Wickiser couple? Good question.

Let's Back Up to 1830
The 1830 census enumeration lists six Wickiser households in Harlem Township, indicating that Abraham's family was not the only one in the area. Based upon the ages in the 1830 enumeration there appear to be two "patriarchs" of the Wickiser group in Harlem Township: Abraham and Conrad (both of whom are aged between 50 and 60 in 1830). Based solely upon the census, the relationship between these two men is unknown. The four remaining Wickiser families are all headed by men in their twenties. Our working assumption is that they are all somehow connected. Further research will have to be done to separate the individuals into the correct family groups.

Nagging Doubts
Could the older couple enumerated with George Wickiser be Conrad and his wife instead of Abraham and his wife? It does not look like it. There is an 1840 census entry for a Coonrod Wickiser in Hancock County, Ohio, with only two individuals enumerated in the household: a male and a female both aged 60 to 70. The oldest male and female in Conrad's 1830 Harlem Township entry are aged 50 to 60. The chance of two separate Conrad Wickisers in Ohio of the same age appears to be remote (although it is always possible).

Following are several key assumptions we made in the course of this analysis:
- Abraham Wickiser's parents are enumerated in Harlem Township, Delaware County, Ohio, in 1830.
- The older man and woman living with George Wickiser in 1840 are his parents and not his wife's.
- There was only one Conrad Wickiser born between 1770 and 1780 living in Ohio in the early eighteenth century.

What Should I Do Now?
The census records got me off to a good start, but there are more records that should be analyzed. In particular records at the courthouse such as estate records, court records, land records, and tax records. All of these sources, combined with the census and other records may give us a more complete picture of the family. The census only provides a glimpse into the family every ten years, and sometimes this occasional glimpse is not enough.

Why Are They with George in 1840?
If Abraham and Katherine are enumerated with George in 1840, one wonders why they are not enumerated with George's family in 1850. The reason may never be known. However, next week we'll see how land records for Abraham hint at a potential reason why he's living in his own household again in 1850.

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 at: 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 web site with permission

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