For some time I have been working on a special project on the town of Smithland, from its earliest establishment to about the time of the Civil War. Calling it a history project isn’t entirely accurate, nor is calling it a genealogy project. It is a mixture of both. When it is completed, I plan do a Power Point presentation for my local genealogical society.
The project began with research of some of the early families, but it soon snowballed into much more. When I research a family, invariably the project expands to include all the neighbors, where they originated, who and where they married and died and their religion. Because people settled in a particular place for a particular reason, using these sources helps me to know as much as possible about the neighborhood in which my family lived. I’m not satisfied to know that something happened, I want to know why it happened. Sometimes it pays off, sometimes it does not, but it’s always fun to try.
To get the desired results, I use a variety of records - census, deeds and mortgages, tavern and coffee house bonds, tax lists - anything that will shed some light on the target subjects.
One of the things I wanted to know about Smithland was the type and age of the business people. I thought that younger people were more likely to be passing through the area if Smithland turned out not to be their ideal location. It also made sense to me that older people were more apt to settle for a long time in Smithland. Finding a new frontier would not be as appealing to older persons. Basically, my goals were to learn who these people were, when they came to Smithland and whether they stayed or moved away.
Keep in mind that I like numbers, statistics and arranging items in order. Using the 1830 and 1840 Livingston County federal census records, I arranged every person in town by age category. These two census records were used because this time period was the heyday of Smithland. What do you think I learned? What was the median age of the population of Smithland?
It really isn’t surprising. In 1830, the median age was between 20 and 30 years old. The next largest category was under the age of 5. It fits, doesn’t it? Young people have children.
In 1840, the median age was also between 20 and 30 years of age. What happened to those listed in that age category on the 1830 census? Well, the next largest group, 71 persons total, were between the ages of 30 and 40. While not proven, I have a hunch that some of those between the ages of 20 and 30 in 1830 stayed in Smithland and were 10 years older in 1840. I also learned that in 1840, there were 20 free persons of colour and 397 slaves. This contrasts to 4 free persons of colour and 290 slaves on the 1830 census.
While this type of research might not appeal to others, I find that it helps me understand my subject just a little bit more.