23 January 2021

Voting and the 1870 US Census

 For the last few weeks, I have been working on my Campbell line almost exclusively.  I have had a possible breakthrough on one of my mother’s lines during this time, but I keep coming back to the Campbell’s.   After all, the search for that elusive Campbell immigrant is the whole reason I started this genealogy trek all those years ago.  And sadly, I’m still no closer than I was ten years ago.

This story is about my 2x GGF, James Campbell.  I am secure that this gentleman is indeed my ancestor, but I cannot go any further back in time with a high degree of certainty.  I have 9 pages of typed notes in my quest for his parents.  I do have a strong suspicion on just who they are, but I haven’t enough proof to lay claim quite yet.

Here’s what I can say with certainty; my father was Donald Sherwood Campbell, he was born to Herbert J. Campbell and Josephine Melinda Bodle (Nanny to me) on 28 March 1912 in Milesburg, Centre County, Pennsylvania.  I have his death certificate for documentation, and many memories of Nanny telling me about her husband, Herbert.  We lost Herbert during the “Spanish” flu pandemic in 1919.  I can also remember my father and Nanny talking about an Uncle Hiram.  Nanny passed away in 1975, long before I started this quest, so I couldn’t ask her any more questions.  No one in the family could remember Herbert’s parents, other than this Uncle Hiram.

After my father passed away my mother moved back to South Carolina, her family’s home state.  She had a large, detached garage on the property that many boxes of odds and ends that were never unpacked after the move stored there.  On one of our family trips to see my mother my wife and I started going through those boxes to see if we could find any clue as to either side of the family.  We were warned that it would be a fruitless endeavor.  Nope!  We found a mostly ruined baby book of my eldest sister’s.  And in that book, were Herbert’s parents (and several generations on my mother’s side too!).  So now I had a good lead.  I needed to find a Samuel W Campbell and his wife Adaline.

So off I went, back to Ancestry to look at the census records.  Back then, about 1998, not all of the census records were indexed, and you had to go page by page looking for names.  I would start in the last city or town, or even county I had of the family and start scanning.  I should also mention that I was doing this while at work.  My day job was running a computer service department.  I would start a few PCs on some task, and then using my workstation scan the census records on Ancestry while the computers did their thing.  It was a pretty cool setup.

Since Nanny told me that Herbert and died during the flu pandemic, I had a general idea of the time frame.  I sent a request to the Pennsylvania Vital Records folks to get a copy of his death certificate.  I guess I got lucky with the person who handled my request.  I “assumed” that Herbert had died in the Centre County area.  I had no records or stories that told me anything else.  One day (at work again), I received a call from a very nice person from the vital records saying she couldn’t find a death for any Herbert Campbell in Centre County, but did find one in Allegheny County.  The date was during the correct time frame, the cause of death mentions influenza, and the decedent’s father was Samuel.  Three facts I knew.  Commence to doing the genealogy happy dance!

Herbert Campbell's death certificate
Herbert's death certificate

It was a bit more scanning and luck that led me to census records for Samuel and family.  The issue there was that Adaline was not Samuel’s wife given name.  It’s Eleanor, Adaline is her middle name.  While it’s not uncommon for folks to go by their middle names, especially when they are named for someone that’s still alive, the prevalence of this amazes me.  I found the family in Boggs Township, Centre County in the 1900 census.  Adaline is listed as "Ada E." in 1890 census replacement, "Elner A." in the 1900 census, "Addie" in the 1910 census, and as "Adda" in the 1920 census.

Samuel and Eleanor's Headstone
Samuel and Eleanor's Headstone

Samuel’s death certificate, with Adaline as informant, gives us James Campbell as his father and Anna Calley as his mother.  So, here’s the first clue for names to start looking for.  In the 1890 census replacement for Centre County, over in Milesburg we can find Anna E. Campbell, with daughter Catherine and son Hiram J., age 22.  Here is Uncle Hiram I mentioned earlier.  Turns out that Hiram was dad’s great uncle, brother to his grandfather, Samuel.  Hey, an uncle is an uncle, right?

Samuel's death certificate.
Samuel's death certificate.

I now have another confirmation on Samuel’s mother “Anna”, and a sister Catherine.  Working backwards from 1890, I find the family first in the 1870 census (Samuel was born in 1861, so this would be the first census he would have been counted in).  And this is where this portion of the story is paused, but will be continued in another post, on another date.  This post is about that 1870 census, remember?

What was different about the 1870 census?  For me, just one question.  In column 20 it reads –

                “Male Citizens of the U.S. of 21 years of age and upwards where rights to vote is denied on other grounds then rebellion or other crime”.

It would appear that James has a tick mark in that column.  It may be just a stray mark, but it looks rather deliberate to me.  Even if it’s leaning the opposite way from the other marks for James.  Looking through all 36 pages of the census for Snyder Township, there are no other marks in column 20.

The 1870 census for James and family, the tick mark is in column 20 on the far right of the image.
The 1870 census for James and family, the tick mark is in column 20 on the far right of the image.

But just what does that mean?  Looking at the census website, the instructions aren’t all that clear, at least not to me –

“… It is a matter of more delicacy to obtain the information required by column 20. Many persons never try to vote, and therefore do not know whether their right to vote is or is not abridged. It is not only those whose votes have actually been challenged, and refused at the polls for some disability or want of qualification, who must be reported in this column; but all who come within the scope of any State law denying or abridging suffrage to any class or individual on any other ground than the par­ticipation in rebellion, or legal conviction of crime. Assistant marshals, therefore, will be required carefully to study the laws of their own States in these respects, and to sat­isfy themselves, in the case of each male citizen of the United States above the age of 21 years, whether he does not, come within one of these classes.” (Italics mine)
  Source: https://www.census.gov/programs-surveys/decennial-census/technical-documentation/questionnaires/1870/1870-instructions.html   

Hmm..  As I read it (and I am not a lawyer, and I don’t play one on TV), it would seem that to be included on this one must have been denied voting privileges due to

·         Some disability.  Maybe mental issues?

·         Want of Qualification.  That’s rather generic.  Here I’m thinking non-citizens (Native American’s were still not listed as citizens, nor were Mexican-Americans).

·         All who come within the scope of any State law denying or abridging suffrage to any class or individual on any other ground than the par­ticipation in rebellion, or legal conviction of crime.  Huh?  Just what does that mean?  Does it mean that if one tried to stop someone else from voting for a reason other than rebellion or conviction, they were also denied the vote? 

I am still trying to figure this one out.  I’m still looking for more resources for 1870 Pennsylvania and suffrage.  

The most likely reason I can find is a resident requirement.  It may be that James had just moved into Snyder Township from Franklin Township and had not met a requirement.  James and family did move often.  As an iron worker he, and his brothers, moved around from iron forge to iron forge.

Interestingly, I can find a James Campbell in the 1890 census as an inmate in the Western Pennsylvania Hospital for the Insane.  If this is him, and I’m not discounting it, that would give us the answer to the tick mark in 1870, and maybe why he’s not listed with the family in 1890. 

1900 Census showing James Campbell as an inmate
1900 Census showing James Campbell as an inmate

None of the possible male siblings I have for James are noted as having their right to vote denied.

Anyone else have an ancestor with a tick mark in column 20 of the 1870 census?  Let me know if you’ve figured out as to why that mark is there if you have one.


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