the daughter of Hattie Mosell Williams (22 Mar 1880 – 21 Jul 1921) and Thomas Henry Stringer (26 Mar 1869 – 1 Jul 1933). The family lived in Tattnall County in 1910 and Haw Pond, Evans County, in 1920, and she married my grandfather James Dewey Jones (1907-1973) in 1928. They lived in Bulloch, Chatham and Effingham Counties.
|Thomas & Hattie Stringer's parents, from their Bible|
I have located a Screven County marriage license issued 26 Apr 1881 to Sheppard W. [not M] Williams & Mary Jane Andrews, who were married 13 Oct 1881 (record Marriage Book D, 1874-1881, p 149). This is of course after eldest daughter, and my great-grandmother, Hattie was born, but I’m finding that wasn’t as unusual as you would think, so while I haven’t committed to that yet, it’s in my files as a possibility.
I haven’t located any other information about Mary J. Andrews prior to the 1900 census. I have one likely mention of “SM Williams” in the 1860 census, living with his parents “JM” and “HA” Williams in Effingham County. (I really hate it when the census enumerators only recorded initials!) The reason I think it “likely” is a combination of family history that Shepard Williams was named after his grandfather, and in 1850 James B and Harriet Williams were living in Bulloch County with an elderly Shepard Williams and two young daughters whose names at least partially match the initials used in the 1860 census (Mary and Ella in 1850, “ME” and “EE” in 1860). The children’s ages are off by a year, and Harriet’s age differs from the age given for “HA” by 2 years so more research needs to be done.
|1900, 1910 & 1920 Census Records for Shepard M. Williams and Mary J. [Andrews] Williams|
I’ve loaded a large image of excerpt from those three census records because the 1900, 1910 and 1920 census forms are particularly rich in details. You can click on the image in here to open a larger size for reference. I think we should look at these in more detail so you’ve got an idea what can be gleaned from these records. I’ve added the column numbers to make it easier to refer to the illustration. You can find blanks which will list all the column headings by number for all census years at the Ancestry.com site (http://www.ancestry.com/charts/census.aspx), and other websites also have census blanks (just Google “census blanks”). This is so much easier than trying to read blurry census forms from microfilm or even the digitize ones online.
I was a bit surprised to find my relatives living all the way up in Augusta (Richmond County). I had assumed they were all farmers in the 19th and early 20th centuries. But of course people try to go where the jobs are, especially when they have seven children! If you look all the way over to the right, Column #19 of the 1900 census gives the occupation of the employed members of the family. Shepard was an elevator man at a cotton mill, and three of his daughters worked as spoolers; daughter Mattie was also a room [sp?] hand, whatever that is. Two of the daughters had been out of work for 1 month each (Column #20). From Columns #25 and #27 I can find that they rented a house. All the way back over to the left, in the first unnumbered column, the census enumerator entered the street name in the rows above my family’s entry. The second unnumbered column has the house number. So Mary Jane and Shep lived in a rented house at 1929 Hicks Street in Augusta. I’ll have to research city directories to find out if the houses and streets have been renumbered since 1900, but the current location in Augusta looks like a narrow, almost rural, lane, with a few wooden houses and storage garages (Google maps, street view).
There’s more to be found in the 1900 census. According to the record, Shep was born in December 1851 and Mary Jane in August 1859 (the double-column #7). Someone went back and forth on their ages (Column #8). The census was taken on 7 June 1900, so their correct ages should be 48 and 40, but the darker number indicates 49 and 41. Which calculation was incorrect? They reported their ages as 59 and 51 in 1910, and 69 and 61 in 1920, so I’m left wondering if they gave the census taker their age and birthday and he (incorrectly) computed their birth year. Since we don’t have birth certificates, and I haven’t yet found any tombstones, we’re left with a conundrum. I confess that I still show 1851 and 1859 in my family tree, but I’m giving serious consideration to backing that up their birth years to 1850 and 1858.
|Sheppard W. Williams & Mary Jane Andrews|
1881 Screven County Marriage License
As I mentioned above, I found a “possible” marriage record in Screven County, giving their marriage date as 13 Oct 1881. But here on the 1900 census, Column #10, they indicated they had been married 24 years, which would calculate to a marriage in about 1876. But if you look down to the 1910 census, Column #9 indicates that Mary and Shepard had been married for 30 years, placing their wedding in about 1880. This isn’t something I can resolve with the current data available to me, so I’ll just have to put it aside until I can discover more information. By the way, both the 1900 and 1910 census forms record that Mary gave birth to seven children and that all seven were still living (Columns #11 & #12 in 1900, #10 & #11 in 1910).
While we’re looking at the 1910 census, take a look at the far right columns again. With the change of residence came a change of employment. Shepard was and Overseer (Column #18) on “Bukins” or “Perkins” farm (Col #19 – something else to add to my research list). He rented (Col # 26) a house (#28), and there is further information on entry #89 on the farm schedule (which I haven’t been able to locate – I think this may be one of the years that congress ordered destroyed, so that individual records no longer exist). There is no house number, since they lived in the country, but the first unnumbered column on the far left indicates they lived on the Reidsville and Statesboro Road. As an aside, this is census Sheet number 36-B. On Sheet number 36-A, apparently not far away, on Cobbtown Road, lived their son-in-law Tom H Stringer and his wife (their daughter) Hattie, along with their four children, one of whom was my then-three-year-old grandmother!
And finally, the 1920 census shows Shep and Mary living on their own farm (“Operator” in Column #26, “Farm” in Column #27, and “OA”, meaning working on his own account, in Column #28). There was further information on row 211 of the farm schedule (Column #29; again, I don’t know if this schedule still exists in complete form). As I’ve said, I have no record of their deaths or burials, only a notation, drawn from family recollection that Mary Jane Andrews Williams died in 1926 and Shepard M Williams died before 1930. Hopefully I’ll be able to dig up some more information from my family in the near future.
I hope I haven’t totally confused you, and I’ll be moving on to another branch of the family next time.
Here’s your summary:
- Family stories and histories, whether oral or written, are often the only starting point you’ll have to find out information on the “mid-distant” ancestors – those who may have died within living memory or within the memory of the very recently departed. And there’s often no way to confirm this information with primary sources, so many times you’ll have to begin relying totally on the census to corroborate the stories. At some point you may be totally reliant on what you can glean from the census forms.
- The handwriting on the census forms can be difficult to decipher. Don’t waste time trying to decipher the printed column headings. Use a resource such as the census blanks available from Ancestry.com or another source. Many websites provide the blanks in downloadable form, and they can also be obtained from most FamilySearch Centers (formerly Family History Centers).
- Census forms can be a valuable source of information for more than just name and age. Don't neglect all those "other" columns, particularly for 1880 and for 1900, 1910 and 1920.
- You can't expect to resolve every issue the first time with only the records at hand, so make notes and move on. Revisit the questionable data or incomplete results when you have access to more information.