Sylvester Davy, My Great -Great-Grandfather in Census Records


Exploring my family history has led me down the rabbit hole of historical research.  Census records show a great deal of my family's history, and my family's history also shows some holes in the census records.  Although this work was done carefully by intrepid census takers, with boots on the ground, I have learned that they never actually counted everybody.  They tried!  But it isn't really possible.  The records of the people they did see are detailed, offering slightly different information each time.   

In 1840 the only names that were recorded were of the head's of households and ages were only represented as brackets.   1840 Pennsylvania, Tioga County, Gaines township, Sylvester Davy was between 30 and 40 years old. His wife (possibly) was between 20 and 30. The 6 children in the household were: 1 boy under 5, 2 boys between 5-10, 1 boy between 10-15, 2 girls between 10-15. There were also some familiar names in the neighborhood: John Benn, Davy's wife's father is on the next line with one male aged 50-60, one female aged 40-50 and three females (unmarried daughters/) aged 15-20. Three lines above is William Griffin. (Perhaps a relative of S H Davy's wife?) He and his wife are aged 40-50 and in their household there are 2 young men, aged 15-20 and 20-30, and 1 young lady aged 15-20.

Ten years later, in 1850 on the same census tract we see Sylvester Davy (46) & Catherine (42) + George (24 student !), Maria (22 idiot), Elmira (20), Edwin (18 laborer), Henry (16 laborer), Cornelius (13), Esther (9), Richard (7), All but Elmira, Maria, and George (!) attended school within the year.  Henry is actually Sylvester Henry.  In later years he identified himself as Sylvester H Davy.  There is an age disparity between Sylvester's wife in 1840 and in 1850.  There could have been a death in the family, or possibly the census taker simply estimated her age bracket.  It's also quite amazing to see how many more people live here only ten years later.  There are pages of entries between the names that were just lines away in the 1840 count.  

Between the 1850 and 1860 census, Sylvester H (aka Henry) Davy married Mary Jane Griffin.  His first three children were George and the twins Orlando and Sylvester.  This may have been a bit much for him because at the time of the 1860 census Mary Jane and the three boys are living with her parents Orlando and Hannah Griffin in Port Allegany while her husband is in Omaha, Nebraska.  The Griffin household must have been a lively one!  Along with Mary Jane and her 3 boys, seven of Mary Jane's siblings still live at home.  Milton and Cornelius (22 and 17 years old) are working as laborers.  Cornelius is also listed as attending school.  The other five children, ranging in age from ages 6 to 14 are all listed as attending school.

While Mary Jane Davy and her three children are staying with her parents, Sylvester Henry is having adventures out west.  He is counted in the 1860 census in the third ward of Omaha City in Nebraska.  Living with the Poppleton family who have immigrated from England are, along with with Sylvester Henry, cabinet maker, are a mason a blacksmith and a saddle maker.  Sylvester Henry may be struggling financially.  He lists the value of his personal estate as 50 cents.  

After another 10 years pass we find that Sylvester Henry didn't spend too much time out west.  His oldest son George isn't listed on the census.  I hope he is out there someplace although I haven't found him yet.  The twins, Orlando and Sylvester are listed as 11 years old and have been joined by my great grandmother (5 years old), her big brother Harvey, 9 and her little sister Minnolia who was four.   Sylvester Henry is listed as a cabinet maker on this census with a "personal estate" of $100 and real estate worth $500.