The 1900 census for the Joseph Niehaus family is rich with history. This research find helped to bring the family’s image into a much sharper focus. But first, when researching this census on ancestry.com I had to be patient and use a few tricks to find the record.
This story is an example of how one tiny letter can result in losing a family, temporarily. In this case, it appears that when the name was written on the census form an extra “n” was inserted. The name recorded was Nienhaus. That by itself might take some extra searches, or tedious reading of the pages of search results. But secondly, the indexer transcribed this difficult handwriting with yet another wrinkle. You can see why on the image below. For this family, the ancestry.com indexer came up with Nienhams.
Searching the 1900 census for this family on ancestry.com had a few challenges. When I started with the correct spelling, Joseph Niehaus in Indianapolis appeared as my first result. Wow, that seemed easy! But a quick look told me that’s the wrong Joseph Niehaus, no children and much older. (Don’t have any evidence of a family connection at this time.)
It takes some ingenuity to find the correct Niehaus family. Since I know the location is Indianapolis, I decided to try various other combinations for searching ancestry. The one that worked was: the wildcard search for the last name, Nie*, along with Joseph’s birthdate and “living in” Indianapolis. With this search, the incorrectly-spelled Nienhams family does show up at the top of the results.
There’s really a tremendous amount of background to be learned about Joseph Niehaus and family thanks to the extent of questions in 1900. A notable fact for this Niehaus clan is that Joseph is a widower at 52 years of age. (Gertrude passed away in 1895.) Here we see that nine of their eleven children are living with their father at the family residence on South West Street. Six of the children, from age 15 through 23, are working. The four girls are employed in the cotton mills. From additional research I believe the company is C. B. Cones & Son Manufacturing Co. Many Niehaus and extended family were employed at C. B. Cones. (Another story for another day.)
Also in this 1900 census I learned that they immigrated in 1887; and Joseph indicates he is naturalized. These leads are still in the pending category as I try to find their passenger list and his naturalization records. Whoever is the person in the family providing this census information also states that everyone in the family can read, write and speak English. Of course, after 13 years in the United States this isn’t a surprise. But it makes me stop to think about whether anyone in the family spoke English when they arrived. My grandfather, John, is only ten years old. I wonder if he spoke both English and German when this census was taken since his older sisters and brothers were born in Germany.
The census story also states that Joseph was a furniture filler. This is a surprise since he is well known to be a weaver. His loom was in the home on West Street. The family story is that he was a weaver and merchant in Germany. This is the only time any other occupation comes up for Joseph. Perhaps this was a temporary job, or maybe another mistake. Who knows?!
Lastly, I’ll mention the home where this Niehaus family of ten is enumerated, 1117 South West Street, Ward 15, Center Township, Indianapolis, Indiana. Joseph has a mortgage on his home at this time. I would presume that all the employed family members are helping to pay the expenses for their home.
This home is still standing 113 years later. The address has changed to 1135 South West Street.
Wow, if these walls could talk! Maybe they would tell us about the 12th day of June, 1900, when the enumerator, William Gibbs, interviewed a representative of the Niehaus family in district 182 of Indianapolis, Indiana. Wouldn’t that be fun!