On the street where I grew up in the 1950s and 60s there were five families that were related: sisters, brothers, parents, cousins, grandparents and so forth. In fact, my aunt and uncle lived down the street from us and others lived within a mile or two. This close proximity of sibling families seemed very normal. So, why was I surprised to find it in 1880 or 1900? I guess I wasn’t really so surprised, just happy to find more potential stories.
When I began researching the censuses of my great grandparents, Charles and Mary Kuhn, I came across a broad family togetherness tale. It came about as I was training myself to be thorough I guess. One learns from those who are really good at family research to always study the neighbors in a census, not to stop when you find the family you first went after. I’ve been told to pay attention to people who might be connected in some way that are living nearby. This is one of those illustrations of the wisdom of that lesson. So anyway, what’s the big deal here?! It turns out to be a family story extravaganza, a part of which I’ll tell here today. This particular research brings so many possibilities for family history stories, I can’t mention them all!
The beginning of this neighborhood fiesta is the 1880 census record of Charles and Mary Kuhn in Indianapolis, living at 101 High Street with their three month old son. They told the enumerator that Charles works at a brewery, he was born in Hessen, and both of his parents were also born there. And that Mary was born in Indiana, her father in Baden and her mother in Bavaria. All of this information is super because it confirms the origins of the families and helps complete and document their history more strongly. Of course, I took a while when I found the Kuhn family to just think about what all the information meant and to file it in my database.
But then….I started looking further at the other names on the page. Low and behold, I noticed the John and Wilhelmina Scherer (Scherrer) family living at 91 High Street. Wilhelmina and John are documented through several other records as Charles’s sister and brother-in-law. And a few more houses away, at 83 High Street, is the Joseph and Anna Maria Roesch (Risch) family. The age of Joseph, his occupation and his parentage tie him in as Mary (Risch) Kuhn’s brother. From her early life I know that she has a half-brother named Joseph. So, this census puts these sisters and brothers a few houses apart in Indianapolis. What a threefer! Of course, these facts don’t stand alone as documentation of these relationships, but with additional facts they are building my evidence. And how convenient to find them on the same page. (You can see for yourself the many interesting tidbits by clicking on the 1900 census image above. Hold your cursor over the image for the line numbers. Enumeration district 129, City of Indianapolis, Page 21.)
As a side note to these revealing bits of family information provided by the 1880 census, there was one expected relationship that it did not contain. It would have been so nice if Charles and Wilhelmina’s mother, Katherine Kuhn, was listed with Wilhelmina Scherrer’s family. Other records indicate she lived with them in 1879 and 1883 through 1890, when she died. So now, did they just forget to say she lived there? Was she living with a different child that year? Visiting someone? I can’t find her in 1880 at all. This is a mystery that I would like to solve. It sure would be nice to have that one dab of glue!
But, with or without Katherine, after finding these close family living situations in 1880, I was especially anxious to move along in the census searches to see if anyone moved or what else I could discover. (Of course, we wish for 1890, but that nasty fire burned most of that year’s records!) My 1900 Indianapolis census research reveals the High Street neighborhood with the Kuhn, Resch and Scherrer families still living in the same homes, with expanded families. However, with the considerable increase in population in Indianapolis, this year the families are enumerated three pages apart. And the street numbers have been changed as well. It took a little more looking in the neighborhood to connect these dots in 1900. But they were all there for the finding.
Charles and Mary Kuhn’s family, at 1050 High Street, now includes six children that were born in these twenty years. But the child who was a baby in 1880, is not listed. Other records indicate that he passed away shortly after that census. This is the first time I see my grandmother, Tillie Kuhn, listed as the daughter of Charles and Mary. She is nine years old. The neighborhood must have been fun for her, with aunts, uncles and cousins close by. (See the 1900 census for the Kuhns on the right, lines 39-46. Enumeration district 165, Center Township, Ward 13, Sheet 3A.)
Also in the 1900 census, three pages from the Kuhns, there were other family ordeals that came to light for the Scherrers and Resches. Wilhelmina Scherrer and Mary Resch are both listed as widows, John and Joseph having passed away. These two ladies are only in their mid 50s. I presume they had to depend somewhat on the young-adult children as yet living with them for support. For instance, Mary Resch indicates she is the head of the household, with her daughter and son-in-law and five-year-old granddaughter living with her at 1013 High Street. Her daughter’s husband is a teamster and there are no occupations listed for either of the ladies. Wilhelmina Scherrer also maintains a household with five of her children between the ages of 18 and 34, all of them employed, but not their mother. Their house number changed from 91 to 1023 High Street with the renumbering by the city planners. (See the Scherrer (lines 59-64) and Resch (lines 72-74) families in the census on the left. Enumeration district 165, Center Township, Ward 13, Sheet 6B.)
I seem to find another detail or an idea for more research pops out of these pages each time I open them. I’m thankful that the records are available, even if they weren’t intended for family historians’ use. I’m going to always remember to look at the neighbors!
The High Street neighborhood stories of the Kuhn, Risch and Scherrer families are still emerging. I feel sure of that. Some of them span more generations than these censuses I talked about here. Some of them can only be imagined.
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