Friday, June 19, 2009

Census Records for Sunnyside

Thanks to an observant researcher, I have a copy of a census record for 1900 showing Georgina Ball Hughes. The record for Suffolk County, Massachusetts includes the residents on School St., in Dorchester. Robert and Eliza Ball Hughes eldest daughter, Georgina, lived in the family home, Sunnyside, on School Street until her death in 1911 at age 82.

The Ball Hughes family moved from Adams St. to School St. in 1851. Robert lived there for 17 years until his early death in 1868. We learned from the Sketch of the Life of Robert Ball Hughes by Mrs. E. Ball Hughes that the Ball Hughes apparently rented the home from several different owners over the years. In 1866, Mrs. Ball Hughes convinced her daughter, Georgina, who taught art in the public school for many years, that it would be a good investment to buy the house. Robert and Eliza continued to live there, probably with Georgina at times. She spent much of her time in London, England working as an accomplished artist.

What I didn't know was Georgina's birth date and city of birth. Several art biographies listed her birth year as 1828. This always bothered me since her parents, Robert and Eliza, where married in November 1828 and left for New York by packet ship shortly after they were married. Georgina would have been an infant on the stormy 10-week ocean voyage in the winter of 1828/29 if she was born in 1828. Eliza made no mention of Georgina's birth in the biography. Without knowing Georgina's city of birth, I had no way of verifying her birthdate, until I saw the 1900 census record.

I have no reason to doubt the census record as the information was provided to the census-taker by Georgina, the owner and resident of the house. The record lists the house number as 1 School St. (at the corner of Washington St.). The house number is now 3 School St., since the house was moved about 60 feet west from the corner. This tells me that the house may have been moved after the 1900 census but not what year. The census record for residents as of June 1, 1900 shows “Ball-Hughes Georgina” as the head of the house and no other residents or tenants at the time. A photograph of Sunnyside shows a “For Let” sign in front of the house in the late 1800's. The next house shown on the census record for School St. is No. 9.

The census record shows Georgina's color or race as “W” for white, sex as “F” for female, date of birth as Sept. 1829, age at last birthday as “70”, place of birth as “New York” (City), birth places of father and mother as “England”, and she was single as we already knew. The record also shows her occupation as “Artist”, and months not employed as “0”. The entry for attended school (in months) was blank and the entries for can read, can write, and can speak English were “Y” for yes. The owned or rented entry was “O” for owned, the entry for owned free or mortgaged was “M” for mortgaged, and the entry for farm or home was “H” for home.

This tells us quite a bit. Georgina was born in New York in September 1829, not 1828 as previously reported. She apparently was a honeymoon baby, conceived on the long ocean voyage since the Ball Hughes arrived in New York on January 19, 1829. September 1829 to June 1900 is 70 years, the same as Georgina's reported age as of June 1, 1900. Georgina probably completed public school in Philadelphia and Boston but nothing more is known about her education. Her obituary states that she was 83 when she died in October 1911. She would have been 82 years old if she was born in September 1829 instead of 1828. Perhaps the writer also had the wrong year of birth.

It's interesting that after owning the home for about 34 years since purchasing it in 1866, she still had a mortgage on it. Maybe long mortgage terms were common at the time to keep the payments low. It's also interesting that at age 70, Georgina did not consider herself unemployed. Retirement, as we know it today, is a relatively new phenomenon.

As I have learned, a one-line census record can reveal valuable information to confirm what is already known and add more details to it. I'd like to obtain more census records for the Ball Hughes from New York City for 1829-1830's, Philadelphia from the 1830's to 1840's, and Boston, from the 1840's to 1900's. I'd also like to get birth records for Georgina (born Sept. 1829) and her younger sister, Augusta (born Feb. 16, 1832), both in New York City. These birth certificates might list the parents birth date and city so I can track down Robert and Eliza's birth records.

I'm also looking for a passenger list for the packet ship, The Robert Edwards, that arrived in New York from London on Jan. 19, 1829. This list might also show Robert and Eliza Ball Hughes birth date and city. Please contact me if you have access to these records and can help me. Thank you.

Dave Brown

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