Record Research by James Gandolph

Published on 5 November 2021 at 08:00

As we go back in time searching for our ancestors, records become scarcer. The previous methodology that we would use for research doesn’t work anymore. We have to additional records in addition to the census records. What records could be of value in addition to records that only give us tick marks? In Pennsylvania, early censuses and tax records will be discussed specifically. With my own ancestor Daniel Drinkle, I had a difficult time finding who his parents were. Daniel was born 19 July 1788 in Reading (Redding), Pennsylvania.

In censuses 1790-1840 they don’t give head of household. They gave tick marks of who lived in that place. Since, Daniel would have been between the ages of 9-10 there may have been a Drinkle that was living in that place.

Notice as well that his last name is Drenkle instead of Drinkle. One thing that one must remember is that there weren’t standard spelling rules. Some census takers did not know how to spell and so ancestor’s name would be messed up. So don’t discount it if it’s a little bit off!

So if heads of households are given and the census only goes to 1790, how do we move forward? Tax records. These documents are a type of census. It gives people’s name and it gives the amount they owed for taxes. It may give hints of how wealthy they were at the time. You also have to remember in regards to these tax records that the United States used the British standard of money until 1792 which used the system we know today. The system looks like this £.s.d. Pounds, shillings. Denarius (pence). Below is example:

John Drinkle paid in taxes s7 shillings and 6 pence. You’ll notice something strange with some of the numbers. How someone is charged 18 shillings and someone is charged 1 pound and 16 shillings. How this system works is that one pence is 1/240 of a pound and 1/12 of a shilling. So how many shillings is going to take to make one pound? 20 shillings. This is calculated by dividing 240 by 12 which equals 20.

But I digress. Because these records were in alphabetical order, there was no ancestor that listed with this John. Was John the immigrant ancestor? Possibly. The Pennsylvania Archives would have to be searched in order to find a record. No record was found. It seemed that this line could not be pushed forward. As was mentioned previously, we needed to be aware of spellings rules. I learned that Germans interchanged their names a lot. Ts and Ds would be interchanged and Bs and Ps would be interchanged. The search was done again and this was found:

This was the front page of a probate record that John had. It also lists children who will be involved in his inheritance and one of which was Daniel. Now, what about John’s ancestor? This record was found keeping in mind the spelling rules looking for variants of Drinkle and Trinkle. His name is highlighted for emphasis.

Now that we had a name of this potential ancestor. We needed to search the tax records to see what we could find. In Alsace, a village by Reading, we found this ancestor but as Mathias Drinckel. Why was Mathias not found when we were looking for him. Because Reading was only searched at the time and not any nearby towns in Berks. If we had done so, it would have lowered the amount of time in searching. Which brings another important point. Search all nearby towns and counties which that ancestor may have lives.

In conclusion, there are three important points. In censuses 1790-1840 search for variants of last names to see if other heads of households share them. Second, don’t be hung up on spelling rules if it’s not exactly right. Third, depending where they immigrated from, the first letter of their name can be interchanged.




Follow our November Guest Genealogist James Gandolph on his Blog titled Families: The Importance of Their Stories

     Photo: James Gandolph, Genealogists, Guest Blogger

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