Don’t Ignore the Boarders

A related boarder?

Using Census Records

If you are building out a family tree, you are going to be confirming those trees with historical records and one record that you are very likely to reference is a census record.  It’s a wealth of information that can contain (depending on what census year) a family group, their neighbors, names and ages and education levels and occupations for the family members.  More likely than not, you will come across a family group or household with people listed as boarders or maybe even farm hands.  Don’t completely look over those people.  They may just be a relative that could answer some questions.

What are boarders and could they be family?

Boarders could be classified as someone who is renting a room. They may be related or not related to the head of the household.  It just all depends on how the census taker was recording that day.  Let’s take a quick look at a boarder I’ve recently encountered while researching my dad’s family tree.

I was actually looking at a DNA match and trying to figure out HOW she and my dad were related.  She had a Brantley in her tree which is a known family name in my dad’s tree. Her tree stopped short at Georgia Brantley born in the late 1800’s.  That didn’t do me any good so I had to see if I could build that branch back.  First thing I looked at were census records.  There were three Georgia Brantley’s that were born around the same time.  So, discerning if I had the right Georgia would be a little difficult.

Here is a screen shot of the 1930 census record of Georgia.  At this point I had only been able to connect her to census records with her married name. Could the boarders on the census be related

It’s a little hard to see but there is a boarder named Solomon Brantley.  If he had a different last name I probably would have moved on by but he had Georgia’s maiden name.  Maybe he was a cousin or a nephew or something.  I researched this Solomon Brantley and found a census record for him with his siblings and parents and wouldn’t you know, there was a Georgia listed as his sister.

Build Out That Tree

Georgia was born in 1891 and married by 1910 so she only showed up under her parent’s household in the 1900 census. Since there were other Georgia Brantleys in the area, I couldn’t be 100% sure it was her.  Solomon popped up on a 1910 census and Georgia’s name was there too. The year of births matched up perfectly to Georgia and Solomon.  I should mention, I also did some brief researching on the other Georgia Brantleys to double-check I had the right one. I was now able to build that tree back.

I had her parent’s information and was able to ultimately find the shared ancestor between my dad and this DNA match.  I probably wouldn’t have if they didn’t have her brother stay with them back in 1930.

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