In my Sunday’s Obituary and Tombstone Tuesday posts for John F. Spurlock, I mentioned possible inaccuracies in his recorded birthdate. So, why do I think that
August 22, 1850, is likely his birthdate? My research for John Spurlock in other records presents information that conflicts with the birthdate recorded on his death certificate:
- John is not listed with the family on the 1850 federal census for Bienville Parish. The official census date was 1 June 1850.1
- The 1860 census for Bienville Parish is lost; the family of Ransom Spurlock is not found enumerated anywhere in
- John has not been found in the 1870 federal census in either Bienville or Claiborne parish.2
- In 1880, John, age 29, appears on the census in Claiborne Parish. The census date was 1 June 1880.3
- In 1900, he is enumerated at age 49. For the 1900 census, enumerators asked the month and year of birth for each individual; the entry for John is August 1850. The census date was June 1.4
- In 1910, John is reported as being 55—having aged only 6 years in a decade! The census date was April 15.5
- By 1920, he had made up those missing years and is reported as being 69 years old. The census date was January 1.6
- In 1930, he was listed as being 80 years of age as of the census date of April 1.7
- His death certificate cites his date of birth as
August 22, 1846or 1847.8
- His grave marker shows his date of birth as August 22, 1846.9
Enumerators were instructed to list members of each household who were living on the official census date and to include their age at their last birthday. The recorded age gives us a clue as to the year in which the individual was born. Census records leave a lot to be desired because we do not know who provided the information on any given family. It could have been an adult or a child in the household, a neighbor, or even the enumerator himself!
In three of the five census records available, John’s age reflects a birth year of 1849-1850. In the 1900 census, his month and year of birth is recorded as August 1850. The official date for the 1850 census was June 1st; his not being listed is consistent with the information that he was born in August 1850.
Now, let us turn to the “official” record: the death certificate. John’s son, A.H., who was the informant, did not have first-hand knowledge of John’s birth. He wasn’t there when it happened. The year is overwritten giving us a clue that he wasn’t sure about the information. A.H. was probably the informant for the obituary and the tombstone as well, carrying over the questionable information from one to the other. It is likely that he was sure that Papa’s birthday was celebrated on August 22nd!
There are other records that could be used to try to determine an accurate birth day and year. A family bible in which the birth was recorded at the time it took place would be a wonderful find! Other records, such as tax records or deeds, are also helpful in determining when an individual reached a particular age; however, the few records that I have found for John do not help answer this question.
So, for now, I believe John F. Spurlock was born on
August 22, 1850.
Happy 161st birthday, Papa!
|John F. Spurlock circa 1930|
Digital image; original photograph held by
Dayton Carson [ADDRESS WITHHELD FOR PRIVATE USE]. 1999.
Sources:11850 U.S. census, population schedule, Western District, Bienville, Louisiana, p. 287B, dwelling 553, family 553, household of Ramsun Spurlock; digital images, Ancestry (www.ancestry.com : accessed 13 Feb 2010); citing National Archives and Records Administration microfilm M432, roll 230.
31880 U.S. census, Claiborne, Louisiana, population schedule, 6th Ward, enumeration district (ED) 14, p. 30B (penned), dwelling 266, family 301, J. F. Spurlock; digital images, Ancestry.com (www.ancestry.com : accessed 13 Feb 2010); citing National Archives and Records Administration microfilm publication T9, roll 451.
41900 U.S. census, Bienville Parish, Louisiana, population schedule, Ward 1, Enumeration District (ED) 2, p. 10-B (penned), dwelling 180, family 180, John F. Spurlock; digital images, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 13 Feb 2010); citing
51910 U.S. census, Bienville, Louisiana, population schedule, Police Jury Ward 1, enumeration district (ED) 2, p. 9A (penned), dwelling 147, family 147, John F. Spurlock; digital images, Ancestry (www.ancestry.com : accessed 13 Feb 2010); citing
61920 U.S. census, Bienville, Louisiana, population schedule, Ward 3, enumeration district (ED) 7, p. 21B (penned), dwelling 393, family 404, John F. Spurlock; digital image, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 13 Feb 2010); citing
71930 U.S. census, Jackson, Louisiana, population schedule, Police Jury Ward 2, enumeration district (ED) 25-4, p. 4A (penned), dwelling 56, family 59, John F. Surlock; digital images, Ancestry.com (www.ancestry.com : accessed 13 Feb 2010); citing
8Louisiana State Department of Health, death certificate 519 68 (1945), John Fred Spurlock; Louisiana State Archives,
© 2011 Denise Spurlock