Friday, April 25, 2008

The Samuel S. Aas Family - Initial Findings

What Can You Glean From A Census?

Samuel S. Aas was the census enumerator for Fjeld Township, Nelson, North Dakota in the 1900 U.S. Federal Census. As far as I know, he is no relation to me. However, I thought it would be interesting to find out a little bit about our enumerator. The 1900 U.S. Census is an important one for genealogists, as it lists birth month and year for all those enumerated. Therefore, the enumerator's attention to detail and ability to obtain accurate information from the populace is of prime importance and, in a township wherein most of the inhabitants are Norwegian speaking, it is of utmost importance. Language barriers may have been an issue.

We find Samuel S. Aas in the 1900 census in Ora Township, Nelson County, which he also enumerated. What we learn about Samuel Aas is that he was born in Norway in December of 1854 and that he is a farmer by profession, as are many of his neighbors. We also learn who Samuel Aas' housemates are - his wife, two daughters, two sons, a stepson, his brother, and one servant. Living next door, on her own, is one Mary S. Aas, born in April of 1838 in Norway. It is telling that Mary S. Aas is listed as having immigrated to the United States in 1870, as is Samuel Aas himself. Could Mary Aas be Samuel Aas' mother? We don't know yet. It may be a simple coincidence that these people lived next door to one another in the 1900 census and happened to immigrate the same year. However, I am leaning toward the probability that Mary S. Aas is a relative of Samuel Aas. Possibly an aunt.

Samuel's wife, Agneta, was born in April of 1858 in Norway and immigrated to the United States in 1880, according to the 1900 census. We have little reason to doubt the veracity of the information regarding Samuel's family, as he took down the information himself. Unless he had something to hide, of course. We will assume, for now, that he had nothing to hide and that the information he provided to the census enumerator - himself - is accurate. The census also reveals that Samuel and Agneta had been married for six years and had five children, all of whom were alive in 1900. This implies the couple was married around 1894 and, indeed, their first child, Selma, was born in March of 1895. So, unless Agneta was pregnant before the couple married, they probably married before June of 1894 (approximately nine months of pregnancy, old style counting). This couple's youngest child, Agnes, was born in March of 1900 and was 2 months old at the time of the census. However, the census was supposedly taken on the 15th of June. This means the actual data was either taken in May or little Agnes had not yet reached 3 months of age on the 15th of June. If the latter is true, we know that Agnes was born after the 15th of March, else she would be listed as having obtained the ripe old age of 3 months. Not that it matters, but we can assume Agnes read (or reads) the predictions for either Aries or Pisces in the horoscope column of the newspaper, if she read such things at all.

Samuel Aas' stepson, Carl Hulberg, a school teacher, was born in Norway in December of 1879. This means either that Samuel Aas was previously married to a woman who had herself been previously married and had a child from that marriage or Agneta Aas had a child from a previous marriage. However, Samuel Aas is listed as having immigrated to the United States in 1870, remember? Therefore, it is extremely unlikely that the former is the case. Rather, Carl is the likely biological son of Agneta. In any case, this means that the marriage between Samuel Aas and Agneta was not a first marriage for at least one of the spouses. Namely Agneta. Given both their ages in 1894, it is likely (but not impossible) this was not a first marriage for either spouse - Agneta would have been 36 and Samuel 40 in 1894.

This possibility implies it will be extremely difficult to trace Agneta's immigration to the United States - worse, it will be more problematic to uncover her "maiden" name. If Carl Hulberg is Agneta's biological child, then we may find that Agneta immigrated with her infant (and, probably, her husband) under the name Hulberg. We must be careful with Norwegian "surnames," however, as these are usually farm names rather than true surnames, but sometimes they are not necessarily the names of the farms the immigrants lived on - they may be farms that were more famous than the ones actually lived upon. In addition, the Norwegian immigrant would often immigrate with one name and adopt quite a different surname once he or she arrived in the United States. This is compounded by the likelihood that the surname would be Americanized or simplified. Some immigrants did away with the farm name altogether and adopted their patronymic name instead. If we are lucky, we will find Agneta in the 1880 U.S. census under the name Hulberg, but she will have had to immigrate fairly early in the year for this to occur. It would be better to search the territorial and state censuses between the years of 1880 and 1900 for a match. Perhaps, we will be able to find Agneta and Carl in the 1885 Dakota Territory census.

John S. Aas, brother of Samuel S. Aas, was born in January of 1852 in Norway and immigrated in 1868. Therefore, their neighbor, Mary S. Aas, would have been 13 years old at John's birth. This implies that Mary S. Aas is not John's mother. She may still be Samuel's mother, but this is unlikely as well. Nineteenth century Norwegians did not usually marry until they were at least twenty and Mary would have been 16 at Samuel's birth. No, it is far more likely that Mary S. Aas is an older sister (who never married), a cousin, or an aunt of Samuel and John. Again, it must be noted that we cannot truly assume Mary is related to Samuel at all - the census does not provide us with this information. Nor can we reasonably conclude such information from what information the census does provide. We will have to look to other sources for confirmation. The previous reasoning is performed should other records confirm a relationship between Mary S. Aas and Samuel S. Aas.

Samuel Aas has two sons - Oliver and Alexander. Alexander is the eldest, born in December 1896, while Oliver was born in October of 1898. There will be more about Oliver, who has a military record, later. All of the Aas children were born in the state of North Dakota.

Returning to the question, "What can you glean from a census," it turns out the answer is plenty! Especially if the census in question is the 1900 U.S. Federal Census.

Next up: the military career of Oliver S. Aas.

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