My Great Grandpa, the Census Taker

I was in the process today of looking for a story for this blog, and I discovered yet another fact about my great grandfather, Gottwerth Schmidt.  In 1880, he was a census taker.  I did not know that.

I was looking for information about Albert Fischer, whose birthday happens to be December 29, 1826.  I happened to look at the 1880 census which was taken one year before Albert Fischer died.  As I did so, I happened to look at the top of the page and saw G.F. Schmidt listed as the census taker.


That drew my attention away from the Fischer story (which I may write some other day).  I first became interested in this because Gottwerth was a member of my family, but it didn’t take long for the teacher in me to take over.  I took a look at the handwriting, and the first thing I thought was that Gottwerth had better handwriting than I do.  I have looked at a lot of census forms since starting this blog, and I have seen some pretty lousy handwriting.  As a teacher, I also had to look at some handwriting that was pretty illegible.  Gottwerth, although not the best I’ve seen, is pretty good and quite readable.  And even though it does not surprise me, it appears that he was right handed.

Gottwerth came to America as part of the original immigration as a six year old boy.  I’m sure his parents spoke only German.  However, it does appear that somewhere along the line, Gottwerth learned not only to speak English, but also became quite good at writing it.

Gottwerth Schmidt

For some reason, there were only two pages of the 1880 census that were done by my great grandpa.  Also, it appears that has misidentified this census as being done in Union Township.  As far as I know, Altenburg has never been in the Union Township.  It has always been in the Brazeau Township.

Then I just had to take a look at the other page.  Here is what I found there.


Right at the top, you find that Gottwerth recorded his own family in this census.  At that time, Gottwerth was operating his own general store in Altenburg.

This time, I started asking myself some questions.  Look at this close up:


It appears to me that Gottwerth forgot to include his youngest daughter, Louisa, and then had to go back and sneak her in between Emanuel (my grandpa) and Maria, Gottwerth’s mother.  Why in the world would a father forget one of his children?  Especially one that was just one year old?  I would think she would be really special to him.

That wasn’t the only correction he had to make.  Look at this:


Gottwerth had to cross out the original entry of “Missouri”and replace it.  In other words, Gottwerth first misidentified where he himself was born.  I find that humorous.  But as I former teacher, I also want to say, “C’mon, Gottwerth, stop making such careless mistakes.  And you’re using a pen.  You’ve got to concentrate and get it right the first time.  This is looking sloppy.”

To his credit, there weren’t many other mistakes made on these two pages of the census.  His own family was the first one he recorded, and he may have been a little nervous doing this task for the first time.  He got better as he went along.  However, forgive me, Great-Grandpa, for doing this, but I have to give you a “B”.  Maybe it would make you feel better if I said that I would have to give myself no better than a “C” for my handwriting skills…..probably worse.

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