Where Did My Ancestor Live? How Enumeration District Maps Can Fill in the Blanks, Part 3
This is part 3 of a 3 part series: Where Did My Ancestor Live? How Enumeration District Maps Can Fill in the Blanks.
Part 3: Maps of Enumeration Districts
Maps of Enumeration Districts
In this post, we will learn how the NARA Enumeration District Maps can help pinpoint the exact boundaries of county divisions with each state.
Back to our example of James F. Maness on the 1900 Census: we finished up the last post failing to find any useful online maps of his location, “Civil District 4,” in Hawkins county digitized court records and the Tennessee State Library and Archives online collection.
Now that we’ve checked both county and state records, we’ll move on to federal records. The U.S. National Archives has maps of enumeration districts for census years 1880-1990.
Some background on enumeration districts is important to know. From the NARA:
An Enumeration District, as used by the Bureau of the Census, was an area that could be covered by a single enumerator (census taker) in one census period (two to four weeks for the 1930 census).”
Each census year, the nation was divided into enumeration districts, which varied in size and geographic coverage. The terms census jurisdictions, divisions, districts, or subdivisions were used in earlier censuses. The terms “Enumeration District” and “Enumerator” were first used in the 1880 census.
The content of enumeration district maps varies greatly between states and over time. The base maps were obtained from a variety of sources that include postal route maps, General Land Office maps, soil survey maps, and maps produced by city, county, and state government offices as well as commercial printers. The basic enumeration district map is the county map, but there are frequently also maps for minor civil divisions (cities, towns, villages, precincts, townships, and so forth). The Bureau annotated the maps with the boundaries and numbers of individual Enumeration Districts, usually added in an orange grease or wax pencil.
Written descriptions of enumeration districts have been reproduced as National Archives Microfilm Publication T1234, Descriptions of Census Enumeration Districts, 1830-1950 (156 rolls).” (Introduction to NARA Enumeration District Maps, on Microfilm).
Only maps for census years 1940 and 1950 are digitized on the NARA website. The maps contain great detail and are sometimes digitized in pieces. Here is on piece of a 1940 enumeration district map for Hawkins County:
In 1940, Civil District 4 included the city of Rogersville. This is not the same as 1900 when District 4 was “New Hope.”
To find a map of district 4 in 1900, I went to FamilySearch, who digitized the maps for census years 1900-1940 in their image only collection – United States Enumeration District Maps for the Twelfth through the Sixteenth US Censuses, 1900-1940. It contains 60,000+ images of maps in alphabetical order by county.
Finally, in this collection, I found a small map for Hawkins County in 1900, showing the civil district boundaries! Hurrah!
This map doesn’t have ED numbers on it- it simply shows the county’s civil divisions so the census supervisor could match them up to an enumeration district. A map for Hardin County, Tennessee in 1900 contained this note: “County Clerk: Please sketch the boundaries of the civil districts in your county on the attached map.” The county clerk then wrote the name and size (in square miles) of each district off to the side of the map and numbered the civil districts on the map and drew dotted lines to delineate their boundaries.
Reading the Enumeration District Map
Back to our tiny map of Hawkins County in 1900. I zoomed in. I tried to imagine what “orange grease or wax pencil” might look like, since that’s what was used to sketch the boundaries. There are many lines on the map. I wasn’t sure which were boundaries and which were rivers. Using google maps, I figured out the Holston River was the squiggly line running through the center of the county. I looked for Civil District 4 and saw two possible locations. At first I saw the 4 in district 14 and thought it was there. Knowing the description of Civil District 4 was “New Hope” made it easier, so I definitely recommend using the definitions from Stephen Morse’s website to help you read the map.
As you’ve probably guessed, county divisions didn’t remain the same over time. As populations changed, so did the civil districts in Tennessee. I browsed other maps in the collection for census years 1920 and 1930 (191o was completely missing) and gathered info about what district New Hope was in over the years. In 1836, New Hope was in District 15. In 1900, it was District 4. In 1920-1940, it was District 6.
I checked this against the census data I had for James F. Maness, to see if he moved around, or stayed in the same area.
In 1860, 1870, 1880, and 1900, James lived in district 4. In 1910-1930, he lived in district 6. Other clues that I gained from censuses over the years for James include:
1860 – District 4, Post office: Mill Bend
1870 – District 4, Post office: Burem’s Store
1920 – District 6, Name of incorporated place: Kepler Voting Ward (which was crossed off, probably because it wasn’t actually an incorporated place).
Using this 1930 ED map from NARA, I found Burem, Kepler, and New Hope. The only place I couldn’t locate was the 1860 post office, Mill Bend. This detailed map shows that these communities were all located along Beech Creek, so it would appear that James didn’t move around within the county but stayed in the same general area.
I checked google maps for the road names, and was not surprised to see that the road south of Kepler is Tarpine Valley Road. Tarpine Valley has been passed down in the family as the name of the place where our Hawkins County ancestors lived. James Maness married into the family, and it’s clear that he lived in the same area: unincorporated Hawkins County near Beech Creek.
My questions were all answered, thanks to the Enumeration District Maps Descriptions digitized and shared online by FamilySearch, NARA, and Stephen Morse.
How have enumeration district maps helped you fill in the blanks on your ancestor’s location?
Enumeration District Maps by Lisa Louise Cooke at Genealogy Gems
Mapping the Census by Judy Russell at the Legal Genealogist