Have you ever wondered what the Estate valuations meant in the various census returns where they were reported?
The 1850 federal census asked the value of real estate.
1860 census value of real estate and value of personal estate.
1870 census asked value of real estate and personal property.
You could actually use these numbers to put your family in economic perspective within the community in which they lived. All you would have to do is enter the town or area into a database and then sort by the value to find out where your ancestors stood in the pecking order of their neighbors.
I did this one time on the 1825 New York State census for White Creek, Washington County, NY and it was quite surprising. Unfortunately this was about 30 years ago and the data was on an old Apple II computer in Works format, which I have since lost track of.
It was quite interesting though to see just where my family fit on the economic ladder. As I recall it was down near the grass roots rung of the ladder, but that seems to be the norm for most of us.
Here is an excerpt from one of my Revolutionary War Patriot ancestors, Aaron HULET (1755-1835), of Shaftsbury, Bennington County, Vermont, taken directly from his Federal Rev war pension file. This was from his 1818 application where he had to show need for the 12 bucks. Spelling as actual:
“The following is a schedule of all real and personal estate, to wit:
1 gun which has been thro the French war & the war of the revolution supposed 200 years old.
1 scythe & 2 snaths,
1 wash tub,
1 small churn,
2 qt. bottles,
1 pint bottle,
1 stone jug holds 2 qts.,
1 water pail,
1 milk pail,
1 small pail,
3 hogs purchased with pension money,
some few articles of other old and unsailable household furniture,
as 5 old chairs,
1 table near 40 years of age,
1 old chisl,
a few articles of crockery viz 3 white bowls,
12 home made earthen bowls,
3 milk pans,
6 white plates,
7 pewter and 2 iron spoons,
6 tea cups,
6 pewter tea spoons,
1 fire shovel,
1 5 qt. pail kittle,
1 dish kittle,
1 tea kittle,
1 broken spider,
1 broken pot, leg out and cracked up to the top,
4 pint tin casons,
1 3 pint tin cason,
Note his most prized possession was a 200 year old gun and there was no “Real Estate”. I’ll just bet that each and every one of you have more stuff than this man owned. “1 broken pot, leg out and cracked up to the top, “ indeed!
When I think about how much junk/stuff that I have as compared with my ancestor’s official inventory I am almost overwhelmed. I own enough clothes that if I were to make a change of clothes every day and go out in the yard and roll down hill every day, I am sure I would be six feet under long before the clothes wore out.
Our ancestors got by quite nicely with their meager holdings. They lived and prospered with very little so that all of their spoiled brat descendants could live the life of luxury. I don’t know about you but I am down-sizing.