It’s Not Online Or Is It: Assumptions, Documenting, and Keeping Clear

Last week I wrote about an 1845 Michigan State census entry in St. Clair County, Michigan, for the very elusive Benjamin Butler. The Butlers lived in only two Michigan counties: St. Joseph and St. Clair. Part of my work on them is documenting their time in each county. Part of my problem is that the names of the counties are similar and I am constantly getting them confused. For that reason I am very careful when working with Benjamin in these locations. The fact that they lived in the counties in alphabetical order (St. Clair and then St. Joseph) is not of much help.

I located a print copy of that 1845 state census at the Allen County Public Library. I made digital images of the page on which Benjamin (and his probable father) were located. I also made images of the cover of the book, the title page, and the preface. Part of this was done for documentation (Evidence Explained is always in the back of my mind) and part of this was done so that I would be certain in what county the record was located. I was glad that I copied the preface. This is one of those times when documentation and citation rules come in handy even if occasionally one is tempted to think they are a bit excessive.

The Discovering Michigan website has a section on the various state census records of Michigan that are extant, “State Census, 1827-1874.”  St. Clair County was not listed. I was concerned that I had mixed up the names of the counties–which I am prone to do. I was concerned that I now had a problem.

The image of the preface confirmed that I had copied pages from St. Clair County. It also contained a discussion of where the records were which explained why they were not referenced on the Discovering Michigan website.  I had used the correct county in my blog post.

There’s a lot of reminders for myself in this little excursion in the 1845 Michigan State Census for Benjamin:

  • not everything is online
  • always include adequate documentation when originally obtaining information
  • don’t jump to conclusions
  • read the preface



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