There are times when it is worth considering how much time a specific task is worth and whether it is simply time to research elsewhere. That’s where I am with the location of Bernard Dirks in the 1855 Illinois State Census.

What’s “known” about Bernard around the time period of 1855 census:

  • Bernard Dirks (or at least a man with the name Bernhard Diercks) arrived in New York City on the Robert Watt on 19 July 1852. He was twenty-six years old. This information is consistent with the known Bernard.
  • On 27 December 1856, Bernard married Heipke Mueller in Quincy, Adams County, Illinois.

Bernard would have been around thirty at the time the 1855 state census was enumerated in Illinois (he was born in November of 1825 in Etzel, Ostfriesland, Germany). He is the only known member of his immediate family of origin to come to the United States.

Finding him in 1855 will be difficult, assuming he was even living in Illinois at that point in time (there is no nationwide 1855 census, so I’m limited to looking in Illinois). Bernard and Heipke were married in the Adams County seat of Quincy. It is not known if they married in Quincy because they actually lived there or because it was the county seat and where they would have to have gone to get a marriage license. A few years after their marriage they moved to nearby Coatsburg where they stayed for their remainder of their lives, but there’s nothing to indicate they were living in the Coatsburg when they married.

The 1855 Illinois State Census only lists heads of household, others are counted in age categories. If Bernard is not the head of the household, his name will not appear in the census. Since he was not yet married, it is reasonable to conclude that he was rooming or boarding somewhere and possibly working as a farmhand. If that is the case, his enumeration in 1855 will consist of a tally mark. That makes him rather difficult to find.

It’s always possible he was married before his marriage to Heipke and could be enumerated somewhere else with a family. However there is no family tradition of a previous marriage and the heirs of his estate are the same as those of his wife’s estate, so if he was married before Heipke, that marriage did not result in issue that survived past his death. At this point, there is no evidence to suggest a previous marriage so research scenarios will not be built on this premise.

It’s possible Bernard was not in Illinois in 1855. His 1856 marriage in Illinois does not suggest that he was there a year earlier.

At this point, I will note what 1855 Illinois State Census searches have been conducted, but I will not perform any additional searches to locate him unless new information comes to light.

Sometimes one has to know when to move on.




4 Responses

  1. There were 1850s enumerations in NY, Iowa, California and Ohio. Exclusive looking in Illinois might be too narrow.

    • I may have to try those other states. The Ostfriesens were really clannish in how they settled (more so than some of the other Germans I’ve researched), but it’s possible he was living in another state.

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