Part of that is because her date of immigration is a moving target. I mentioned in my earlier post that the 1920 Census listed her year of immigration as 1889, two years prior to what we had originally thought.
The 1910 Census lists her as coming to the U.S. in 1886, three earlier than that. The archivist in the library of the Archives said this is not unusual at all and to go by the date on the earlier census, since it was closer to the actual date. I searched the 1900 Census data and here is where I ran into problems.
Since Oklahoma was not a state then, its census data is not as searchable on the ancestryintitution.com website. Therefore, delving into the microfilm is required, using the Soundex Coding System to locate surnames.
The system probably looked better on the cocktail napkin it was drafted on but that was before the census officials got drunk and spilled beer on it, thus rendering their notes illegible. The next morning they tried to recreate the system through hangover-addled minds and this is the convoluted process of indexing family names they devised.
To find your ancestors, you have to reduce their surname to a code. It starts with the first letter of the name and then reduces the rest to a three-digit number. For example, ‘Keil’ becomes K400, ‘Dick’ is D200, and ‘Goeringer’ is G652.
Which begs the question: What’s wrong with just alphabetizing them?
Apparently, the good ol’ alphabet which is more than sufficient for everyone else in the country was too much trouble for the census officials. The Soundex system is based on the say a surname sounds, so researchers can locate names that may have been recorded under a different spelling, like BROWN and BROWNE. According to this system, ‘Keil’ sounds like ‘Kelley’ or ‘Kimmel’, ‘Dick’ sounds like ‘Dukes’ and ‘Goeringer’ sounds like ‘Greenworth’. It does make it easier to find alternate spellings, but much more difficult to find the names with specific spelling.
(By the way, Jason, there were a lot of Kimmels in Oklahoma territory in 1900.)
But the code system is only part of the nightmare. Each family’s information is recorded on a separate file card with the code written in the upper left corner. Even here within a single code such as K400, the much more efficient alphabetic order is eschewed. There is no rhyme or reason to the order in which the cards were transferred to the microfilm. It’s as if the census bureau officials stacked the cards together and shuffled them before the feeding them through the microfilm recorder. Some names that don’t even come close to sounding like the others of the same code are mixed in.
(Marla, 81 year-old Jacob Swartz was living in Washita County in 1900.)
(FYI, Carol. Abraham Balzer and his young wife Agnes were also living in Washita County that year.)
And the nightmare continues. On some of the census bureau’s data lists, officials made notations (for whatever reasons) by scribbling numbers and symbols over the family surname! This practice essentially renders the entries illegible. It’s not as if there was plenty of room in the left margins next to the children’s names.
This ludicrous system may be why I could not locate any of my relatives that I know were living in Oklahoma in 1900. The 1910 data show George and Justina had two children over the age of 10 and lists their birthplace as Oklahoma. Peace Lutheran Church in Bessie was established in 1893 and its archives clearly list George Frederick Dick as a founding member as well as a number of Goeringers.
So why aren’t they on the 1900 Census? Washita County may have been very rural at that time but it was hardly overlooked with half a dozen enumerative districts established between the Cloud Chief and Union townships.
The day was not a total loss. I was able to ascertain that Justina did not enter the country by way of Baltimore, Boston, Canada, New Orleans, New York, Philadelphia or San Francisco. It’s very likely that she arrived in Galveston but those records are incomplete. Don’t blame it on the hurricane though. She did her own brand of damage in 1900 so look to the sea captains with illegible handwriting and lax attitudes about record keeping. They are the reason there are very few records between 1871 and 1894, the time period Justina arrived.
There is another disturbing aspect that may not be the fault of the census bureau officials and their hatred of the ever-pesky alphabet. I cannot find Justina’s brother Conrad, his wife Sophie or their son Phillip in any of the U.S. Census from 1910 to 1930. It’s as if they never existed.
Family of George Frederick Dick