Copyright © Janice Tracy, Mississippi Memories

Friday, November 12, 2010

Descendants of Robert W. Ragland, A Study of the U. S. Census of 1870

Earlier this week, I posted information about the family of Robert W. Ragland, a brother to my paternal third great-grandmother, Winiford Ragland Branch.  In that post, I wrote that Robert's wife, Sarah Jane Porter, who he married in Hinds County, Mississippi, had died, and Robert, age 32, and his four daughters and one son named Turner were living in rural Attala County. Robert's occupation was shown as "farmer."  Since the Ragland household, as it was enumerated on the U. S. Census of 1860, did not include a wife or an older female, it appeared that Robert had not remarried. Based on this information, I decided to locate Robert on the 1870 U. S. Census to see if he eventually remarried and had additional children.  

Before I can go on, I must preface the rest of this post with a statement about the U. S. Census of 1870. Each U. S. census has had specific objectives for capturing certain information about the citizens of this country, and the U.S. Census of 1870 was no different.  Since that census was the first U. S. Census recorded since the abolition of slavery, one in which all citizens, including those who had been former slaves, would be enumerated together, one of its objectives was to identify the race of the individuals enumerated. The census form included a column for recording one of five codes listed on the form itself, including "W" for White, "B" for Black, "M" for Mulatto, "I" for Indian, and "C" for Chinese. No one knows for certain exactly how the determination of race was made, whether it was a "self-identification" process prompted by the census taker's question, or whether the census taker simply made a visual determination based on skin color and/or certain physical characteristics. And without a doubt, census takers may have recorded racial identity information without input from those who were enumerated. 

An examination of the U. S. Census recorded in 1870 for Attala County, Mississippi, found R. W. "Raglin" a 45 year old white male as the head of a household living in Beat 4 of Attala County.  Interestingly, Robert Ragland and his family lived just three residences away from the household of his sister, Winiford, and her husband Edward Tillman Branch, as well as a household where Joseph Arthur Branch and Edward T. Branch, both still unmarried, lived. 

In 1870, Elizabeth (enumerated on this census as "Bettie"), Turner, and Sarah, now 19, 15, and 14, no doubt children born to Sarah Porter Ragland, resided as they had in 1860 with their father.  However, Robert's household included three additional children, Louvega (9), Adam (6), and Lucy (4), all born since the U. S. Census of 1860 was recorded.  Since "Louvega" is such an unusual name, it is possible the name was an incorrect transcription of "Louisa," the name of Robert's late wife's mother and the grandmother of his older children. (This is supposition, however, since Sarah Porter Ragland's relationship to Louisa Lawson Porter, has yet to be verified by the writer of this blog.)  

While Bettie, Turner, and Sarah, like their father, were identified on the census as "White," the racial identity of each of the younger children, Louvega, Adam, and Lucy, was recorded as "M,"  the abbreviation for "Mulatto." Although relationships were not identified on the 1870 census, all six children were listed under Robert's surname, incorrectly shown on this census as "Raglin." Again, like the 1860 U. S. Census, no wife, older female relative, or an older unrelated female, was enumerated in Robert's household. 

The composition of Robert W. Ragland's household on the U. S. Census Record of 1870 raises two important questions: Who was the mother of Louvega, Adam, and Lucy?  And were they biological children of Robert W. Ragland? 

Watch for a future post in which I hope to answer these questions.

Census Year: 1870; Census Place: Beat 4, Attala, Mississippi; Roll: M593_722; Page: 122B; Image: 248; Family History Library Film: 552221. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2009. Images reproduced by FamilySearch.

1 comment:

  1. Very interesting. The three mulatto children were born after his wife's death and before (or just after in the case of the youngest)emancipation. Hope I did not miss your follow up post. I did go look on ancestry and found them in the 1880 census.