Thursday, June 6, 2013

Extra Children

I want you to look at two census entries:


1900 U.S. census, Marion County, Mississippi, population schedule, Township 4 North, Range 15 West, enumeration district (ED) 75, sheet 5B, p. 29, dwelling 82, family 83, James E. Simmons household; digital images, ( : accessed 20 Oct 2009); citing National Archives and Records Administration microfilm T623, roll 819.


1910 U.S. census, Lamar County, Mississippi, population schedule, Beat 4, enumeration district (ED) 91, sheet 18A, p. 83, dwelling 221, family 221, James Simmons household; digital images, ( : accessed 19 Oct 2009); citing National Archives and Records Administration microfilm T624, roll 747.

In 1900, Corrine was the mother of 7 children with 6 children living.  In 1910, she was the mother of 10 children with 7 children living.  Let’s see if I can reconcile James and Corrine’s children.

Ada Frances Simmons, born 23 Jul 1890, died 15 May 1960 1   [NOTE: Tomorrow I will present a mini proof argument showing how I came up with Ada’s birth date]
Mary Leona Simmons, born 19 Oct 1891, died 02 Jul 1976 2
Albert Simmons,  born 05 Mar 1893, died 08 Mar 1893 3
Jesse Colon Simmons, born 10 Apr 1894, died 11 Mar 1943 4
Walter William Simmons, born 20 Mar 1896, died 17 Mar 1958 5
Claudia Mae Simmons, born 14 Feb 1898, died 23 Jan 1968 6
Lemuel Elexander Simmons, born 25 Mar 1899, died 03 Nov 1926 7
Rufus Elmore Simmons, born 12 Jun 1906, died 22 Nov 1967 8
William Houston Simmons, born 17 Nov 1910, died 13 Mar 1978 9 [my grandfather]

There are nine known children.  In 1900, there were six children alive and Albert had died in 1893 so the census numbers are correct (7/6).  In 1910, there were seven children alive (Elmore had been born in 1906 so he makes the 7th living children).  Albert was dead but now we have two more dead children.  Houston was born in November (after the census was taken in May) so he is not listed on the 1910 census.  The conclusion?  Corrine had given birth to two children between 1900 and 1910 and both of those children had also died between those dates.

Do you see the seven year gap between Lem and Elmore? There is also a 4 year gap between Elmore and Houston. All of the other children are nice and tight. This also supports that there were two children that were born and died between the two census years.

So I have established that Corrine had two children that we have no information on.  What do I do with this information?  Do I record these children in my genealogy file?  The answer is yes.  There may be information about these children out there that I just haven’t found yet (Bible records, cemetery records, etc.). Corrine was the mother of 11 children, not nine.  Is it possible that she had even more children after Houston was born in Nov 1910?  In this case the answer is no.  Corrine died in childbirth with Houston so I can be fairly confident that Corrine was the mother of 11.10

I would add these two children to my file with their sex unknown and with birth and death dates between 11 June 1900 (when the 1900 census was taken) and 04 May 1910 (when the 1910 census was taken). 

Here is what my actual list of children looks like:

ListCreated using Legacy Family Tree

Boys are blue, girls are red, and unknown sex children are green.  This gives me a more accurate picture of this family.  Even though I don’t know much about these two, I do know that they existed.

1 Mississippi State Department of Health, death certificate 8504 (1960), Ada Frances Bounds. 
2 Entrekin Family Cemetery (Carnes, Forrest County, Mississippi), Mary Leona Entrekin marker, personally read, 2000. 
3 Grantham Family Cemetery (Lamar County, Mississippi; Cameron Road off of Old Hwy 24), Albert, son of J.E. and C.E. Simmons marker, personally read, 2000. 
4 Mississippi State Department of Health, death certificate 3466 (1943), Jesse Collon Simmons.
5 Grantham Family Cemetery (Lamar County, Mississippi; Cameron Road off of Old Hwy 24), Walter Simmons marker, personally read, 2000.  
6 Simmons Family Cemetery (Forrest County, Mississippi; On AB Simmons Road, off of Rock Hill to Brooklyn Road), Claudia M. Lee marker, personally read, 1999. 
7 Entrekin Family Cemetery (Carnes, Forrest County, Mississippi), L.A. Simmons marker, personally read, 2000. 
8 Pine Grove Baptist Church Cemetery (Pinegrove, Lamar County, Mississippi), L.A. Simmons marker, personally read, 2000. 
9 Florida Department of Health, death certificate 78-023580 (1978), William H. Simmons. 
10 William Houston Simmons, deceased (Purvis, MS), interview by Michele Simmons Lewis, 1977. 

Copyright © 2013 Michele Simmons Lewis


  1. I have a similar situation with one of my families: mother of 15, 11 living in 1900; 6 living in 1910. I have been able to account for 14 of the children. I had not thought to add the other child to the family without more information because I'm uncertain whether the child died at a young age; was stillborn; or if the mother miscarried and counted the fetus as one of her children. Any thoughts? Thanks.

  2. That is a great question because you just never know. I will say that there is a difference between a miscarriage and a stillborn (I am now speaking from a medical point of view). A miscarriage is a loss of a baby before the baby would be viable outside of the womb. A stillborn is a baby that is born dead but is of sufficient gestational age to have been viable. This is kind of interesting because what would be considered viable today certainly would not have been viable back then because of medical advances.

    Usually parents didn't consider a child a child unless it was born alive. As a matter of fact, it wasn't uncommon for the parents to put off naming a child until it was weeks/months old just in case the child died as was so common back then. This changed a bit when death certificates started being issued. Depending on the state, time period and gestational age, stillborns were/are issued a death certificate.

    You also have to take into consideration the family practices and the community practices. Things like how common stillborn deaths were and how did the community view them and whether or not midwives were in attendance at the births because the viewpoint of the midwife would rub off on the woman in the community where she served.

    I assume that if a woman said she was a mother of a child then that child was born alive (it may have died within minutes of the birth but still alive at birth). I have to give myself some sort of cutoff point. At the very least I would say a very late gestational stillborn. I don't think that an 19th century woman would have counted an early miscarriage as a child when telling someone how many children she had birthed.

    I want to give you another example why recording this is important. Let's say you have a woman that had no children but then you find out that she had actually birth 10 children that all died in infancy. Doesn't that tell you a lot about the woman? You can start imagining what her life was like and the pain that she suffered. This is one of those situations where you want to know more about a person than just their vital statistics.

    In the case that I described in the blog post... James and Corrine are both in unmarked graves (Marked with rocks. Their son Houston pointed their graves out to me). To the right of their grave is the grave of 3 day old son. His grave is marked with a very crude marker that is hand inscribed. Knowing this it is very easy for me to believe that the other two children are either in unmarked graves or their markers have just crumbled over time. There is room beside the parents and their son Albert to have been two more graves.

    I could also play devil's advocate here and say that if their 3 day old son who had been named had a marker, but the other two didn't, then perhaps they other two were stillborn and had not been named and thus no marker.

    So it goes back to, you never know. I would still record these children in my file because I don't know. They could have just as easily been 5 or 6 when they died and I might find some evidence later on down the road.

  3. It is interesting how people viewed children who died very young in earlier times. One of my grandmother's sisters had a baby that was stillborn or died within hours of birth. When my grandmother gave my mom information on her family, she never mentioned this child. I would never have known about it either, accept I was looking for a death certificate for someone else in the family and was having a hard time finding them. I did a search for the surname, and restricted to the specific county and to a particular decade. This child was one of the results that came up. Interestingly, the child was listed with the mother's maiden name, though the mother was married at the time. Later, I visited the cemetery, and there was a very small marker for the child, that said infant and the surname, the married surname. It could easily have been missed, and was not on the cemetery listing on findagrave, though the parents were listed. Definitely information that I record and am interested in knowing. I have a couple of women who were married but didn't have any children. I keep looking for evidence, wondering if they lost children or had miscarriages.

  4. It is interesting how people viewed children who died very young. One of my grandmother's sisters had a child that was stillborn, and grandma never mentioned it when tell my mom, her daughter-in-law the information on her family tree. I would never have known about this child accept that I stumbled on the death certificate. I was having trouble finding a death certificate for another family member, so I simply searched for a surname restricted to a particular county for a particular decade and this child was one of the results. Interestingly, the child was listed with the mother's maiden name, though the mother was married at the time. Later I visited the cemetery and there was a very small marker for the child that said infant Marchbanks, which was the married surname. I would always record this. It had an affect on that women's life. I have a couple of women who were married, but didn't have children and I always wonder if they had children that died between censuses, or miscarriages,, etc.

  5. Thanks Michelle for bringing up this topic that for some reason fascinates me. Maybe because I am childless. I have in both sides of my family the same dilemma. For instance in one tree I put Baby Sullivan. No matter what or how it was born or not I list it. Maybe one day I will find more info. Miscarriages in our family no one talked about it. I always wondered where they were buried. I was on a site one day (maybe NEHGS) and I listed a Galway family surname as Nee in Brookline, Mass and a lady said that last name was familiar. Lon

  6. I just think it gives a truer picture of the family.

  7. The site froze and not sure if my post made it. To make a long story short, the woman said her aunt was buried in Boston in a Poorhouse cemetery and in the same spot as her aunt was a baby with the last name NEE. Obviously new poor Irish Catholic Immigrants who could not afford a burial had to put their baby in with a stranger due to lack of funds. Very interesting topic. Will be hunting forever all the babies lost.

  8. I never thought to enter these children as nameless if I had no other information about them. I guess I always assumed that they maybe just made a mistake on the census itself (many instances of misspelled names, etc.). But now that I've been reading past articles on your blog, I am realizing what I should be doing now in terms of analysis and GPS. Thanks for enlightening me!

  9. You just might find those children in a Bible record or in a cemetery one day :)