Census Taker Must Have Followed Directions!

My husband’s 3x great grandparents, Michael Stufflebean and Elizabeth Baker, were among the first settlers in North Salem Township, Linn County, Missouri in 1840.

The History of Linn County, Missouri, Birdsall & Dean, 1882 includes the following mention of Michael:

Michael Stufflebean, right side, Early Settlers – The Bakers

Michael Stufflebean died before 30 October 1848, when administration of his estate began. Years ago, I had looked for Elizabeth Stufflebean, widow, several times in the 1850 census, but couldn’t find her. Family lore said she died “about 1850” so I came to the conclusion that she died before the census was taken.

Technology again came to the rescue and up popped “Elizabeth Stuffelbu” in Sullivan County, Missouri in 1850 living with daughter Elizabeth Clark’s family. The date on the census page was 29 November 1850.

Elizabeth “Stuffelbu” in 1850, 3rd Family

Next, I located a probate file for Elizabeth, as she still had a couple of minor children when she died.


Elizabeth Stufflebean
Probate, Linn Co., Missouri

I don’t know whether Elizabeth died at the Clark home in Sullivan County or whether she returned to Linn County sometime during the summer and died there, but take a look at the date her estate administration began: 22 October 1850.

The census was taken on 29 November, five weeks later. The answer is that this particular census taker  must not have just asked the household “Who is living here?” If he had, Elizabeth would not have been enumerated. Instead, he followed the official 1850 directions, which directed the census taker to inquire, “Who lived in this household on 1 April?”

Luckily for her descendants, he faithfully did his job because this is the only document surviving for Elizabeth which gives her age.

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