52 Documents in 52 Weeks #20: U.S. Census Mortality Schedules

What do you do when you have some “down” time in genealogy? You’ve done what you can and have no obvious inspiration or plan for your next steps? I like to hunt for BSOs – bright shiny objects.

Where do I look? I check out collections of databases by browsing the images, usually hunting for a surname rather than a specific person.

At times, I’ve been quite surprised by what I’ve found. This happened recently with the U.S. census mortality schedules. I love those schedules because, if you are lucky enough to find a relative listed in them, the mortality schedule might be the only document showing the person’s date and cause of death.

If you read my blog, you know that I have deep roots to Calais, Maine, so I decided to troll the mortality schedules for Adams people who died in Maine. I entered “ADAMS” and “WASHINGTON COUNTY, MAINE” in the search fields.

I almost fell off my chair when I saw the first name on the results list: Thomas Adams!

Thomas Adams was the son of Loyalist John Adams and father of Daniel Adams, both of whom I featured in the last couple of 52 Documents posts. I knew that Thomas married in Maugerville, Sunbury County, New Brunswick, Canada in 1803 and that he and wife Sarah Brawn, were living on Deer Island at the time of the 1851 census.

Although Daniel Adams moved his family to Calais about 1854, there were still other relatives living in Deer Island at the time. As Thomas was born in 1783 and Sarah in 1786, I assumed that they both died on Deer Island before the 1861 Canadian census.

I’ve adjusted my thinking after finding this in the 1860 Washington County, Maine mortality schedule:

Thomas Adams, 78, Male, born New Brunswick, d. July, Fisherman, old age

I never had any kind of documentation that Thomas ever, EVER lived in the United States. I now believe that Sarah most probably died on Deer Island between the 1851 and 1861 Canadian censuses and that Thomas obviously survived her, finally passing away in July 1859 in Calais, where he most likely lived with son Daniel and his family.

Hunting down BSOs is actually just one way of leaving no stone unturned – the key to a reasonably exhaustive search required for the Genealogical Proof Standard.

One thought on “52 Documents in 52 Weeks #20: U.S. Census Mortality Schedules”

  1. Too bad the mortality schedule didn’t list his marital status. I suppose we can’t be greedy with our family historian expectations. 🙂

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