Confirming Family Stories

I have written previously about my Archer family many times and I positively love them.  I think everyone has certain families in their tree that they are just fascinated with and the Archers are one of those families that I’m especially drawn to.  As I was teaching my genealogy class at the Moffat Library yesterday, I was showing them how I was able to use the 1870 census data to confirm the tale of how Jesse Archer met Jacob Wickham and later married Jacob’s sister, Nancy Jane. Everyone especially loved this part of class because it shows you how sometimes you get lucky and can actually confirm those family stories you’ve heard about.  The class was recorded so I thought I’d share their cute tale with you.  (Warning: I say ‘um’ a bunch and lose my place!  Sorry!)

Got a Loafer in Your Tree?

1870census

1870 US Census

While researching my great-grandfather Jesse Archer, I found the 1870 Federal Census and got a bit of a giggle at his occupation that was listed as “loafer”.  I mean, I’ve read about several silly occupations on the censuses but I’d never come across “loafer” so it brought up a bit of a mystery for me and brought debate between friends and relatives but nobody was quite sure.

My relative Suzanne thought perhaps it was a baker, referring to the loaves of bread.  Another, thought perhaps a person working on a farm, rolling bales of hay, which could have made sense because he was a farmer nearly all his life.  Personally, I thought it meant more like our modern meaning – a slacker.  However, as Suzanne pointed out, how does a slacker have personal property in 1870 in the amount of $1000?  That was a lot of value then!  (I’ll discuss that below later….)