By Laura Pinhey
On the 1880 Federal Census record for my three-times great-grandfather there is a mark in the “Insane” column of the “Health” section. When I first saw the mark, I assumed it was a stray or a flaw in the microfilm. It seemed impossible to me that the census taker could have deliberately marked that column. At the time, I knew little about Franklin Fogle, other than that he had fought for the Union in the Civil War.
It wasn’t until a few years later that I learned the mark was neither a stray nor a flaw.
While doing research in the Kentucky Room at the Daviess County, Kentucky public library, I opened a drawer of microfilm to peruse its contents. There I happened upon the U.S. Federal Census Schedule of Defective, Dependent, and Delinquent Classes for the commonwealth of Kentucky. I had never heard of it. Intrigued, I browsed it for family names, expecting to find nothing. Imagine my surprise when I came across the name Franklin Fogle. Franklin was listed as a patient at the Central Kentucky Lunatic Asylum in Anchorage, Kentucky. The record revealed that Franklin had been committed to the asylum twice for lunacy and that he had required restraints.
Naturally, I was shocked and upset to discover this information about my ancestor. I had read about the deplorable conditions in such institutions during the nineteenth century, and I shuddered to think what Franklin might have experienced during his stay at Central.
Too, I couldn’t help but wonder how his wife and two teenage sons had been affected by Franklin’s apparent mental illness and absence. And was “lunacy” genetic? At the same time, I was skeptical of just what “lunacy” meant in the nineteenth century. Was Franklin really insane, or in 1880 did that term mean something different from what it means today? As any genealogist knows, discoveries lead to more questions. This pattern fuels our research.
What was almost as astonishing as my discovery about Franklin was the fact that had I not opened the right drawer, I might never have found this piece of Franklin’s puzzle. Call it being led, call it serendipity, call it a hunch, but whatever you call it, it was my lucky day. This information was dumped in my lap. If before reading this blog today you’d never heard of the U.S. Federal Census Schedules of Defective, Dependent, and Delinquent Classes, then today may be your lucky day. This schedule took my family history research in new, unexpected directions, and it could do the same for yours.
Last month on the AncestorCloud blog, Jayne McGarvey wrote about how family history research can uncover information hidden or forgotten by families about what some may consider shocking or tragic, everything from imprisonment to suicide to out-of-wedlock pregnancy. Family members might be ashamed, embarrassed, or otherwise reluctant to discuss the details of such controversial matters—if they’re even aware of them in the first place—leaving a researcher with no trail of breadcrumbs to follow.
The U.S. Federal Census Schedules of Defective, Dependent, and Delinquent Classes, also known as “the DDD schedule” or even simply “the DDD”, is useful for learning more about some of those hard-to-find ancestors and even discovering previously unknown ones. This separate, supplemental schedule for each state was recorded only in 1880. It lists by name persons classified by the Federal government as:
- Paupers or Indigent
- Homeless children
How to know if you should check the DDD for an ancestor? First, do you know that your ancestor was at the time living in an institution such as a prison, orphanage, or asylum?
If the answer is yes, then that ancestor will likely appear in the DDD, along with more details about his or her situation.
If your ancestor was not living in an institution at the time, or if you don’t know where they were living, then the 1880 Federal Census may have some breadcrumbs to guide you. The 1880 Federal Census includes a section labeled “Health”. Within that section, columns 15-20 bear the following labels:
- Deaf and Dumb
- Maimed, Crippled, Bedridden, or otherwise disabled
If any of the boxes under these categories are checked for your ancestor, then that ancestor should also appear in the DDD schedule for his or her state. The DDD schedule in turn should provide details about that ancestor’s health or disability and where they were living.
Figure 1: The 1880 Federal Census showing Frank Fogle and his neighbor Squire Crady classified as “Insane”.
Where you can find the DDD varies from state to state. The Family History Library and the National Archives both hold microfilm of the DDD for some states; for other states, the DDD is available on microfilm at the state library or archives and at some local public libraries or historical/genealogical societies. For several states it’s available on Ancestry.com. The National Archives provides a list of contact information for state archives and historical societies so you can find out where to search your state’s DDD.
Please note that the classifications listed here are taken directly from the DDD and the 1880 Federal Census. The terminology used in 1880 to describe mental and physical health conditions, disabilities, and persons experiencing poverty may offend twenty-first-century sensibilities, especially when used about our ancestors; however, as genealogists we are bound to accurately record the language as found in the original records.
Perhaps the best we can do when encountering such language is to put it in the context of the times and do our best to refrain from judgment. After all, in the nineteenth century, modern medicine and psychiatry were in their infancy. One hundred years from now, our descendants may look back on our body of knowledge and terminology as primitive compared to theirs.
The information I found in the DDD about my ancestor has shed much light on his life and the lives of his family and descendants. From Franklin’s Civil War pension file, I learned that he suffered grave injuries in the war, and that he may never have recovered from them; this additional information has led me to speculate that he may have been institutionalized because of post-traumatic stress or because the pain and and discomfort from his injuries caused him to behave violently or erratically. Whatever the case, my family history research would not be as robust without what I found in the DDD.
There must be thousands of family stories hidden in this little-known Census schedule. Perhaps one of those family stories is yours.