Starting to research Cavers references in 19th century USA census returns

A partial gap – and rather a big one – in the Cavers one-name study so far is its coverage of the United States of America. Partly this is because the relevant records are so distributed, and often vary in survival and detail so much between different states and areas within the USA. But it’s also because Cavers people did not emigrate in huge numbers to there, unlike for example Canada. This is typical for a Scottish-originating surname, where emigration to North America was focused far more on north of the Canada-USA border, than south of it.

However I want to try to improve the situation, and now intend to systematically record and analyse Cavers references in the 19th century USA census returns. The aim is to piece together families, and also trace them back where possible, for example to Canada if they migrated south to the USA from there, or to e.g. Scotland.

I’m lucky that there aren’t too many Cavers surname references in the 19th century USA census returns, unlike for instance Canada where there are many more. This means that the project can be quite small in scale, but also probe families quite deeply.

I’m going to take as my model the table that Donald Grant used when researching Scoon (surname) references in the USA census returns. Again this is a Scottish-originating surname, with not too many emigrants to the USA. He tracked people across census returns, and also traced them back to the original countries where possible, just as I hope to do.

I will work on this steadily over the next few months, and will post the results here once available, including the resulting table/spreadsheet of references, and my analysis of the picture it presents.

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Cavers events database uploaded to Google Docs

Ever since I registered my Cavers one-name study with the Guild of One-Name Studies I’ve been building up a database of events of Cavers people, using Microsoft Excel. So births, marriages, deaths, christenings, census returns, and so on. In the last few years it has stopped being updated, as my illness got worse, but it is still a useful resource, often including very obscure references that I have found, or friends have found and forwarded to me. As of today there are nearly 3000 entries in the Cavers events database.

In the interests of sharing this resource, and in particular in case anything happens to me (my health situation is extremely precarious), I have just uploaded it to Google Docs and it can be found and viewed through this link.

I need to explain the format though. There are 13 fields, each taking up a column of the spreadsheet:

  • surname (not always Cavers)
  • forenames
  • date
  • event
  • place
  • age
  • relatives (if named in record)
  • source (identifying the original record I found)
  • notes (for miscellaneous things like occupation etc.)
  • birthplace (if recorded e.g. in birth or census returns)
  • other names (surnames)
  • connection (where person fits into Cavers trees, e.g. c[hild of] Adam Cavers and Janet Clark or s[pouse of] Helen Scott)
  • other (for any other genealogical notes)

As you’ll probably gather it’s quite ad-hoc! But it sort of works.

The entries are sorted by forename, date, event. But because of the way the dates were entered as general text fields, including dates that may or may not have a month and day after the year, the sorting isn’t perfect. So, for example, there are entries in the spreadsheet for Adam Cavers in 1855, 1864, 1879 etc. and then these are followed by Adam Cavers references to years+months+days, e.g. 1770 Nov 11, 1782 Oct 9. Apologies. But keep that in mind when browsing through the data.

Places in the database are generally abbreviated for county names, at least in Scotland. So, for example, Hawick would be recorded as “Hawick, ROX”, using the standard genealogical abbreviation for Roxburghshire. Apologies if this is confusing in places. The spreadsheet was created for my own use. Other common county abbreviations you may see include SEL for Selkirkshire, BEW for Berwickshire, DFS for Dumfriesshire, MLN for Midlothian and so on. For a full list of them see here.

The events database is particularly strong for Scotland. And also very good for Ontario (Canada). Moderately good for England. But it has a way to go.

Census events in it generally go up to 1891. There are obviously later census references that can now be found for the family, but I haven’t put them into the database yet. They are generally well indexed though, at the various websites such as Ancestry.

At the moment I am not inviting new entries for the database, though that may change. In the meantime though, please feel free to browse it on the web, and to download it if you want. Using the file menu provides various download options, and you can save the whole sheet to your computer. But other people can’t currently edit the document online.

Cavers families in the 1881 Canadian census

I’ve been searching for Cavers people in the 1881 Canada census, using transcripts and images online at FamilySearch and Ancestry. I’ve found 110 people now, and of those 89 can be linked to families traced back to known Scottish origins. But another 21 people had so-far mysterious origins.

27 of the Cavers people found in the census lived in Quebec, all descended from James Cavers (1780?-1866) and his wife Margaret Blackburn. James was from Roxburghshire, the son of Robert Cavers and Margaret Henderson. Their descendants in the 1881 census lived mostly in St Malachie D’Ormstown in Chateaugay:

  • William Cavers (son of James Cavers and Margaret Blackburn), aged 51, with second wife Catherine
  • Euphemia Cavers (nee Smith), aged 50, widow of James Cavers (son of James Cavers and Margaret Blackburn), and various children
  • Walter Cavers, aged 41, farmer (son of James Cavers and Margaret Blackburn), with wife Margaret and children
  • Peter Cavers, aged 36, farmer (son of James Cavers and Euphemia Smith), with wife Elizabeth and children
  • James Cavers, aged 31 (son of above William Cavers and first wife Sarah Watherston), with wife Elizabeth
  • sisters Maria, 30, and Jane, 26 (daughters of above William Cavers and first wife Sarah Watherston)
  • in Montreal City: James, 29, grocer (son of James Cavers and Euphemia Smith), with wife Sarah and son
  • in Montreal City: Jennie, 21, servant (?daughter of James Cavers and Euphemia Smith)

4 of the Cavers people found lived in Manitoba. These were two brothers from Hawick, Roxburghshire, both sons of Robert Cavers and Elizabeth McPherson. The younger brother John, 21, was recorded at Rockwood, Lisgar, with his wife Frances and baby son Robert. At Winnipeg, Selkirk, was John’s brother James, 31, a clerk.

79 of the Cavers people found lived in Ontario. Of these 26 were descended from James Cavers and Isabella Coltherd and their family in Roxburghshire, via various people emigrating to Canada:

  • in Dumfries North, Waterloo South, John Cavers, 55, from Hawick (son of James Cavers and Mary Biggar), and his wife Isabella and children
  • in Dumfries North, Waterloo South, Walter Cavers (b. ca 1842, Hawick, son of James Cavers and Jean Bole) and his wife Rebecca and children
  • in Sydenham, Grey North, James Cavers, 49, from Scotland, and his wife Margaret and children, and siblings Francis, 53, and Catherine, 41 (all children of John Cavers and Agnes McGregor who emigrated to Ontario)
  • in Sydenham, Grey North, blacksmith William Cavers, 24, and his recently-married wife Mary. This couple were children (separately) of my distant g..uncle Thomas Cavers and his wife Eleanor or Ellen Ryder (nee Cavill) and married in March 1881.

17 Cavers people in Ontario descended from John Cavers and Jean Douglas from Castleton, Roxburghshire, via their sons Thomas and John who emigrated to Canada:

  • in Bathurst, Lanark South, Peter Cavers, 31 (son of John Cavers and Mary Campbell), his wife Jessie, sister Jane, and widowed mother Mary, 66, b. Scotland
  • in Beckwith, Lanark South, James Cavers, 29 (son of Thomas Cavers and second wife Margaret Campbell), his wife Margaret, widowed mother Margaret, baby son, and siblings Peter, Alexander and Margaret
  • in Dumfries North, Waterloo South, John Cavers, 35 (son of John Cavers and Mary Campbell), wife Margaret, and three young children

11 Cavers people descended from James Cavers (son of Thomas Cavers and Janet Scott) from Wilton, Roxburghshire, and his wife Margaret ???:

  • in Nichol, Wellington Centre, blacksmith William Cavers, 27 (son of Charles Cavers and his first wife Ann), his wife Mary, and two daughters
  • in St Catherines, Lincoln, music dealer Charles Cavers, 54 (father of above, and son of James and Margaret Cavers), his second wife Eliza, and various children

8 Cavers people living in Gainsborough, Monck, were descended from Walter Cavers (b. ca 1825, Hawick, Roxburghshire) and his wife Christina Anderson (previously Mrs Wilson) from Aberdeenshire. This family has unknown origins and needs to be researched further. One theory is that Walter was another illegitimate son of Elizabeth Cavers (ca 1793-1872), daughter of John Cavers and Christian Hardie who married in 1791 at Hawick. Elizabeth had one known son John Cavers (b. ca 1823, Hawick), also known as John Irvine, who married Janet Graham and had a large family in Scotland. In the 1881 Canada census Walter and his wife Christina are listed with two of their younger children, and in a separate household is their son John, his wife Almeda, and children.

6 Cavers people in St Catherines, Lincoln, were descended from William Cavers (b. ca 1800/1805, Scotland) and his wife Mary ???? (b. ca 1810, Scotland). Again this is a family we can’t trace back to known Scottish families. William Cavers died in 1878, so the family in 1881 census was his son William and wife Maggie and children, as well as 70-year-old widowed Mary Cavers.

5 Cavers people lived in Orford, Bothwell, the family of Luke and Emily Cavers, and probably their son William Cavers and his wife Laura from USA. This is another mystery family. Luke Cavers was b. ca 1812 in Scotland, and can be traced in Canadian census returns from 1851 onwards, but can’t be linked up yet to any family or birth events in Scotland. The 1871 census suggests that Luke and Emily probably had younger sons George and Walter, names which might help suggest possible Scottish roots.

2 Cavers people lived in Williams West, Middlesex North: Thomas Cavers (b. ca 1815, Scotland), Plasterer, and his wife Sarah (b. ca 1817, England). This couple can be traced in various census returns, but again can’t be linked up to Scotland, and have mystery origins. There was another Thomas Cavers of a similar age living in Owen Sound, my distant g..uncle, but the Williams West one was different (both Thomas Cavers men listed separately in the same census returns) and currently a mystery.

There are 2 other Cavers people listed in the 1881 Canada census who I haven’t been able to link up yet conclusively, but probably fitted into known Ontario families:

  • in Dumfries North, Waterloo South, Thomas S. Cavers, Plasterer, aged 37, b. Ontario
  • in Warwick, Lambton, Maggie Cavers, aged 16, b. Ontario, living in house of Alexander McKenzie

Of the 110 Cavers people found in Canada in 1881 98 have traceable origins back to Roxburghshire. By this time the Canadian Cavers population was greater than the Scottish Cavers population, with only 82 Cavers in Scotland in 1881, and only 46 in Roxburghshire.

P.S. There may have been more Cavers people in 1881 Canada who I didn’t find in my census search, either because they were misrecorded, or mistranscribed. If anyone can pinpoint more Cavers people – finding them recorded in the original census images – let me know. Also I’d be grateful for comments about any who should have been there.

Making progress with 1881 Canada census analysis

I’m well through this now, and should be posting the results in the next week or so. I’ve been using various census indexes and linked digital images – which have different levels of transcription accuracy – to look for Cavers people in the 1881 Canada census. I’ve found 108 Cavers people so far. Of these the vast majority have known ancestry and can be firmly traced back to Roxburghshire, Scotland.

However at least 21 of the Cavers people recorded in 1881 Canada have mysterious origins, and it’s those that I hope to draw attention to in the upcoming blog post, to allow further research to focus on them, in the hope of breaking these brick walls.

When I post the blog post I will summarise all the Cavers families I found in this Canadian census, and where they were living.

More soon.

A Cavers household in 1831 Jedburgh

In Scotland detailed listings of population started with the 1841 census. Before then, in 1801, 1811, 1821 and 1831, there were simple head counts. Occasionally records from these head counts survive that mention individuals. This is very rare though. But one example that does is Jedburgh in Roxburghshire in 1831.

I’ve just bought the newly published transcript of the Jedburgh 1831 census listing. It lists heads of household, by street, including the head’s occupation, and numbers of males and females in their household. And it includes a Cavers: J. Cavers, postman at Canongate, Jedburgh. I think this must have been John Cavers (1799/1800-1865) husband of Margaret Cleghorn who was discussed in an earlier blog post.

This census return records that there was one male above 20 years in the household, which would be John himself, as well as two males under 20, presumably his sons John and George, the latter then a baby. There were 7 females in the household, which fits with his wife plus known daughters at the time (Mary, Elizabeth, Margaret, Jeanie, and Charlotte), as well as one female servant who the census records for the household.

Despite only recording partial detail the Jedburgh 1831 return is really interesting for providing a street-by-street listing of occupations, and some miscellaneous notes about servants etc. I look forward to studying it in more detail.