Workday Wednesday – Women in the Census

For Women’s History Month, I will be highlighting different women and/or records of my female ancestors (and my husband’s ancestors too). Today is all about the jobs we find for women in the census. Census records are one of the most valuable resources that we have available when researching our family. Occupations were not specifically recorded until 1850, and in 1910 a column for industry was added, providing more details about where our ancestors worked.

I have learned much about the women in my family though the occupations that were recorded in the census. The most common occupation for women, especially in the 19th century, as well as in rural farm or mining communities, was that of homemaker. The instructions for the 1870 note that “Women keeping house for their own families or for themselves, without any other gainful occupation, will be entered as ‘keeping house.’ Grown daughters assisting them will be reported without occupation.”

1870 Etna CUbbage

In 1870 “Cath” [Catherine] Cubbage, age 50, reported an occupation of keeping house. She was living with her grown and teenage children and was likely separated (her husband William is consistently found living elsewhere). Her daughter Mary, age 20, was working as a seamstress.

1870 Penn Cubbage

In the same year, “Barbary Copige” [Barbara Cubbage], age 35, was keeping house in rural Butler County. Her daughter Sarah, age 15, was “at home” and likely helping her mother.

1870 Burd

Another common occupation for women in my family ws that of domestic servant or simply servant. In 1870, “Mary Bird” [Mary Ann Burd], age 18, was working as a domestic servant with Martha and Isaac Mason in McKeesport, a suburb of Pittsburgh. The Masons, only a few years older than Mary,  would later file an affidavit for Mary’s veteran’s widow’s pension to provide details about her wedding and marriage to Charles Schwenk in 1871 (less than a year after this census).

1880 JCubbage Census

1880 Sara C Middlesex

Sarah Cubbage worked as servant for many years with the Logan Family in Butler County. Sarah never married, and she worked for, and possibly lived with, the Logans until she died in 1902 after falling on some ice. In 1880, Sarah, age 25, was found enumerated twice – once with her parents in Penn Township, and then again with the Logan family in neighboring Middlesex Township. She was recorded as a servant in both records.

I am always happy to see women in our family who have the occupation of at school – especially when they are in the teenage years, since many did not attend school past 8th grade (until into the 20th century). In 1900, Carrie and Hattie Draper, ages 16 and 19, are at school while living with their brother in Bedford County, Virginia. Their father had died the year prior, and the sisters and widow lived with older brother Walter Draper.

Occasionally, I have found women who had taken over a husband’s occupation after his death. Also in 1900, Jane Cubbage, age 72, was recorded as a farmer just a few months after her husband Jacob died. They had a substantial amount of property in Buffalo Township, Pennsylvania, including land that was being mined for oil and gas. Her son John would take over managing the land and farm a few years later.

In 1920, Elizabeth Linnemann, age 54 and also a widow, was found working as a “stuart.” at a hotel in Monessen, Pennsylvania. She was most likely a steward, and could have worked as a waitress or bartender. Her son Christian (here as “Christopher”) had the same occupation and worked most of his life as steward and bartender in local hotels and establishments. Elizabeth lived in the city of Monessen, which provided more opportunities for work than was available for some of my women ancestors who lived in rural areas.

In the 20th century, I have found additional occupations for women – at least before they married. In 1900, Margaret Cubbage, age 26, was found working as a teacher in Allegheny City. Margaret also never married, and spent her life working in education.

Living in a city or suburb provided more options for women to work in clerical occupations. In 1930, the Cubbage sisters were living in the city of Monessen with their parents and siblings. Marian, age 25, was working as bookkeeper at a bank. Marian never married and would have a long career as a bookkeeper (my dad remembers Marian to be the most financially stable aunt, and the first of those Cubbage siblings to own a car). Minnie, age 22, and Gladys, age 19, were working as stenographers at a real estate office and the steel mill. Both sisters would leave these positions after they married. And at this time, mother Maine had an occupation of none rather than keeping house.

I found an interesting “occupation” in the 1910 census. Jennie [Cubbage] Kearns, age 75 and widowed, was living in Pittsburgh with her daughter Jeanne. Both women reported an occupation of own income. Jennie’s husband, William D. Kearns, has been a well-known and successful physician in Pittsburgh. I guess they were financially stable!

I love piecing together the stories of my female ancestors. I encourage to take a look at your female ancestors through the occupations that you find in the census. Do you see changes in each generation? Do the women in more urban areas have better jobs? Did any young widows go back to work?


Census Office, Department of the Interior, “Ninth Census, United States, 1870; Instructions to Assistant Marshalls,” Washington: Government Printing Office, 1870; The United States Census Bureau ( through_the_decades/census_instructions/1870_instructions.html : accessed 1 March 2019).

1870 U.S. census, Allegheny County, Pennsylvania, population schedule, Etna, p. 10 (penned), sheet 399B (stamped), dwelling 71, family 78, Cath Cubbage household; digital image, ( : accessed 1 March 2019), citing NARA microfilm publication M593, roll 1299.

1870 U.S. census, Butler County, Pennsylvania, population schedule, Penn Township, p. 15 (penned), dwelling 115, family 115, James Copige household; digital image, ( : accessed 19 September 2016), citing NARA microfilm publication M593, roll 132.

1870 U.S. census, Allegheny County, Pennsylvania, North Versailles, population schedule, McKeesport Post Office, p. 20 (penned), dwelling 137, family 137, Isaac Mason; digital image, ( : accessed 13 January 2014) citing National Archives publication M5393, roll 1294.

1880 U.S. census, Butler County, Pennsylvania, population schedule, Penn Township, Enumeration District (ED) 52, p. 413B (stamped), p. 10 (penned), dwelling 80, family 84, James Cubbage household; digital image, ( : accessed 19 September 2016), citing NARA  microfilm publication T9, roll 1109.

1880 U.S. census, Butler County, Pennsylvania, population schedule, Middlesex Township, Enumeration District (ED) 46, p. 326D (stamped), p. 12 (penned), dwelling 101, family 104, Sarah Cubbage in John R. Logan household; digital image, ( : accessed 21 September 2016), citing NARA  microfilm publication T9, roll 1109.

1900 U.S. census, Bedford County, Virginia, population schedule, Lisbon District, Enumeration District (ED) 11, sheet 12-A, p. 206 (stamped), dwelling 196, family 262, Walt Draper household; digital image, ( : accessed 1 March 2019), citing National Archives microfilm publication T623.

1900 U.S. census, Butler County, Pennsylvania, population schedule, Buffalo Township, Enumeration District (ED) 54, sheet 5-A, p. 51 (stamped), dwelling 98, family 100, Jane Cubbage; digital image, ( : accessed 1 March 2019), citing National Archives microfilm publication T623.

1920 U.S. census, Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania, population schedule, Monessen Ward 1, Enumeration District (ED) 152, sheet 2-B, p. 147 (stamped), dwelling 22, family 38, Elizabeth Lineman household; digital images, ( : accessed 15 November 2018), citing National Archives microfilm publication T625, roll 1666.

1900 U.S. census, Allegheny County, Pennsylvania, population schedule, Allegheny City, Enumeration District (ED) 10, sheet 1-A, p. 102 (stamped), dwelling 8, family 9, Martha C. Cubbage household; digital image, ( : accessed 1 March 2019), citing National Archives microfilm publication T623.

1930 U.S. census, Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania, population schedule, Monessen City, Enumeration District (ED) 65-98, sheet 8-A, p. 106 (stamped), dwelling 119, family 163, Charles A. Cubbage household; digital image, ( : accessed 1 March 2019), citing National Archives microfilm publication T626.

1910 U.S. census, Allegheny County, Pennsylvania, population schedule, Pittsburgh Ward 13, Enumeration District (ED) 450, sheet 4-B, p. 158 (stamped), dwelling 86, family 89, Jennie C. Kearns; digital images, ( : accessed 1 March 2019), citing National Archives microfilm publication T624, roll 1303.


Lovely Valentine’s Couples

Happy Valentine’s Day!

I honor of this day of love, I searched around my family (and hubby’s) for Valentine’s records, marriages or pictures … nothing! Lots of marriages in December and January, but not much happening in February! I did find this clipping in the Cubbage Family Bible … I wonder which family member clipped it from the newspaper?


So no Valentine’s marriages or love letters, but here are some of the oldest pictures that I have of family couples:

c. 1902, Jackson “Jack” Draper and Sarah Pierce in Bedford, Virginia, married in 1894.
1915, Elizabeth Linnemann and Frank Speck, Monessen or Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, taken around the time of their marriage.
mary michael
1934, Mary Simko and Michael Petrun, Male Zaluzice, Slovakia, taken around the time of their marriage.
c. 1939, Elise Gegenheimer and Adolf Haberkern, on a date near Stein, Germany, married in 1942.
Agnes & Art
1938, Agnes Speck and Art Cubbage in Monessen, Pennsylvania, married in 1939.

I wish that I had more older pictures, but I am very thankful for those that I do have of our families. Do you have any Valentine’s marriages in your family? How about your oldest family pictures?


#52Ancestors: A Woman I’d Love to Meet

This post is part of Amy Johnson Crow’s “52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks” family history blogging challenge. The prompt for this week is “I’d Like to Meet.”

There are so many ancestors that I’d like to meet – too many to list here (and why). But one that stands out is Polly. She was my husband’s 5th great-grandmother. I’ve done a little bit of research on Polly and her family, but I have much so more to learn as I have not yet been able to get to Bedford County – it’s on my research travel list!

So what makes me want to meet Polly? Her Last Will and Testament. Here’s a quick timeline of her life to give you the basics before we get to her will:

  • Mary “Polly” Boyle was born around 1789 in Virginia, probably in Bedford County.
  • She married Reuben Kerns/Karnes in 1808.
  • Reuben died in 1835 at age 51, leaving Polly with four daughters (the youngest still a teenager, the oldest married). Reuben’s will provided that his plantation and household items were to remain with his wife until her death, and then be divided among his children.

On 21 July 1859, Polly wrote her own will. The will was signed with her mark, indicating that she could not write, and likely dictated it to someone. It starts as standard will:

Polly directed that all of her estate (real and personal) be sold by the executor. The resulting money was to be held by the executor as a trustee for equal use and benefit of her four children (which she named) during their lives and after their death to their children. If any daughters died without heirs, their share was to go to the surviving sisters (or the sisters’ children).

This is the part that caught my eye:

“… it being my wish that no part of the legacies herein given to my children shall be under the control of their present, or any future husbands they may have, or be in any manner liable for their debts.”

Wow. Nothing to the husbands, nor can they control the “legacies.” I have not seen anything like this in a will thus far! The following year, Polly was still living in Bedford County with her youngest daughter, and enumerated next to two other daughters and their husbands (and children).

Polly likely died in the early spring of 1864 – her will was proved in April. But not before Polly’s three sons-in-law “opposed the proof of the will.” But the court found it to be a valid will and that Polly “was of sound and disposing mind and memory and that she was under no undue influence.” The will was to be executed according to the law, and the court ordered that it was to be recorded as it was written.

So they opposed the will! I wonder if these men knew about her stipulations, or if they learned it after Polly’s death? And why did Polly exclude them for having control of her estate? Did she know something about them? Did she feel that her daughters married poorly?

Back to the 1860 census … Polly’s real estate was valued at $1000, which was an average value compared to those who lived nearby. But the daughters who next next-door did not own any land, and their personal property was valued at much less than Polly’s. Were these sons-in-law just looking for her money? So many questions!

1860 census polly

And what about Polly? This woman – at a time when women were just beginning to be allowed to own property (let alone control it without a guardian) – wrote a will that clearly didn’t permit her sons-in-law to control any of the estate that would go to her daughters. I wonder what lead her make this stipulation in her will. Was it the husbands, or did she want to give her daughters the ability to control their own assets?

Again, I have much more to learn about Polly, her daughters, and their husbands. She is definitely an ancestor that I’d love to meet one day. I’d have so many questions for her!

Have you found any interesting wills? Which ancestor would you like to meet?