Friday, August 17, 2012

American life in 1787

The first thing I do with a genealogical book is check the index for ancestor surnames. Then I sometimes get distracted by bonus snippets about daily life.

Among the genealogy book finds in the shop this month is The 1787 Census of Virginia, Southampton County. It's actually more of a tax list than a census, but according to the authors, the commissioner had to visit each taxpayer at home and note the names of all males over 21.

The information in this county book includes more than just names: white males over 21 and female heads of households, the number of white males 16 to 21, blacks (slaves) 16 and older and 16 and younger. It also list horses, mares, colts and mules; cattle; carriages with number of wheels, ordinary (inn) licenses; billiard tables; number of stud horses; and who was practicing as a physician, apothecary or surgeon.

Only a few professions are listed, probably to differentiate people with similar names. Southampton County had a couple of "taylors," a bell maker, several sheffs (sheriffs?), an overseer, a silver smith, constables, coopers, physicians with licenses, a Dr. with "no physician's license," a merchant, a female plantation owner, and a sea captain.

Slavery is the sad part of our history, but it makes the exceptions stand out. Several free "Negroe" men are listed; some living with other families and some listed alone with their horse. That doesn't mean they didn't have families; only slaves were counted so these men had "0" in each of the people columns.

Most people who owned any transportation had a two-wheeled carriage or "chair." But a couple of men owned phaetons — the impractical little sports car of horse-drawn vehicles.

Here's an interesting post about things that have changed since 1787, including a link to the bar tab for our founding fathers.

How things have changed since 1787 | Constitution Daily
The population of the United States of America was about 3.9 million, according to the 1790 Census. About 700,000 people were being held as slaves. And outside of the census were at least 150,000 Native Americans.

And speaking of drinking and eating and drinking in earlier centuries, the entertaining videos about 21st-century people trying that lifestyle are here.

Travels with Books: Eating 17th-century food
Eating 17th-century food. Have you ever wondered what it would be like to eat the way people did in the 17th century? I've dreamt about an immersion course (small beer for breakfast — why not?) to see what life was like for ...

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