Monday, March 19, 2007

Finding Census data for the Bresee surname

The point in a research survey that a researcher looks for census data usually depends on the time frame being researched. For instance, if an elusive ancestor is born in the 1850 time period, a researcher would probably search the census data for them as a child, in the 1850, 1860, 1870 and 1880 census records, soon after starting the research survey.

In my search for the Bresee (and variant spellings) surname in eastern New York, I have only the 1790 census that might include her as a child of her parents (name unknown). Cornelia Bresee was born in 1780 and married in south Rensselaer County NY in about 1797, and while she might be in the household of a parent, a sibling or other relative, it is not possible to tell which person she is in the 1800 and later census records. So all I have to work with is the 1790 US Census where Cornelia would be a "female" of any age.

Using census records, I searched for all surname spellings by using wild cards - I searched Bra*, Bre*, Bri*, Bro* and Bru*. I also looked for Bars*, Bers*, Birs*, Bors* and Burs* just in case the letters were transposed.

I am pretty sure that the family was in Albany County (Rensselaer was not formed until later), or in Columbia County, although I checked Dutchess County listings also. There were Bresee families in Berkshire county MA and Rutland county VT in 1790 also.

The surnames I found that are probably Bresee or Bries related include:


When you look at the cramped handwritten names on the census pages, you can see how the spelling variations occur. The last letter often looks like a c, e, n or r. In the middle of the name, a double S usually has the leading S that looks like (but isn't) a lower case f.

The 1790 census has three columns with numbers - the first one is white males over 16, the second column is white males under 16 and the third column is white females. The people enumerated in those columns may or may not be related to the head of household named on the census.

The search resulted in:

6 entries in Hillsdale (Columbia county)
p264 Cloe Bressan (1 - 3 - 5)
p267 Andrew H. Brissee (3 - 0 - 1)
p266 Andries C. Brissee (2 - 2 - 3)
p263 John H. Brissee (2 - 2 - 5)
p263 John C. Brisser (1 - 2 - 3)
p266 Nicholas G. Bissee (1 - 1 - 5)

3 entries in Hudson (Columbia County)

p278 John Bressar (1 - 1 - 2)
p279 John Bressar (1 - 3 - 3)
p279 Winson Bressar (2 - 5 - 4)

16 entries in Livingston (Columbia county):

p271 Andreas C. Bressac (2 - 5 - 2)
p271 Andreas F. Bressac (1 - 3 - 4)
p271 Cornelius Bressac (1 - 0 -2)
p269 Cornelius W. Bressac (1 - 1 - 2)
p271 Francis Bressac (3 - 4 - 3)
p269 Gabriel Bressac (1 - 2 - 2)
p271 Johannis C. Bressac (2 - 3 - 4)
p271 Johannis N. Bressac (1 - 2 -3)
p269 John Bressac (1 - 2 -4)
p271 Nicholas Bressac (1 - 0 - 1)
p271 Nicholas C. Bressac (1 - 3 - 4)
p271 Dolph Brassac (1 - 3 - 6)
p269 Peter Brassac (1 - 0 - 2)
p269 Themis Bressac (2 - 3 - 4)
p269 Johannis J. Bressee (2 - 3 - 3)
p270 Cornelius Brassac (3 - 3 - 2)

2 in Rensselaerwyck (Albany county)

p284 Anthony Brees (2 - 2 - 2)
p287 Joseph Brass (1 - 2 - 1)

3 in Hoosick (Albany County)

p319 Daniel Bressar (1 - 6 - 7)
p318 Gerrit T. Bresse (1 - 2 - 6)
p318 Henry Bressar (3 - 1 - 4)

How do I know that all of the above are really "Bresee" families? The only real indicator is the given names - every one of them, except Dolph Brassac and Joseph Brass, are in my Bresee database compiled form all of my other searches.

So there are 30 possible entries in these two counties. How do I find the family that she might be in? I can't eliminate any one of them - they all have females in their families (the third number).

I thought I could try to eliminate families by identifying the families in my database in the census records, and matching known family members to the census numbers. This fails in the 1790 census because there are no age brackets like in the later census records. If Cornelia had been living with her family in the 1800 census, I might have had a chance to eliminate many of the census families. However, with only the 1790 census data to work with, I can't eliminate any families at all.

This part of the search has been frustrating, since it revealed no new information. But it had to be performed for the sake of completeness. There are other census studies to be done in this survey portion of my research, and I'll cover them in a later post.

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