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Go Beyond What is Official

Groff-mistakesWorking for years on research for a family branch, the Groff family of Frederick, Maryland, I had reviewed numerous times all the US Federal Census records for the Groff family. One was a special puzzle for me in the 1880 census. Here listed, besides the children of Joseph and Susan Groff, was what appeared the name ‘Nicholas H. Groff’ in the household. Another name followed, that of Amanda Palmer, whom I had found had worked and lived for years with the Groffs as a housekeeper. Yet, I had never located anything on Nicholas H. Groff.

Based on the 1880 census he was a young teenager, born in Maryland. He was not listed on the 1880 census as a son, nephew, or any type of relative or worker. Being perplexed by this for so long, I decided to really concentrate on this question.

groff-h--1880I began by looking and studying for a long time at that 1880 census. I then noticed how the census taker had used a dash line (—) instead of writing out the Groff name for the other 11 people in the household. That included a dash line for Palmer, Amanda, (with the last name ‘Palmer’ written first), who I knew was a housekeeper and not related. So I looked again and saw that maybe instead of ‘— Nicholas H.’ being a Groff that Nicholas might have been that person’s surname and the ‘H’ was for Henry, Harry, Hubert, etc.

With that approach, approximate birth date and place, I searched for H. Nicholas born about 1863-1863 in Maryland. I soon came up with a Henry Orian Nicholas born September 10, 1865 in Frederick, Maryland. His parents were John L. Nicholas and Sarah Cole Welch Nicholas. Henry had several older siblings. His mother and siblings were born in Maryland.

The Nicholas family had lived in Maryland during the 1860s and by 1870 lived in Schuylkill Co., PA. By 1880 Henry’s family lived in Lehigh Co., PA. Since the census recording date was a bit different for the Nicholas in Lehigh County vs the Groff family in Frederick, it is possible that the boy, Henry O. Nicholas was visiting the Groff family. That has been known to happen, a person in different households during the census month and counted on each.

Henry Nicholas does marry in 1889 to Mary Proctor and they had two children, Henry Thomas Nicholas born Nov. 4, 1890 (died 1949), who never married and Loveday Proctor Nicholas born Dec. 8,1894. Henry and his wife and children eventually live in Newport, VA, where he owned and operated two shops – one a barber shop and the other a ladies hair saloon. His wife, Mary committed suicide in Aug. 1909.

Daughter Loveday Nicholas married Frederick S. Baldwin and she ran the Nicholas Beauty Salon for years. She and Frederick had one child, Frederick S. Baldwin Jr. born about April 1926 in VA. In 1950 their son married Dorothy Dodge Kelly, but they had no children.

Henry O. Nicholas died March 25, 1953 in VA. His son, Henry Thomas Nicholas died in 1949 and his daughter Loveday Nicholas Baldwin died in 1981. Frederick Baldwin Jr died Nov. 14, 2008 in Hampton, VA.

I attempted to link the various surnames in the Nicholas family somehow to the Groff family but found no connection. So I may never know if this is the right Nicholas, not a Groff and also why was he in the Groff household in 1880. The main conclusion I came up with is that this young fellow was not a Groff family relative.

It does demonstrate that you can’t take on face value and from any transcription every piece of information on official documents. It can be misunderstood or misinterpreted.

Photos: 1880 US Federal Census for the Groff family.

Related genealogy blogs:

Avoiding Mistakes

Human Error

Tips for Census Searching


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