By Jean M. Hoffman, CGSM
Effie Bell (née Irion) died 5 September 1948 in Gallipolis, Ohio. Her death certificate states that Effie was born 11 September 1862. The informant was Mrs. Oliver Lyle, the daughter with whom Effie lived.1 An obituary repeated the birth date and the gravestone of Effie and her late husband was carved with her birth year as 1862.2 While these might appear to be three different sources, most likely all came from Effie’s daughter, perhaps originally from Effie herself.
My problem is that I don’t believe that is the year she was born. An apparent two-year error in a birth date is a rather minor problem but provides an easily understood example of data analysis and conflict resolution.
The only U.S. census with birth information other than an age was recorded in 1900. Effie’s birth is written there as “Sep 1861.”3 No other records have been located that actually state her birth year. Civil birth records were not required in Ohio counties until 1867.4 The church to which she belonged in 1899 was the Clay Chapel Methodist Episcopal Church in Clay Township.5 Her parents were married by M. D. Vaughn, a minister of that church, so they may have been members when Effie was born.6 No baptisms for the Irion family are recorded in a book of extant records for 1856 –1875.7
The earliest record of Effie’s age is the 1870 U.S. census. The children in the household are Brooks age 11, Effie at 9, George 7, and John age 3. The enumeration took place on 6 June 1870.8 If Effie was born on 11 September, she would be nine on that date only if she was born in 1860. Effie married William W. Bell on 24 March 1879. The Gallia County marriage book documenting their marriage has pre-printed pages with blanks to fill. For the bride the printing reads: “is ____ of the age of eighteen years.” Parental consent would have been required for a bride under eighteen. Nothing is noted for Effie, implying she was at least eighteen.9 To be eighteen in March of 1879 with a birthday in September, she had to have been born by 1860. It is possible that she was underage at the time of her marriage and a license erroneously obtained without parental consent. However, she was married by J. D. Hathaway, the pastor of her church, and lived after marriage in close proximity to her parents. It is more likely that she really was eighteen. The following year on 19 June she is enumerated in the 1880 U.S. census as being nineteen years old.10 Again, she would be that age if born in 1860.
In 1900 she was listed as born in September 1861 as previously noted. In the census of 1910 Effie’s age was 47 on the 16th of April.11 This is the first record that would place her birth in 1862. The census records of 1920 and 1930 also have ages reflecting an 1862 birth.12 Her son-in-law, Oliver G. Lyle, was the informant for his household on the 1940 U.S. census. Her age that April was 78, placing her birth back to 1861.13
All later records show a belief that Effie was born in 1862 or possibly 1861. The data closest to her birth consistently points to the year 1860. One other factor supports the year 1860. That is the ages and birth dates of her brothers Brooks and George between whom she was born. Brooks, at the age of one year, was the only child in the household of John T. Irion in 1860.14 His 1900 census entry has him born in December 1858.15 His ages in the census of one in 1860 and eleven in 1870 are consistent with that birth date. George M. Irion went from an 1870 age of seven to seventeen in the 1880 census.16 Family tradition of unknown origin has his date of birth as 6 April 1863, a date that would result in those ages. However, if that date is correct, Effie cannot have been born to the same mother six months earlier in September 1862. While 1861 is possible, her birth in 1860 would place her closer to halfway between these two brothers and a normal approximately two-year spacing than would an 1861 birth year.
While 1862 is carved in stone, Effie Irion, later wife of William W. Bell, was born in 1860. She died just six days before her 88th birthday. My great grandmother lived to a slightly more advanced age than her family realized.
1. Effie I. Bell, certificate of death no. 229 (1948), Gallia County Health Department, Gallipolis, Ohio.
2. Mrs. Effie Bell Claimed Suddenly, Gallipolis (Ohio) Daily Tribune, 7 September 1948, p. 1. And Effie Irion and William W. Bell gravestone, Mound Hill Cemetery (Gallia County, Ohio); photographed by Jean M. Hoffman, 13 October 2001.
3. 1900 U.S. census, Gallia County, Ohio, population schedule, Clay Township, ED 26, sheet 8A, dwelling 155, family 160, William Bell household; NARA T623, roll 1271.
4. Which Vital Records Do We Have? Ohio Department of Health (http://www.odh.ohio.gov/vitalstatistics/vitalmisc/whichrecs.aspx : accessed 13 Dec. 2013).
5. H.E. Brill, History of Clay Chapel (Gallipolis, Ohio: A.R. Harding, printer, 1899), 47: members in 1899.
6. Irion-Poole marriage, 1857, Gallia County Marriage Book 2:352, Probate Court, Gallipolis, Ohio. Also Brill, History of Clay Chapel, 34: list of pastors.
7. “Clay Chapel Baptismal Records Book I 1856–1875,” Mary James, transcriber; database, Gallia County Genealogical Society, OGS Chapter, Inc. (http://www.galliagenealogy.org : accessed 13 December 2013).
8. 1870 U.S. census, Gallia County, Ohio, population schedule, Clay Township, post office Mercerville, O., page 258 (stamped), dwelling/family 174, John T. Iron household; NARA M593, roll 1203.
9. Bell-Iron marriage, 1879, Gallia County Marriage Book 5: 44, Probate Court, Gallipolis, Ohio.
10. 1880 U.S. census, Gallia County, population schedule, Clay Township, ED 21, p. 277A, dwelling 215, family 220, Wm. W. Bell household; NARA T9, roll 1018.
11. 1910 U.S. census, Gallia County, Ohio, population schedule, Gallipolis Township, Gallipolis City, Ward 1, ED 30, sheet 2B, dwelling 40, family 40, William Bell household; NARA T624, roll 1184.
12. 1920 U.S. census, Gallia County, Ohio, population schedule, Gallipolis, ED 50, sheet 7, dwelling 165, family 196, Oliver G. Lyle household; NARA T625, roll 1385. Also 1930 U.S. census, Gallia County, Ohio, population schedule, Gallipolis City, Third Ward, ED 27-7, sheet 4B, dwelling 111, family 116, Oliver Lyle household; NARA T626, roll 1803
13. 1940 U.S. census, Gallia County, Ohio, population schedule, Gallipolis, Ward 3, ED 27-8, sheet 4B, dwelling 95, Oliver G. Lyle household; digital image, FamilySearch.org (https://familysearch.org : accessed 3 April 2012); NARA T627, roll 3072.
14. 1860 U.S. census, Gallia County, Ohio, population schedule, Clay Township, p. 352, dwelling/family 285, John T. Irion household; NARA M653, roll 966.
15. 1900 U.S. census, El Paso County, Colorado, population schedule, Colorado Springs, ward 5, ED 31, sheet 19A, dwelling 416, family 444, Brooks Iron household; NARA T623, roll 124.
16. 1880 U.S. census, Gallia County, population schedule, Clay Township, ED 21, p. 277A, dwelling 214, family 219, John T. Irion household; NARA T9, roll 1018.