Monday, August 11, 2014

When is an Inmate Not a Prisoner?

1900 census listing Ephraim Bennettt as an "prisoner" of a state prison
Cole County, Missouri
In my genealogy research, I have now come across the word "inmate" listed under "occupation" on a census twice. Neither person was a prisoner. The only time I had an actual prisoner on a census record, he was listed as a "prisoner." (See image above.)


The first time I came across an "inmate" on a census, I was pretty surprised. But, as I read the census better, I realized that this individual was actually living in an "Old Soldier's Home." I'd never heard of this term, so I did a little research. One resource I found was the "Civil War Blog." It explains that President Lincoln initiated these homes for veterans of the civil war who had served honorably and were disabled from their service. Ancestry has a searchable database called U.S. National Homes for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers, 1866-1938. It was years ago, but I need to find this census record again and see what other records I can uncover for this relative.

1940 census listing Jack Bennett as "inmate" of Poor Farm
Newton County, Missouri

As I mentioned in the post about the Missouri State Penitentiary, I found two brothers who had served time there. Well, imagine my surprise when I stumbled upon a third brother listed as an inmate! My first thought was, "another prisoner!" But, I found his burial record on FindAGrave showing he was buried in the "County Poor Farm Cemetery" in the same city (& same year!) as the census record. So, he wasn't an inmate of a prison; he was an inmate of a poor farm!

So, if you come across the term "inmate", you might need to look a little further to figure out what they are an 'inmate' of! Who knows what you'll uncover? And, all of these institutions (prisons, old soldiers' homes, & poor farms) can lead to more records! Happy hunting!

P.S. The Legal Genealogist has now written a post about 'inmates' and the instructions which were given to the census takers!

Do we share common ancestors? I'd love to talk! Please write me at

1 comment:

  1. The Poor Farm was one that really surprised me...I'd never heard of such a thing! So sad...I had two distant cousins- brothers that were in them for more than two census records! Great post, thank you!


The 1828 Will of Peter Close's Relict: Catharine Elizabeth Close

Yesterday, I shared the 1810 will of my 5th great grandfather , Peter Close of Armagh, Mifflin County, Pennsylvania. Peter's wife, Catha...