Aldus–Starting Off Young

An interesting fact shown in the 1940 census is the highest grade of education completed. Aldus is shown as completing 7 grades. Mary completed 8. Of Aldus and Mary’s sons, Ned is shown as completed 8th grade, and James had what looks like 4 years of high school education. Historically, from 1850, only about 60% of youth ages 5-19 years old were enrolled in school until about 1910 when the percentage began to increase (Source for all statistics in this paragraph). Of those enrolled, they were virtually all in elementary school. Until 1910, less than 10 our of every 100 youth aged 17 had completed high school. Even in 1940, only about 25% of the Caucasian population aged 25+ had completed 4 years of high school. Likewise, college admission rates were extremely low. Although the number of enrollments in college began to increase around 1910, enrollment didn’t really take off until about 1950. In 1870, 20% of the population aged 14+ were illiterate, and the percentage remained in the double digits until after 1900.

I share all these statistics because they are really helpful in understanding the differences that existed in our ancestor’s lives. What seems so basic to us today was just not so basic in the past. As a result, we have to look at history from the eyes of those who were living it. Just earning a living to survive was so time consuming then, producing the very basics of food, clothing, and shelter. It helps us to understand why small children were hired out and why teens stopped going to school and were employed full time. Mindsets, family patterns, and life circumstances stick around from generation to generation, which we see in the history of education. Nevertheless, situations change over time. Referring back to the 1940 census, Ned, who was born in 1909, had completed 8 years of education; however, James, who was born in 1911, appears to have completed high school. Just the two years difference in birth likely boosted James’ educational opportunities.

Lancaster School building built in 1892. Former one story school buildings were on both sides of this building. It’s possible that Aldus went to both the one story buildings and this building for his education. Photo from Google Maps. More information about this school, and the history of schools in this area, is found here.

Let’s get back to Aldus, who is shown as completing 7 grades of school. If he started school around 8 or 9 years old, he would have completed his 7 grades at about 15-16 years old. Remember that his mother died in 1897 when Aldus was 16 1/2 years old. It’s likely that he had finished his education and was employed at the time or shortly after. This was common for the time. I have a fifteen year old daughter. She’s still in school and she does not have to worry about working to support herself or her family. Life is different now. For Aldus, it was just the norm. Very likely, his friends had stopped going to school and were getting jobs too. And so the beginning of an adult life began at 16 years old.

What do people do besides work when they are an adult? Getting married is quite common. About two years after his mother died, Aldus married Mary E. Troop. The marriage certificate says Aldus was 21 years old and Mary was 17 years old when they applied for a marriage license on April 25, 1899. If the date is correct, and his birthday is correct, he would have been 18 at the time, not 21. They were married April 29, 1899. In Pennsylvania in 1900, the legal age to marry without consent from a parent was 21, so it’s likely Aldus lied about his age so he wouldn’t have to get consent from his father. Why he felt he had to do that will likely remain a mystery.

Signature on marriage license docket

In June 1900, Aldus and Mary lived with her Parents at 347 North Concord Street. They would have been married less than a year.

347 N Concord St, Lancaster, PA. This home is listed on as being built in 1900. Photo from Google Maps.

The 1900 census indicates that Mary had not given birth to any children. Aldus’s birthday is listed on the census as Nov 1879, although the provider of the family information may have gotten the year incorrect; however, his age is listed as 20, which would mean he was 19 when he married, not 21 or even 18. On the other hand, if he was born in 1880, he would have been 19 years old in June of 1900 as he wouldn’t have had his 20th birthday until November. I’m always amazed at the inconsistency of ages in historical records. I’ve written about that for several of his siblings.

The 1910 Census, taken in April, shows Aldus is 29 years old. This would be consistent with him being born in 1880. It also indicates that he and Mary have been married 11 years, which is also consistent with Aldus being 18 years old at the time of his marriage. Aldus is listed as a Salesman at a seed store. Mary is listed as being the mother of 4 children, 4 of which are still living. This is interesting as I found on Elvin’s birth certificate that he is the fourth child born, with three still living. Elvin was born in 1906. His younger brother, Ned, had been born and was listed in the 1910 census, which means the census record is likely wrong and should indicate 5 children had been born and 4 were still living. Aldus and Mary had six kids. Raymond Earl, Grace, a baby, Elvin, Ned, and James.

Aldus and Mary lived with their family at 509 Green Street, which they were renting, and were living next to Aldus’ brother William and family who lived at and owned 507 Green Street. Eventually, William and his family would move to Florida and Aldus and his family would buy William’s home.

507 Green Street on left and 509 Green Street on right. Map from Google Maps. Home built in 1900.

So what did Aldus do to support his family? That will be the topic of the next post.