Experimenting with Land Values

Inspired by THIS POST on The In-Depth Genealogist, my research inspiration today revolves around my ancestors' real estate values.  Using the 1870 US Federal Census, I decided to choose two households from my family tree - one being my best-guess estimate as "richest relative in 1870" and "poorest relative in 1870".  I don't mean this in any disrespectful sort of way...I'm just curious about getting a feel for the socio-economic standing of my ancestors in relation to their neighbors and community.

In this particular census, the value of the family's real estate is listed in $ dollars as well as the total estimated value of their personal property.  For comparison in modern-day standards, I ran values for "richest" and "poorest" through an inflation calculator online.  A small disclosure here...I selected these two households based on an educated guess.  With more time, I can browse through ALL 1870 US Census reports attached to my family tree to find the exact high and low wealth families.  For another day :).

Here are the results:

1.  Wealthiest in 1870:
Household of Sarah Musser Luden (widowed 4 years prior), and children Edward, Caroline, William (future candy guru), Sallie, and Jacob.  Living in Reading Ward 7, Berks County, Pennsylvania.

Value of real estate = $12,000
Value of personal property = $8,000

Current value of real estate = $210,526.32
Current value of personal property = $140,350.88

Other households in the same neighborhood (a wealthier part of downtown Reading...filled with the homes and businesses of many other merchants, including a chocolate maker, congressional representative, paper hanger, carpenter, and painter...listed values ranging from $15,000 to $150, or even renting.  For context, Mrs. Luden is a great-grandmother on my mother's mother's side of the family.

2.  Poorest in 1870:

Household of John Washington and Mary Parrish, Henry County, Alabama, precinct 1.

Value of real estate = none (rent)
Value of personal property = $50

Current value of real estate = n/a
Current value of personal property = $877

Ironically enough, John W. Parrish is living right next door to his future (in a few generations!) in-law, as Caswell Bruner's daughter Hattie is the mother of my paternal grandfather, Alto K. Hughes.  John Parrish is a relative on my paternal grandmother's side of the family.  Most of the neighboring families are farmers and laborers in this part of rural South Eastern Alabama.

So, there you have it!  An un-scientific comparison.  At least now I have some frame of reference when browsing through those census records.

Happy Searching!!


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