Posted by on Mar 1, 2014 |

In the post: Lizzie Milligan: Lady Boss, we learned that Lizzie was a supervisor at a cigar factory in Boston. In Lizzie Milligan: Mom and Widow, four US censuses (1910-1940) told us that she lived with her younger sister (Ellen Cardinal), brother-in-law (Joseph Cardinal), and their family. But what we found in the 1900 United States Federal Census made our story a little more interesting.

In the 1910, 1920, and 1930 censuses, it’s pretty clear that Lizzie’s relationship with Edward is mother-son:

  • both Lizzie and Edward’s surname is listed as “Milligan,”
  • Lizzie is listed as the head of household’s “sister-in-law,”
  • and Edward is listed as the head of household’s “nephew.”

However, this relationship wasn’t so clear in the 1900 census where Lizzie’s surname was listed as a “Nester” (as is her mother, Mary; sister, Maggie; and brother, John) and 14-year old Edward is listed as a “Milligan.”


And if that information wasn’t enough to obscure his relationship with the family, consider how Edward’s relationship to the head-of-household was listed: as a “lodger.”


It begs the question, “Why?” Why would the family obscure the relationship between a mother and her son in 1900, but come clean in 1910, 1920, and 1930?

One last inconsistency was found with respect to Lizzie and Edward’s country of origin. In 1910, Lizzie and Edward are both listed as being born in Canada. In 1920, both are listed as being born in Montreal. So far so good. But for some inexplicable reason in 1930, the document reports that they were both born in Massachusetts. They went from Canadian to American?


Finally, in 1940, a 72 year old Lizzie is listed as being born in French-speaking Canada. (Note: Edward fell off of the census after 1930.)


We aren’t sure why these discrepancies exist. Perhaps they’re the result of intentional deception. Or, perhaps they were the result of inept census takers. But either way, taking a collective look at all of the information that we have available, we know that both mother and son immigrated from Montreal, Quebec, Canada sometime between 1886 and 1910. We just don’t know exactly when, yet the 1910, 1920, and 1930 censuses offer some clues.

  • The records from 1910 and 1920 tell us that they immigrated in 1890.
  • The records from 1930 say that they immigrated in 1895.

And yet, the burning question still remains. Did Patrick come with them or not? Did Lizzie come to the United States as a young wife and mom, or as a widow and single mother? We just need more clues.

Sources used in this post: