The dream of easy wealth lured people from around the world to the melting pot of the California Gold Rush. It was a hard and fast mixing of cultures and people. In 1850, California was admitted as a state of the United States, and after that its population was tabulated in the censuses just as any other state. But the melding and merging of so many different nationalities and the wildness and secretiveness of the California gold fields made the job of a census enumerator something out of the ordinary. How many languages must he have run into in the course of doing his job? How could he possibly have gotten all that information correct?
In the more settled areas, families and neighbors were around for years and knew everyone well enough to give somewhat correct information. In the gold fields, a man created a new mining camp on the spur of the moment with fellows he’d never seen ten minutes before. Then, if gold was found, everybody else came around fast! Even after the rush, the area was home to miners of all nations. Gold and silver mines produced ore into the 1900s, and anybody could post a claim notice and start digging. How well could a census taker fulfill the census requirements he had been given under these circumstances? How can we find our ancestors lured to California by gold fever? Knowing the problems associated with the job, we cannot expect all of our ancestors to show up according to all the standard rules the census taker was supposed to follow.
Jacinto Acuna, his new wife, Josefina, and his nephew, Joseph Rumardo Acuna (three years younger than Jacinto) came from Chile to the California gold fields in 1852. On June 20, 1866, they formed the Esperanza Mining Company with other Chileans and Portuguese. They recorded a series of mine claims under its name in Placer County, California. The 1880 census index was easy to access online (many years ago it was the only census index that was easy to access) on FamilySearch.org, and I quickly found Jazinto and Josephina and Joseph Rumardo and his wife, Leonora, in Foresthill precinct, Placer County, California. We knew that Joseph Rumardo Acuna had married in Foresthill and lived there until he moved down to Sacramento in the early 1900s. I expected that Jacinto stayed there too.
I searched for both Jacinto and Joseph Rumardo in the 1870 census on microfilm in Placer County, scrolling through page by page. I couldn’t find either of them. That didn’t make sense, but I put that search away for a while and looked at other records.
The California Great Registers of voters turned up Jacinto and gave his place of naturalization in Placer County Court on 1 October 1877. An 1883 directory of Foresthill showed both Jacinto and Joseph Rumardo. In 1877, they signed as partners on two other claims; the Le La Fini Republicano and the Eva Quartz Mine. Joseph Rumardo married Eleanora Morris on 3 May 1874 in Foresthill. We even had two letters addressed to Joseph Rumardo at Foresthill, dated 1867, from his sisters in Valparaiso, Chile. These letters had been passed down through family, so he must have received them there! All the records seem to suggest that once Jacinto and Joseph arrived in Foresthill, they stayed in Foresthill. So where were they on the 1870 census? Were they not enumerated? Were they off in the mountains at a mining camp, and no census taker made it out there? A-ha! Another mystery to solve! But how to solve it?
When HeritageQuest came out with their 1870 Heads of Household index, I searched again for Jacinto Acuna and then for anyone surnamed Acuna in Placer County, California. Nothing even close. I read all the instructions for searching and tried searching for anyone born in Chile living in Placer County in 1870. HeritageQuest only listed the heads of households or different surnames within a household, so I tried looking at the image of each result to see if my family was in the household. I still couldn’t find them. I wondered about some of the names that showed up, however. They didn’t look Hispanic at all. In fact they didn’t look like any particular ethnicity. I figured the census taker must have really made some mistakes when he wrote down these names. Just out of curiosity I tried to figure out what the actual Hispanic name might have been. There was one, Aquinna Crescent, that just kept bothering me. I kept coming back to that name trying to figure it out but couldn’t. I gave up finally; it was a tangent and not directly related to my research anyway. Back to the research problem.
I went back over the records that I had for Jacinto and Joseph Rumardo. Something jumped out at me! In the 1866 formation of the Esperanza Mining Company, Jacinto’s name was spelled “Casinto.” Suddenly, my mind was whirling. Jacinto is normally pronounced “Haseentoe,” but if someone spoke more gutturally, the J could sound hard like a K sound. I think this must have been how Jacinto spoke. Also, one mistake seen regularly in censuses is reversing given names and surnames. So what if the census taker didn’t speak Spanish well and got “Casinto” Acuna’s name reversed? It would come out sounding like Akunya Casinto—which isn’t far from Aquinna Crescent. You know what else? Losapha, was Aquinna’s wife’s name, and Josefina was Jacinto’s wife’s name. But who was this Maratola on the 1870 census with them? She was 10 years old and born in California. Their daughter? Probably. Shortly after this, a friend researching on the Besoain family of Foresthill gave me some records extracted from the Foresthill church that said Bartola Acuna was Jacinto Acuna’s daughter. She was born in 1860.
I had found them with language differences and by ignoring the rules!