Some descendants of Chang and Eng Bunker—the original "Siamese twins"—are profiled in the current issue of National Geographic. The brothers settled near Mount Airy, North Carolina, in 1839, married local sisters, and had 21 children between them ... so to speak. Their descendants now number around 1,500.
Open admiration for the twins was not always a given. The older generation preferred a tight-lipped approach. Jessie Bunker Bryant, the 70-year-old grande dame and the force behind the annual family reunion, tells of a Bunker bride who didn't know about her famous relatives until the night before her wedding. "Your fiancé may not want to go ahead with this," warned her mother after disclosing the family secret. Happily, the revelation charmed the groom-to-be. [p. 151]The article explains that, after 14 contentious years of living under one roof, the brothers agreed to split their time between two homes—three days in one, then three days in the other.
I was curious about how this would be represented in census records. In 1860, Chang's family was listed immediately after Eng's, in the next dwelling (the occupation of each man given as "Siamese Twin"). In 1870, Eng was listed on page 313A of the Mount Airy census, his brother on page 324B. Since the enumerator was supposed to list "every person whose place of abode on the first day of June, 1870, was in this family," shouldn't one of the twins have been found living in his brother's home? Was there a special provision in the census-taking guidelines for conjoined twins living (again, so to speak) apart?