31 July 2012

Census Mistakes

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The census is such an important tool to our research and yet all too often, researchers rely on it maybe a little too much!  As with ANY document (even those we consider primary ones) there can be errors!  A post by Bill Dollarhide on Leland Meitzler’s GenealogyBlog gives us a sense of some of what can go wrong with a census record.

Dollarhide’s Rule #9: An 1850 census record showing twelve children in a family proves only that your ancestors did not believe in birth control.

Census records provide researchers a primary source of genealogical evidence. The fact that names of people and relationships are listed in certain census schedules is all that is needed to make them our most important sources for finding our ancestors. But, too often, genealogies are prepared just from census records and no other source.
Nevertheless, census records are widely used by genealogists to prepare a record of one’s ancestry. But, census records, unfortunately, are prone to errors. If so, what information can you trust? And, if all you have as evidence of a family is what you have found in a census record, have you really proven anything?

Read the full post for the various ways that census records can be “wrong” or “inconsistent” and what that can mean for your own research.

What are some of the "biggest" or "most humorous" mistakes you have found in a census record?  How did you discover them?  

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1 comment:

  1. The 1870 census in western TN is horrible! Must have been taken by illiterate carpetbaggers [yes I have Confederate ancestors]. Mary A. T. McCulloch Clement and her son Ben Clement are listed as Mary McColler and son Ben. [TN Dyer County, population schedule, 5th Civil District, page 9, dwelling and family 64]. Had she not been living next door to her brothers I would never have found her.

    Mary Clement Douglass
    Transcribing & publishing Kansas genealogical records
    Have lectures, Will travel!
    URL: www.historical-matters.com