Wednesday, September 19, 2007

FamilySearch Indexing Tip: Birth Year

You've noticed, of course, that the 1900 U.S. Census includes both the birth year and the age. But have you noticed that adding the year and age together gives 1899 or 1900? Makes sense, doesn't it, since this is the 1900 census. You can use this tip when the year is hard to read, but the age is plain.

What if the year is obviously wrong, as in the case to the right? Using our tip, one can see that 1553 should be 1853. Which do you enter in FamilySearch Indexing?

I was surprised at the answer from FamilySearch support:

Dear Patron,

You will index the information the way it is written on the Census Record.  When the Patron is doing research on this person they will see the orginial [sic] census record and the indexing we have done. They will enter the correct information on their personal record.  We are making a mirror image of the census records.

Indexing Support

O.K. Pop quiz! Everyone take out a paper and a pencil. Here's the question. What year would you enter for the record shown to the right? If you think it will help, click here for a good website containing instructions given to the enumerators.

Add a comment below, give the year and explain why you chose that value. Next week I'll give the correct answer.


  1. I'd have to record 1887.

    It looks like the numerals in 1886 are all the same size and the 7 was written larger and darker to make it clear that it was an emendation.

    As for the 1553, that's an obvious 'typo' but indexing rules are that you record what is written.

    Dino (All Dino, All The Time)

  2. To me, it appears as if the "7" was added later by a clerk, trying to correct what otherwise would be an impossible age. But what if the year of birth as written originally by the enumerator was correct, and it was the age that was wrong? In that case, the clerk's "correction" would have made one wrong piece of data into two wrong pieces. Thus, if I could accurately determine what it was that the enumerator originally wrote, I would key that year, not the "7". If I could not figure out what it was the clerk originally wrote, then I would probably key a "?" to indicate an illegible character. Of course, doing so would likely be tilting at a windmill, since I would probably be keying something different from the other keyer, and the arbitrator would presumably side with what the other keyer used, since FamilySearchIndexing provides no way for a keyer to note to the arbitrator why it was he or she keyed something the way he or she did.

    Chad Milliner

  3. According to the project information for the Georgia census record (and it's the same for all the other 1900 census records I've done) you should use 1887 because:
    Many fields may contain corrected or crossed-out information.

    * When information is crossed out and then replaced, type the new data into the appropriate fields.

  4. Excellent comments. Hmmmm. Maybe I've changed what I'll give as the answer. But maybe I won't... Any other viewpoints out there?


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