Friday, October 29, 2010

Records Say the Darnedest Things: Missed It By That Much

Records say the darnedest thingsWelcome to a new series, “Records Say the Darnedest Things.”

We depend upon records to reveal the “truth” about our pasts.

Yet sometimes records have anomalies.
Some are amusing or humorous.
Some are interesting or weird.
Some are are peculiar or suspicious.
Some are infuriating, even downright laughable.

Yes, records say the darnedest things.

Missed ‘Em By That Much

The transcriber left off two family members doing family #1, below. Fortunately, he discovered the mistake quickly, inserting the two between families 2 and 3.

Any wagers on which vendors handle this correctly?

Check the indexes at and Then compare Chris Baer’s transcript of the enumerator’s copy. Score one for checking the enumerator’s copy, when available.

Two family members were omitted Source: U.S. Federal Census, 1850, population schedules, Massachusetts, Dukes County, Town of Tisbury, page 419 [stamped]; digital images ( : accessed 2 October 2010).


  1. I've come across this before. However, had I not browsed all the way to the end of the ED, I think it was, I would not have found my missing people. The excluded individuals were added to a supplemental sheet (?) and there was some accompanying text stating on which page and line the rest of family could be found.

  2. I have to admit that I've never heard of an enumerator’s copy of a census. When such copies exist, where can they be found?

  3. Interesting! Good food for thought...and follow up!

  4. John asked about the "enumerator's copy of a census."

    Nearly all of the US Federal Census enumerations we have access to from the National Archives were copies transcribed from enumerator's notes.

    Sometimes whoever did the final transcript (on the official form when there was one available) made mistakes -- perhaps the enumerator's notes were hard to read, or perhaps the transcriber was interrupted and made a mistake when resuming work. For one of my distant cousin's households the transcriber mistakenly put in the wrong surname (that of a neighbor) in the 1850 enumeration copy. When a member of that household went to get a Civil War pension increase based on age, the Pension Office asked the Census Bureau to find the veteran's 1850 enumeration. There was some correspondence back and forth, and eventually a Census clerk made a note on the page as to what the surname was supposed to have been, per a letter re: pension.

    There is usually good evidence of the copying process in the handwriting, all of consistent size and slant, same ink, etc.

  5. There are indeed wonders in the actual document images. Some of my favorites include
    --an auntie in 1880 who said her nephew's occupation was "devilment";
    --the 1810 ME enumerator who gave County of birth of heads of household;
    --the 1820 enumeration for Jefferson Co., (West) VA where occupations of heads of household were given;
    --the 1850 enumeration for Champion Twp., Trumbull Co., OH where the enumerator often listed exact County of birth, even when in a different State (this confused the extractor, who usually left the birthplace field blank in these instances);
    --the 1850 Mortality Schedule for one Ohio County where the enumerator used the blank lines at bottom of page to enter a multi-page narrative concerning geological and soil conditions in the County.

    But my all-time prize goes to the 1860 enumerators for Linn, Co., IA, who carefully listed those who had gone to Pike's Peak (the generic term at that time for the Colorado gold fields). Indeed, the remarkable Mr. Sam Dushane noted that (for instance) Abram N. Hess, 23, and Franklin Smith, 25, of Linn Twp., had "Gone to Pikes Peak about Mar. 15." Mr. Dushane also noted who was visiting where and what household they "belong to," and that Charles Leigh, 29, of Linn Twp., "had his house blown down in tornado June 2 1860." Occupations were not indexed/extracted for this enumeration, but this County also displays no few men with the fairly new occupation, "Prairie Breaker." Also in this County's enumeration is the notation that Montezuma McLaughlin, of Otter Creek Twp., was "mining in California."

    There are so many riches for those who look at the actual enumeration :D


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