Friday, November 18, 2011

Darned Double Enumerations

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 peculiar or suspicious.
Some are infuriating, even downright laughable.

Yes, Records say the Darnedest Things.”

Records Are the Darnedest Things: Darned Double Enumerations

Could double enumerations be nature’s way of trying to maintain the yin and yang of the universe? Far too many of us have ancestors missing from the census. Double enumerations are when an ancestor occurs twice in a census.

Utah pioneers of 1850 are an especially fertile group for double enumeration as the 1850 U.S. Census for the state of Utah was taken in 1851. (If I’m not mistaken, it was actually the statehood application census from the Deseret Territory’s 1851 statehood application. Can anybody provide a source to that effect? But I digress…)

For example, the family of Alonzo Pearis Raymond was enumerated once in Pottawattamie County, Iowa in 1850:1


and again in the “1850” census of Salt Lake City:2


Alonzo’s sister Louisa does him one better. She’s enumerated once in Pottawattamie with her mother and step-father:3


and again in the “1850” census of Salt Lake City:4


and again in Salt Lake with the Nelson Whipple family, family friends with a newborn baby and a two year old.5 (Need I say more?)


Yes, records say the darnedest things.


     1.  “1850 United States Federal Census,” database and digital images, ( : accessed 9 November 2011), entry for Alonzo Raymond (age 29), District 21, Pottawattamie, Iowa.

     2. “1850 United States Federal Census,”, entry for Alonzo P. Raymond (age 29), Great Salt Lake, Utah Territory.

     3. “1850 United States Federal Census,”, entry for Louisa William (age 16), District 21, Pottawattamie, Iowa.

     4. “1850 United States Federal Census,”, entry for Loisa Williams (age 16), Great Salt Lake, Utah Territory.

     5. “1850 United States Federal Census,”, entry for Loisa Raiment (age 16), Great Salt Lake, Utah Territory.

Thank you to J. H. Fonkert for his NGS Magazine article, “Seeing Double: Taking Advantage of Double Census Enumerations,” in the October-December 2010 issue for inspiring this article.


  1. It doesn't require a census spread over two years to encounter double-enumeration. I have encountered this in situations where the family is working on moving from the city to a farm property, or where a mother goes to be with a daughter about to have a baby. Sometimes I have seen the two enumerations happen as little as a week apart.

    Another common situation, especially in areas close to the border, shows up because the US census occurs in the 0 year (ie, 1900) and the Canadian census occurs in the 1 year (ie, 1901). I have lots of family who moved back and forth between Manitoba and North Dakota (or Ontario-Michigan or Ontario-New York) over a twenty or even thirty year span.

  2. Working with the 1861 census of Toronto I have found a lot of girls (and some boys) in their late teens and early twenties working as servants with other families and also listed at home with their parents. Since the census was supposed to give the location of a person on a Sunday night, either was possible, especially where the addresses were only a few blocks apart.
    The enumerator for Division 3 of York Township (just outside Toronto) actually noted the second address for all servants he found in his area. Now that was golddust!

  3. One of my unusual double enumerations:
    Justus Marion Balcom and Maude Combs had two sons, Earl and Gordon in Arkansa. Maude died in 1912 shortly after Gordon was born. Her mother adopted the two boys, who changed their surname to Combs. Their father Justus returned to his original home in Michigan.

    In 1930 the two boys were enumerated in Arkansas with their grandmother, their surname Combs. They were also enumerated in Michigan with their father, their surname Balcom.

    1930 U.S. Kate Combs, 202 Cottonwood, Van Buren, Crawford Co. AR, ED17-30, p.7A, L29, dw142, fam168. enumerated April 11, 1930.

    1930 U.S. Justus Balcom, Muskegon, Muskegon Co. MI, ED61-34, Sh23A, L37, dw505, fam511. enumerated April 18, 1930.

  4. A distant cousin was enumerated for 1900 (enumeration dated June 6) as widowed wagon factory laborer, he and a toddler son living with his parents in Jefferson County, Iowa. He was also enumerated (dated June 5) in Chicago, a wagonmaker boarding in an unrelated household. I concluded that one of his parents told the enumerator that he resided in their household, although he probably was absent. He could not have gotten between the two places in one day, but one of the enumerators might have obeyed the "as of June 1" instruction while the other did not.

    It is hard to read minds of enumerators and enumeratees.

  5. Just came across these results on Ancestry and thought you might get a kick out of it. 1870 US Census, leave both names blank and specify New York State, Chautauqua County, Town of Busti. Seems the enumerator was not too patient.


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