Friday, November 14, 2014

Darned Census Enumerators: Harmonica Shea

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.”

Harmonica Shea

Dear Ancestry Insider,

My aunt was named Regina Monica Shea. She didn't use Regina and signed herself  “R. Monica.” The 1900 US Census for Lawrence, MA lists her as “HARMONICA SHEA.”


That’s funny. That poor census enumerator.  The informant probably said “R Monica” and the enumerator heard “Harmonica.”

Harmonica Shea in the 1900 U.S. census

Interestingly, there really is a “Harmonica Shea” (although it is a nickname). You can find him in the collection, “U.S. School Yearbooks, 1880-2012.”

Harmonica Shea in the Hudson, Wisconsin 1938 high school yearbook


  1. My favorite:
    1860 U.S. Richard Roskilly, Yorkville Twp, Racine Co., Wisconsin, Sh905, L19, dw18, fam18 (Richard enumerated: given name - Rose, surname - Kelly).

  2. Ha!! I have a couple of funny ones I need to share. Thanks for sharing the humor!

  3. The helpful enumerator accepted the word of a neighbor: the boy's name was Turrel. In southern Illinois that was the appropriate pronunciation of Tirrill. I inherited the name two generations later. I was over 40 before I found from an older cousin that her Uncle Turrel was my grandfather JT.


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