Friday, November 21, 2014

Dumbfinding Census Enumerator

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.”

In 2000 the census showed that 12% of Chautauqua County, New York was Swedish. Fortunately, 93.0% of the county spoke English.1 The census enumerator wasn’t so lucky in 1870.2

Swedes Can't Talk and More Swedes Can't Talk

Obviously, the enumerator didn’t understand patronymics. The children of Swedes Can’t Talk should have had surname Swedeson and Swedesdotter. The neighbor’s children would have been Moreswedeson and Moreswedesdotter.

You are dumb if you can’t speak. You’re not dumb or dumb if you can’t speak another’s language. But if the enumerator finds you can’t speak his language, are you dumbfounded?

Darned dumbfinding enumerator.


     1.  Various authors, “Chautauqua County, New York,” Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia (,_New_York&oldid=624976731 : 10 September 2014, 18:21).
     2. 1870 U.S. Census, Chautauqua County, population schedule, Busti, p. 36, dwellings 341-2, families 309-310; digital image, FamilySearch ( : accessed 4 October 2014), New York > Chautauqua > Busti > Image 36 of 48.


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