Friday, January 9, 2015

Darned Records: When You Let Gollum Index

imageYou remember Gollum, don't you?

“Yes, precious, we hates little hobbitses.”

That's the one.


This is what happens when you let Gollum index:
Source: “United States Census, 1880,” index, FamilySearch ( : accessed 1 January 2015), William L We-Hates, Virginia, Union, Dakota Territory; from p. 8 (handwritten), lines 26-32, NARA microfilm publication T9 (National Archives and Records Administration, Washington D.C.: n.d.), roll 115; FHL microfilm 1,254,115.

While this is an obvious indexing error, most are not so easily discernable. You’ve heard me say it before. Always check the image!


Darned Gollum!

Thank you, Larry Webster Turner, for sharing this example.


  1. Looking at the W in William age 11, there does appear to be a letter between the W and the H of the surname. So what is the Surname here?

  2. Not surprising, and I can imagine it was checked and arbitrated! By change I received 1940 census to index where I lived in 1940 so knew many of the families. The names seemed clear to me, but some were arbitrated to be almost meaningless. Learned a couple of lessons after indexing a couple of thousand - I made mistakes, and often two other people made mistakes - so do not depend just on the indexer as all are human as was the census taker, and giver!

  3. Trying to learn to read old handwriting - is the surname White?

  4. Replies
    1. It also looks like Webster to there is a definite e between the W and what appears to be an H, but could also be construed as a B...

  5. Seems like the enumerator's hand tired when he got to the end of some words. Near the end of the page look at the given names Charles (Thuston) and Alexander (Johnson) and you see he was perhaps tired here as well. I agree with those above the surname appears to be Webster.

  6. I can't believe how many people see Webster - I see White but, if you look at the original image and scroll down you will see and Ira DeWitte age 31 the last name is written very similar to William's.

  7. Much to my surprise, the mystery We-Hates surname enumeration in 1880 census is WEBSTER.
    The family is found in Union Co., SD, Virginia Twp., 1900 census, pg. 260A, #46-46. Julia Webster,
    born NY 1831, widow, age 68; Fred W.Webster born SD 1871, age 29; and Vernie T Webster, born SD 1875, age 25. Widow Julia K. Webster and Verna are in the 1910 Sioux City, Woodbury IA census, pg. 43B, #80-82. Verna
    Webster is married (1905) to Elmer A. Turner. Their first child Harry L Turner died in Woodbury Co., IA 9-3-1906.
    Julia Knapp Webster (nee Rosecrans) died in Woodbury Co., IA 3-27-1919. Julia's VERY colorful (incredible!) life is detailed in a Find-A-Grave obituary, Grace Hill Cemetery, Sioux Co., IA

    Robert Holley, yer roots tracker, Miami, FL


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