14 January 2017

Who Are These People?

Why Complete Documentation is Important

Do you search for every census your ancestor was recorded in? It's important to do so.

As you gather every census record for a family, compare the facts carefully. If there is a child in the 1930 census who was born in 1915, but that child is missing from the 1920 census, one of the census forms could be the wrong family.

It's easy to find a family with some similar names and think they're the family you want.

Don't forget the state censuses, like this 1925 New York state census.
On the other hand, names were sometimes misspelled by the census taker, and the digitized census form may be improperly indexed. So, if you think you have the right family despite a badly misspelled name, compare the facts to every other census you can find for this family.

If the last name is off but the first names, ages, and address match up, you’ve probably found the right family.

Resolving a Discrepancy

I had a case where the family’s last name was Abbate, but on the 1900 census the name is written as Abata. I nearly overlooked this census until I saw that:
  • The husband and wife had the correct first names.
  • Their seven-year age difference matched all the other information I had.
  • They had no children yet.
  • The wife’s parents were living with them and had the same last name as their son-in-law. This was a fact I'd discovered on other documents, so here was further proof that the husband and wife had the same last name.
  • The wife’s parents were named Victor and Angela, which matched the names of the couple’s first two children, seen on later census forms.

Living with a Mystery

There was no daughter named Annie.
Here's another example where information does not match, yet it is certainly my family. In the 1930 census, on one page and in a building I know my family owned, are my maternal grandparents with my uncle and aunt, a set of cousins whose seven names match the family I know, and my great grandparents with two daughters.

The problem is, 23-year-old Annie, listed as their daughter. She is absolutely not their daughter. Her occupation is dressmaker, which matches their daughter Stella. Stella is about the right age at the time, but in 1930 she was married, not working, had a baby, and was living several blocks away.

No one alive can solve the mystery of Annie the dressmaker. But considering the tons of overwhelming evidence, I know this is the correct 1930 census for my great grandparents.

That's why it's so important to look at all the evidence when making your decision: My family or not my family?

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