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Families showing up more than once?

Families showing up more than once?

Posted: 1121668070000
Classification: Query
Edited: 1124819973000
How common is it for a family to appear more than once on the same census? Also, what reasons might cause this?

I've come across two families on the 1870 census that I believe are actually the same. The families are listed two pages apart from each other, and eight of nine names are the same with the ages differing by a year.

Re: Families showing up more than once?

Chris Dunham (View posts)
Posted: 1122427594000
Classification: Query
I've run into this phenomenon a few times myself. More often I find a single individual counted twice--e.g. once with his own family, and once with the family to which he was hired out as a laborer.

Were both families enumerated by the same censustaker? It would seem unlikely that someone would forget interviewing and enumerating a family, and repeat the process a day or so later. Perhaps there were two censustakers in the area, and one strayed into a ward where he didn't belong. The family might have been so nervous about having a "government official" in their home that they failed to mention the previous visit. Or perhaps they just chalked it up to bureaucracy.

Since the two enumerations don't quite match and are only two pages apart, perhaps the censustaker was the same, but the informant was different in each case. A husband and wife might give different accounts of their family (I would guess the wife's would be more accurate).

It would be interesting to collect instances of double-enumerations, and figure out how they occurred, compare for accuracy, look for regional trends, urban vs. rural, etc.

Chris Dunham

The family specifics

Posted: 1122434044000
Classification: Query
Edited: 1162672139000
Surnames: Mason
Here are the specifics for the two households. BOTH were enumerated July 29, 1870, and they're written with the same handwritting so I assume the enumerator was also the same:

Shelby County, TN, District 2
Page 21 [41], Household (1)53, Family (1)53
John MASON, age 40
Bettie, age 29, born in MO
Henry C., age 13
Peter, age 11
George, age 9
Ellen, age 7
John, age 5
Caroline, age 3(?)
Jesse, age 10 mths

Shelby County, TN, District 2
Page 23 [42], Household 168, Family 168
John MASON, age 37
Lylia, age 28, born in TN
Henry C., age 14
Peter, age 12
George, age 10
Ellen, age 8
John Jr., age 6
Caroline, age 4
Jesse, age 2
Elizabeth, age 57

***The occupation of the 57 year old Elizabeth is listed as "with son". So maybe the mother and her son actually had two separate houses, and the son somehow got listed as being in both?

***On the next census, in 1880, only one of these Mason families is listed (and they're in the same district). Also interesting and that the wife is listed as Lyddia, and being born in Missouri. On the 1870 census, wife Bettie was listed as being born in Missouri and wife Lylia was listed as being born in Tennessee. So maybe these two wives were actually one woman that went be two different names?

***Or maybe these were actually two separate families that just so happened to share so much in common, and one of which who just so happened to completely "disappear" before the next census 10 years later? :-)

Re: The family specifics

Chris Dunham (View posts)
Posted: 1122436752000
Classification: Query
I checked the two records, and they were indeed enumerated by the same man. I also checked the other families on these pages, and this seems to be the only duplication.

The two enumerations seem too similar to be of distinct families. If you can't find the parents or children of the second family in the 1880 census, I would conclude that it was the same as the first. Finding a record which identifies Bettie with Lydia/Lylia would clich it.

Your theory about the family having two houses is intriguing. Perhaps Elizabeth was the informant in the second case, which would explain the slightly different details. On the other hand, it's also possible that "Bettie" was Elizabeth's nickname, and the censustaker accidentally conflated the two women of the household into one.

These are the mysteries that make genealogy interesting!


Family enumerated more than once

Posted: 1124208636000
Classification: Census
The fact that the handwriting is the same does not mean the enumerator was the same person. Check the name at the top of the sheet to be sure.

The handwriting could be from the same copyist, because most of the census images we see on film are NOT the originals. Copies were made to be sent to Washington, the originals kept at the local government level. This varied from year to year, but 1870 was one of the years of at least three copies being made.
The original census pages were often destroyed by the county or state, although some have been found. As you can imagine, pages carried around on a summer day and filled out with ink would not be as neat as the pages we see on film!

William Dollarhide has written a book on the history of the census which explains this copy system and identifies the years we can expect to see original pages (usually the early ones).

Actually it could be that the same man did list the same family twice; I have found this a few times, usually in rural communities where young people were "working out," and were counted at their workplace and at home. or a young couple newly married who were counted at both their parents' homes. Weeks could have passed between the two enumeration days so he could have forgotten he counted that family already, and we never know who answered the questions about the "folks next door."

Jan Hall
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