The Defective Entry in the 1880 Defective Census originally published the “U.S. Federal Census – 1880 Schedules of Defective, Dependent, and Delinquent Classes” some time ago.

One of the best ways to make unexpected discoveries is to simply play. That’s also a great way to increase one’s search skills. I decided to search for just names enumerated in this database in Hancock County, Illinois. By 1880 the vast majority of my families were living there and it seemed like a quick way to make easy discoveries. These 1880 enumerations are relatively easy to read manually for rural counties like Hancock County and I still may choose to do that at some point, especially for southern half of the county where my families lived.

The search results were a little strange. There was an entry for someone living in Colusa, Colusa County, California. Some of these 1880 schedules of defective, dependent, and delinquent classes listed county residents in the county in which the person was a resident, but also included the location of of the institution in which they were housed.

That did not appear to be what happened to Evalin Plagg. Her index entry indicated she was living in Colusa Township in Colusa County, California. There is no mention of Hancock County, Illinois, in her index entry for this database.

She was enumerated in the Colusa County Hospital. There is no notation on her entry that she was from Hancock County, Illinois. Of course sending her to Colusa, California, from Hancock County, Illinois, would be highly unusual for the time period.

U.S. Federal Census – 1880 Schedules of Defective, Dependent, and Delinquent Classes, Colusa County, California, Colusa Township; digital image,

When I searched for Evalin Plagg (exact) and “hancock county, illinois” (exact) as a location, the entry  for her in Colusa County, California, came up. But as we saw in her index entry, the Hancock County, Illinois, location is divisible.  There is no Hancock County in the index entry–at least as it was shown above.


So why did this entry come up? I don’t know but I have an idea.

There is a Colusa in Hancock County, Illinois. So that was my next search for Evalin Plagg–with Colusa, Hancock County, Illinois, as the exact location.

There she was. Somehow her entry has been tagged in the database index for “U.S. Federal Census – 1880 Schedules of Defective, Dependent, and Delinquent Classes“as being in Colusa, Hancock County, Illinois. Evalin’s entry also comes up if the lived in is set to exactly Colusa, Colusa County, California, as well.

So apparently index entries in databases can be linked to locations that are not displayed in the index entry. That’s confusing.


That’s why it is important to not be overly reliant on search results. That’s why it is important to manually view records and manually search records.

And never cite search results. Always cite the actual record.




2 thoughts on “The Defective Entry in the 1880 Defective Census

    • mjnrootdig says:

      In some cases this is the case. There are indexes for some databases on that were created by FamilySearch.

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