Was the Census Taker Off a Line?

The fifty-two year old man born in Iowa in about 1808 was a clue something might be off. That’s an early year of birth for someone born in Iowa. It’s possible, but not too probable.

Other information in the last two households from this 1860 census page look askew as well. In both cases, the wife is the only one with an occupation and property. While women could be enumerated with real or personal property in 1860, being listed with an occupation is highly unusual. It’s even more unusual for two of those families to live as neighbors to each other and for those occupations to be ones that tended to be dominated males (farmer and carpenter).

It looks like the enumerator got “off” by a line starting with the occupation column for these last two households.

That’s not an indexing error. It’s a census enumerator error.

My transcription of this record will reflect what it actually says, along with an annotation as to why I think there is an error and what I think the intention was. My transcription needs to make clear where the original record ends and my thoughts begin. I do not want my transcription to say something that the record does not actually say. Others can read my transcription and commentary and decide for themselves.

From a research standpoint, if I search indexes to this census for Jacob Dingman born in Canada, I won’t find him.

This guy was born in Iowa.

Born in Iowa about 1808–according to the census.

That’s how he will be indexed.

Something else to consider when searching indexes of records.


3 thoughts on “Was the Census Taker Off a Line?

  1. The analysis is strengthened when the likelihood of one-year-old Melvin Dingman being born in New York is considered. Also interesting are the entries for Charles Rumsey with the Swank family and Mary Ramsey with the Rockford family. My bet is that these were orphans of the same parents, which calls into question Mary’s birth in Ireland as well as the spelling of the childrens’ last names. This was one all-round sloppy cemsus taker.

    • There are several oddities with this entry. All of which serve to reinforce the importance of looking at more than just “the people I really care about.”

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