Using the census records is a standard method of tracing our ancestors, but there is more to learn than the names, ages, and occupations of our ancestors. Each census asks different questions of the population. Some of these questions reflect the social status of the family or individual. Sometimes the work lives of our ancestors are reflected and sometimes we can learn about the education and financial status of our ancestors. Sometimes we learn that there are other children that we need to locate, and we can also learn about the military service of our relatives.
The spelling of surnames can be a roadblock in our research. We need to remember that many of our ancestors spoke with the accents of their homeland when they arrived, so someone from Germany might sound very different to the ear of someone from Scotland or Italy. Also, early censuses reflect the lack of standardized spelling. I found about 15 spellings for the name “Ferguson”.
Sometimes a family or individual is counted twice in a census, so it is important to be aware that the census was not always taken on the same date in every state. The questions relate to a specific date but that distinction is not always clear. My aunt Mary is a case in point:
Mary E Connery, age 6, is enumerated on the 9th of June 1900 in Adrian, Lenawee, Michigan.[i] She is also found in the home of her parents in Chicago, but that census was taken on June 12, 1900.[ii] The explanation is simple, Mary attended boarding school in Michigan and had traveled home for the summer vacation.
In 1910 her sister Alice appears to be living in both Chicago, Il[iii] and Victor, CO[iv] on the census. The censuses were taken on the 25th and 29th of April respectively, so I doubt that eleven year old Alice had actually been in both places on the dates involved. It’s more likely she was actually in Colorado but her parents listed her as a member of the family rather than someone who was physically in the residence on that date.
Another duplicated person was my grandfather Adolph Hansen, in 1920 he is listed on a census return for Oak Park, Cook, Illinois living with his wife Henrietta and children Dorothy and Donald. His occupation is listed as treasurer for a ship builder.[v] That census was taken on 7 Jan 1920 however on 12-13 Feb 1920 his circumstances have changed. On those dates his is living in the home of an aunt and uncle in Tampa, Florida.[vi] His occupation was still a treasurer of a shipyard. In this case a company transfer and the time between Jan 7th and Feb 12th-13th explains how he was counted twice.
These are examples of how and why an ancestor could appear twice in the census. Until I checked the dates on the census sheets, I couldn’t understand why Adolph would be counted twice and with Alice, I recognized the names of her aunt and uncle or I might have missed out on the detail that she was sent to Colorado to live for her health. In her later years she often went to the North Woods during the summers for her health.
Don’t ignore what appears to be just two people of the same name maybe they really are the same people!
[i] US Federal Census, Year: 1900; Census Place: Adrian, Lenawee, Michigan; Roll: 725; Page: 5; Enumeration District: 0039; FHL microfilm: 1240725
[ii] US Federal Census, Year: 1900; Census Place: Chicago Ward 28, Cook, Illinois; Roll: 279; Page: 12; Enumeration District: 0851; FHL microfilm: 1240279
[iii][iii] US Federal Census, Year: 1910; Census Place: Chicago Ward 34, Cook, Illinois; Roll: T624_281; Page: 11B; Enumeration District: 1459; FHL microfilm: 1374294
[iv] US Federal Census, Year: 1910; Census Place: Victor Ward 3, Teller, Colorado; Roll: T624_125; Page: 12A; Enumeration District: 0187; FHL microfilm: 1374138
[v] US Federal Census, Year: 1920; Census Place: Chicago Ward 33, Cook (Chicago), Illinois; Roll: T625_353; Page: 7B; Enumeration District: 2120
[vi] US Federal Census, Year: 1920; Census Place: Tampa Ward 2, Hillsborough, Florida; Roll: T625_222; Page: 7B; Enumeration District: 39