Re: [Genealogy Research Club] census errors
- It is extremely common for information to "not quite match up", this is due to many factors, not the least of which is that the census enumerator could have heard the information and spelled it phoenetically. Also, the fact that the notes reflect his inability to read or write would lead most to believe that exact spelling was probably not a high priority, compared to the pronounciation of the name. If you're in the correct county, and you see enough similarities that it could be pronounced the same, then I'd take that name as a likely match, extracting what information is there, and using it to procure vital records from the county that could more definitively confirm the suspected ancestor's identity (aka, use the birthdates provided or the address provided to link to county birth records of the children/ancestor, or to land records, which could also contain birthdates and name spellings.)
For example, my maiden name is "Lowen", but in German, the 'o' should be umlauted (meaning it should look like an 'o' with two dots over it). Since the English alphabet does not have an umlauted 'o', some of our ancestors dropped the umlaut and kept the spelling of "Lowen" like my direct ancestors did. But other early Lowen's chose to spell their name more phoenetically, by writing it "Loewen".
And my mother's maiden name is Ream. Back in 1674, the first ancestor came to America, with the spelling of "Riehm". He had twelve sons, each of which were deeded a portion of their fathers land, and each took a different spelling of the last name in order to identify from which brother their descendants originated from. As a result, I often find ancestral facts from my branch of the family under wrong spellings ranging from "Reem" to "Rheaume", "Riem", "Reame", "Reemes", etc.
Spelling of names is probably the most variable of all information you will come across. So if you're searching for someone in particular, start looking within records where you're pretty sure he/she should be found (ex: you know he lived in Crockett County Texas during the early part of the 20th century), and then start with the expected spelling. If the name doesn't appear, don't give up that easily---start going through all of the possible "misspellings" or phoenetic pronounciations of the name. You'd be surprised how often this happens!!
Heidi Zabik in Michigan
researching surnames of "Zabik", "Ream", "McFarland", and "Lowen"
----- Original Message -----
Sent: Friday, March 29, 2002 11:30 PM
Subject: [Genealogy Research Club] census errors
Hi, I'm new to this group and fairly new to genealogy. I have a
question about census data for those of you who have more
experience. Is it common for census recorders to spell names
incorrectly? I think I found my great grandfather in the Crockett
County Texas 1920 census, but the names don't exactly match. The
census form notes that he was not able to read or write and he
probably spoke no English. So I'm thinking that the person taking
the census must have written the name as he/she heard it. The 1910
census for the same area has a boy with the name "Govel" with the
same last name and the right age for that time. My ancestor's first
name was Gabriel (pronounced in Spanish with the accent on the last
syllable), so this might also be him.
Has anyone else had problems of this kind?
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