Thursday, April 20, 2017

Census records

These things are a scandal, truly.  Over time I've had a chance to use them, both the 1940 records and much earlier ones.  The people who recorded this stuff could not spell, nor did they much care.  The records are sloppy, hard to read, and inaccurate as all get out.

I just checked out my father-in-law's 1940 census record, and they had him down  in three  different places married to three different women named Doris. Each last name was spelled differently, which made them three different women.  His father's middle name was spelled Carroll, Carral, and Carrall, depending on who was writing it down and who was interpreting it.

In earlier records, which used to be available to the general public,  they have amateurs interpreting the findings, and they have no idea about older names.  One of the names that got my dander up is an old Biblical name, Shuah.  The census takers got it right, but the interpreters insisted it had to be a "p" and so the name became, for all time, Spuah.  oh, please.

I fear for us all when the days of cursive READING have disappeared forever, about ten years after cursive writing has gone.  Those few people who can still figure it out will be considered wizards and brilliant and command great gobs of money, and no one will be able to tell them if they got it wrong or not.


In the 1970 census we happened to be in California at the time but  were still residents of NH.  When the form came in the mail it stated uncategorically that if you were not a resident of the state you were in, do NOT fill out the form.  Cool. We were in the middle of packing to come back anyway.

 A week later a census taker appeared at the door and insisted we MUST do this.  So we did.  When we got back to NH a month after,  there was a census form in the mailbox, and a warning that we must only take the census in our home state.  A census taker arrived soon, and we did the census all over again.  Nearly at gun point.

My mother in law, who valued her privacy deeply where the gummint was concerned, got the nice fat full census and threw it in the fire. Refused to answer all those "personal" questions.  I have never seen a full census, but apparently it's quite extensive. Maybe this next time, eh.


  1. A recent article said funding for the Census is not in the new administration's budget, and preparations need to begin now. Will we even have a census?

    1. There's a lot of stuff not in the new admin's budget, including foresight and intelligence (don't get me started) and while I think the census is badly done, it's the only one we have, and it's also useful in many ways. And the bean counters love this stuff.

      Would be a shame if we didn't have one. Be known as the decade that had no census, in future years. Like the year that had no summer.

  2. That's odd. My lengthy and brilliant comment from yesterday evidently didn't make across the ether...born to blush unseen..

    1. oh what a shame...I know it's hard to be spontaneously lengthy and brilliant twice in a row, but I would love to see what you had to say.

      (don't you hate when that happens)

  3. Well, that coruscating wit has evaporated, but I have another census tale: many years ago, in the UK, they did a census, sounds biblical, but anyway, since it was the first for ages, I don't think any activity during WW2, too busy being starved and bombed.

    So they sent out an advance set of instructions, with fake name and address, etc, to show people how to fill out a form. As if Brits needed to be shown, but anyway. So the name and almost the exact address on the sample turned out to be the same as my friend's mom, who moaned, they're going to think I'm a dolt who just copied the sample when they get this! maybe they'll make me do another!

    1. oh, that's funny (coruscating wit be damned) and fascinating at the same time--the temptation to ignore the entire thing or make up a new fake name must have been amazing...

      At one point in this area there were four of me in a twenty mile radius. Makes you wonder if they threw out three during the census and kept just one...