AncestorNews: Researcher Beware

By Nancy Hendrickson Premium

AncestorNews: Researcher Beware!

At a recent meeting of the TechnoTrees, a group of San Diego genealogists who use personal digital assistants (PDAs), the discussion turned to problems with errors in the federal census or mistakes in census indexing.

Several members cited problems even finding a family member in the 1930 census index, due primarily to misreading the enumerator’s handwriting. In some cases, the difference between the name on the actual census and the index was almost comical.

Another TechnoTree member cited several errors she’d found on the census itself, including her parents’ place of birth and her sister’s gender. On the 1910 census, my grandmother’s stepmother is recorded as being her mother. No problem since I know the truth, but what about future generations?

If you have an account with and find a census error, you can click on “Add Comment,” and note the correction. Or if a GEDCOM at WorldConnect ( cites an erroneous fact from a census, you can post an electronic sticky note with a correction. Otherwise, future researchers will need to rely on your published family records to locate factual data.

These census problems hark back to a long-standing genealogical problem of relying on information just because it’s in print. The next time you find something about your family, whether in the census or other printed source, try to double check the facts.

I’d love to hear about your family’s “census bloopers.” Write and tell me about them. For more on census and census indexes visit these Web sites:

1930 Census Research Problems Discussion Group

1930 Census Search Strategies

What To Expect from the 1930 Census

Federal Census FAQ

Available Census Indexes

The AIS Census Index