Genealogy Q&A: Can inaccurate census data be corrected?

Genealogy Q&A: Can inaccurate census data be corrected?

Expert answers to your genealogy questions.

Q. Is it possible to correct inaccurate information on US census records?
A. Some sites with census data, such as, let users annotate records, which could include posting corrections (although the underlying data don’t change). The actual enumerations, however, are considered historical documents and can’t be changed. According to the US Census Bureau, “Our advice to genealogists who find inaccuracies is to make a note in their family history that the census record may contain errors. Future generations may benefit from this note. They may also find an interesting story for why the census record is wrong.”
Often, name misspellings resulted from simple miscommunications between our ancestors and census takers. But sometimes, according to the bureau, “families deliberately provided inaccurate information to ‘Americanize’ their names, deny the existence of a child born out of wedlock, or not identify their true racial background. These inaccurate responses reflect the era’s feelings about race, ethnicity, and a host of other social conditions that can enlighten future generations.”
From the December 2014 Family Tree Magazine 

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