I have learned so much from census records. My research on Adam and Amelia Weber in 1870 is one example. They were enumerated twice, four months apart, in the same Indianapolis location. When I found these two records, I was a little confused. There were more questions the more I thought about why, when, how. Learning the answers helped me to expand my bank of research knowledge. Considering the census records alongside other research helped me to come to conclusions about the best family history.
Among my questions were: Are these actually the same family? If so, why did someone repeat the census? Was the second census for everyone? What parts of the differing information are correct? If they are not the same Weber family, which one’s mine?
First I started searching the Internet for information on the 1870 census and an answer to why a family might have been counted twice. I learned that there were two legitimate enumerations in 1870. Here’s the explanation from the evidenceexplained.com website: “The accuracy of the 1870 census was bitterly disputed by many jurisdictions who felt their population had been undercounted. Recounts were made in three cities: New York City, Philadelphia, and Indianapolis.” (https://www.evidenceexplained.com/content/census-instructions-1870)
So, it just so happens that the Webers were in a small group in the country that answered the census-takers questions a second time. Great! I have different recorded information for a family I believe is the same because of the location and similarities in the people.
After that, I went further to see what these censuses might tell me about Adam and Amelia (Micol) Weber’s family? The family was inhabitants of the 15th subdivision of Indianapolis in February and of the sixth ward of Indianapolis in June. This appears to be the same region with an alteration in the way the census districts were named.
I’m posting the images of each of these censuses here that can be clicked for a closer look. And here’s a quick comparison of the specific family information that will point out the matches and the differences in the Feb and June versions:
Feb 13, 1870 Enumeration: Adam Weber, male, age 50; Emily Weber, female, age 37; Henry Weber, male, age 11; Emily Weber, female, age 9; Theodore Weber, female, age 7
June 6, 1870 Enumeration: Adam Weber, male, age 50; Mary Weber, female, age 36; Henry Weber,male, age 11; Mary Weber, female, age 8; William Weber, male, age 6
Note that the mother and one daughter are named Emily in February and Mary in June. In fact, their names are both Amelia. There are no other instances out of the many records for Adam Weber’s wife where her name is anything but Amelia. But, the younger Amelia is named Marie in one other record. This could be just a difference in how the person recording the census information heard the answers. Pronunciation of the name Amelia in 1870 with a German accent could very well sound like Emily or Mary. Since they are in the same neighborhood in both censuses and I know from other research that they are inhabitants of this area of the city, I still believe this is the same family.
Just wait, though. The major difference in the family’s makeup in the two records is the youngest child. The February, 1870, enumeration has a female, age 7, named Theodore. And the later June record lists the youngest child as male, age 6, named William. Further research confirms that the youngest child in this Weber family is actually Theodore, a male, who would have been age 5 in February and 6 in June. Although I don't have any idea how the name was mistaken, I can see the enumerator writing down the wrong sex one time and the parent giving a slightly differing age depending on how the question was asked.
After all is said and done, I’m glad that Adam and Amelia’s family were a part of both censuses in 1870. This resulted in further digging and analyzing. In this case, a combination of both records turns out to be the answer. Adding this information to other research led to what I feel is the most conclusive answer to the family makeup in June, 1870.
Here’s that basic family picture:
Adam Weber, male, age 50; Amelia Weber, female, age 36; Henry Weber, male, age 11; Amelia Marie Weber, female, age 8; Theodore Weber, male, age 6.
This experience illuminated for me that it is a wise idea to carefully examine all the sources of family history that we rely upon if we want to be as accurate as possible. By continuing to look at all of the records I thought might relate to this family, I found the second census. Then, by answering the questions that arose, I learned more about the census system in general and this family in particular. I would say that the most helpful lesson in this researching experience is that we should doubt, double check and analyze based on all the information we can gather.
One excellent source for the history and volumes of background about the census is online at http://www.census.gov/history/. At this site one can find the questions asked on each census taken since 1790, along with the instructions and frequently asked questions.
Thanks for visiting our family website. Family history is available in the links to the left or at the companion site, www.indianaties.net. Leave your comments below or send me an email at nancyhurley1 at gmail dot com. I'm always happy to hear from cousins with questions or suggestions for topics.
Happy family hunting!