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02 March 2014

They Can Tell The Census Man Anything

Keep in mind that your relative may have told the census taker anything. This was easier to do if the person was enumerated in a place they had not lived long and where they really had no connections.

It was more difficult to do in an area where they had lived for their entire life and everyone knew them fairly well. Difficult, but not impossible.


  1. In the South, the 1870 census appears to be unreliable - especially as it relates to female age. Perhaps they didn't trust intentions of "carpet bagger" census takers. In my research, I've noticed very wide discrepancies between 186o to 1870 and then between 1870 and 1880, where the 1860 matched up better with 1880.

  2. I just added a link to this post on my blog at www.brotmanblog.wordpress.com in connection to a post asking about the reliability of census reports. Thanks!

  3. My G-G-G grandmother aged considerably during the later census years. When she died in 1895, this little country lady's death made the Vicksburg, MS newspaper because the family believed she was 104 years old! She lived with her son and his family and they were probably the ones who gave the census taker (and the newspaper) the incorrect age.

  4. I take it as a given that all dates on US census relating to age, birth year, years since immigration, etc., are wrong till proven otherwise. The only number I will trust there is number of children born and those still living; most women were very accurate there. I lost count of the number of times I've seen the oldest child supposedly 17 and his mother 25! Something tells me census takers in the 19th and early 20th centuries were not paid very well.