Census Records And Alternate Spellings


One of my neighbor’s that won’t make the census record

Census records: pretty straight forward right? Essential for finding relatives, establishing timeline, occupation, and determining who was living in the household.  What else is there? Some of the records record much more.  Take a look at all of the boxes to see what is recorded. Here are a few other facts you may find:

  • number of years a couple have been married
  • number of live births that a mother has had
  • year of immigration
  • whether they are living on a farm or in the city
  • did they attend school
  • were they employed for the last 12 months

Beyond these items looking outside the family record that is being researched to the neighbors. Often as the page of the census is delved further into other extended family members emerge.  Prior to the modern era socialization occurred much closer to home.  It is not uncommon to find ancestors next door or on farms close by.  They knew each other, they stuck together to make communities work.

What’s in a Name?

Your last name is Osbourne, always spelled with an e.  It’s never spelled without, ever! Except in the census record where the worker didn’t care that you always spelled it with an “e”.  That worker hated “e” on the ends of names so he didn’t put them on plus his hand hurt at the end of the day and just didn’t do it. Maybe the neighbor told the census taker about your ancestors, so now not only is the last name misspelled but so are the first names and they aren’t just misspelled, they are nicknames. So, what should I do?

  • be fluid with the spelling of first and last name
  • look for street addresses and locations to help confirm
  • try to find middle names, if they had one
  • look at multiple records to confirm

Using census records beyond just the family record and alternate spellings can find answers to hidden relatives and brick walls.  No research is easy or already done for you unless you’re the Queen of England and then you are married to your 2nd cousin but you do have a really cool castle in Scotland.

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