Common Error on a Census

It may not have occurred to you, but you really need to examine each person listed in a household on a US Federal Census. You just might be overlooking a relative.

Many census takers placed next to the name of an individual ‘boarder’ or ‘lodger’ or ‘roomer’ when in fact that person was a relative of someone in the household. They might not have been directly related to the ‘head of household’, could have been a sister-in-law to the wife (her brother’s widow for example). The surnames could be different but that person still could be related to someone in the house.

If you see the same surname and there is boarder or lodger listed for relationship, you know you have to investigate it further. It could be a sibling or an adult child living in the household, even playing rent, so the label was placed of boarder.

Another hint is if the head of household (especially ladies) could be running a boarding house and have one or more family members living there also and they would be listed as boarders. True, there can be individuals as boarders, not related in any form, but you do have to check it out.

Ways to suspect someone is related – close to the age of the head of household, born in the same state, parents born in same state as boarder and head of household. Any similar with a given names in your family tree. Might be children, if the correct age difference for a generation (20 plus years). Or the person is working in a similar occupation as the head of household.

Keep in mind that could include someone working as a servant in the household who is really related.

So just because a census taker wrote ‘boarder’ or ‘lodger’ or ‘roomer’ do not accept that, investigate, there might be that missing ancestor in the same household.

Photos: 1900 census -two example – Snow head of household and two Kershaws and in Kentucky- Barnhill head of household and an older fellow named Johnson all from same state.

Related Blogs:

Ancestor not on Census records

Other Methods to find someone on a census

Other 1890 Census Records

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