One of my
spare-time activities is locating well-known individuals in United
States census records. This week we look at some census entries for
notable individuals that are also notable for being somewhat unusual.
These enumerations may provide us with some insight into why we cannot
find our own less-famous relatives in the census.
images of entries discussed in today's column can be found at www.rootdig.com/oddfamous.html.
English Name Spelled a German Way
actor Roy Rogers was born in Ohio, not in the Wild West as some may
imagine. His actual name was Leonard Sly, not Roy Rogers. Interestingly
enough he is enumerated in the 1930 census in Cincinnati, Ohio, as
Leonard Schlei. Fortunately both Sly and Schlei have the same Soundex
code (S400), so a search using the Soundex option would locate this
takers frequently spelled last names the way they thought it should
have been spelled. With United State census records, it usually is a
native English speaker writing the names. Occasionally though, the
enumerator might be a native German or Swede and spell the names the
way he thinks they should be spelled, creating additional confusion.
An Unusual First Name Made Even More So
1850, future U.S. president Ulysses Grant is living in St. Louis,
Missouri, with his in-laws, Fred and Ellen Dent. His first name on the
census looks like Julicious, not Ulysses. Grant was located in 1850 by
searching for his wife Julia. Her given name was more common than his
and less likely to be spelled incorrectly or misinterpreted by an
indexer. It is interesting to note that there are five adult males
enumerated in the Fred Dent household, including Grant. Grant is listed
as a lieutenant. The other males are listed as gentlemen.
There, But Not Named
Bouvier Kennedy Onassis is apparently enumerated in the 1930 census in
Manhattan, New York, but is not listed with her name. An entry for John
Bouvier at 935 Park Avenue appears to be that of her father, based upon
information obtained from other sources. A twenty-two-year-old wife and
a daughter under the age of one are also listed in the Bouvier
household. The information on the wife and child matches what is known
about Jacqueline and her mother. For reasons unknown they are not named
specifically in this enumeration.
They Weren't Home
infamous Al Capone apparently was not home when the census taker came
knocking at 7244 Prairie Avenue in Chicago in 1930. Several members of
his family, including his wife and mother, are enumerated but Al
managed to elude census taker Mrs. Margaret Hinkamp when she took the
census on 3 April 1930.
What Is Your Name Anyway?
Bronson was not always Charles Bronson. He was born Charles Buchinski.
The problem with his 1930 enumeration is that his last name is listed
Buchinski and Bunchinski are not Soundex equivalents. Buchinski has a
Soundex code of B252. Bunchinski has a Soundex code of B525. A Soundex
will not work. A wildcard approach will not be successful either
because Ancestry.com requires that any wildcard search begin with at
least three letters (my ideal search for a last name of Bu* would
require more search time and would slow down searches for others using
the Ancestry.com website). Bronson's father was a Walter Buchinski, a
Lithuanian native. I decided that perhaps this was enough of a unique
characteristic that I should search for the father in the 1930 index
instead of the son. Searches for a child named Charles born in
Pennsylvania and living in Pennsylvania in 1930 were bound to result in
more hits that I could manage to sift through.
I searched for men named Walter, living in Cambria County, Pennsylvania
(which contained Ehrenfeld, Pennsylvania, where Bronson grew up), who
were born in Lith*. There were not too many hits and as soon as I saw
last name Bunchinski I was hopeful that I had the right one. Sure
enough the details contained in the enumeration matched other
information known about Bronson's family and included a son Charles the
We Are Not Giving That Information
York City Street Commissioner "Boss" Tweed refused to provide his age
in 1870. In fact the ages of all his family members are omitted from
his 1870 enumeration in New York's twenty-first ward. The census taker
noted that "many fruitless attempts have been made to ascertain other
data concerning family of Wm. M. Tweed."
family is not the only well-known person to refuse a census taker.
Founder of Christian Science, Mary Baker Eddy, in 1900 refused to
provide her month and year of birth when the census taker came knocking
to her home at 233 Pleasant Street in Concord, New Hampshire. She
appears in the 1900 census index at Ancestry.com as being zero years
Is That My Initial Or Is It My Name?
John Paul Getty was commonly known as J. Paul Getty. The 1900 census
taker who came to his home on Hennepin Boulevard in Minneapolis,
Minnesota, enumerated him as "Jay P. Getty." After all "J." and "Jay"
sound an awful lot alike!
List Me Once, List Me Twice
should never overlook the possibility that an individual might have
been enumerated twice in the same census year. Author Mark Twain
(actually Samuel Clemens) is listed twice in 1850 in Hannibal,
Missouri. Once with his mother, Jane Clemens, and again with Editor
Joseph Ament. Actor Humphrey Bogart is enumerated with his parents once
in Manhattan and again at his family's second home in Ontario County,
of our ancestors could not afford multiple residences, some were
enumerated more than once, usually because they moved. Occasionally,
like Twain, they were enumerated once with their family and once in a
home where they were working (it happened to my non-famous grandmother
in 1930 as well).
What Is That Letter?
the unaware, Abraham Lincoln's 1860 occupation may look like "Sawyer."
However a close reading of the entire census page indicates that there
is a difference between the enumerator's "S" and his "L." A few
households before the Lincolns is one containing a secretary and two
servants. The letters beginning these two words are clearly different
than the one that begins Lincoln's occupation. Also it is doubtful that
a sawyer has the amount of real and personal property that Lincoln does
How Did You Say That?
Walgreen's 1900 enumeration in Chicago certainly looks like Charles
Walgram. Fortunately a Soundex search would have located this reference
as both surnames are Soundex equivalent. He and two other drugstore
clerks were living in the same boarding house and it is possible that
the lady of the house answered the questions when the census taker came
to the door. As long as Walgreen paid his rent, she might not have been
overly concerned about exactly how he spelled his last name!
They Actually Corrected Something!
it is highly unusual, there is an enumeration where someone from the
census department has actually made a correction. John P. Sousa's 1870
enumeration indicates he is forty-four years of age, a year older than
his father. Someone has written on the enumeration "should be 14 see
1860." Actually John P. Sousa's 1860 enumeration lists him as five
years old. Both the 1860 and 1870 enumerations were done in June, and
John P. Sousa was actually born in November of 1854. This would have
actually made him five at the time of the 1860 enumeration and fifteen
at the time of the 1870 enumeration. The correction is an oddity and
one should be glad the corrected age is as close as it is.
enumerations for the well-known can occasionally be quirky, what is the
chance that your ancestor's enumeration might be a little bit off the
Previous "Beyond the Index" Articles
John Neill is the Course I Coordinator at the Genealogical Institute of
Mid America (GIMA) held annually in Springfield, Illinois, and is also
on the faculty of Carl Sandburg College in Galesburg, Illinois. Michael
is currently a member of the board of the Federation of Genealogical
Societies (FGS) www.fgs.org. He
conducts seminars and lectures nationally on a wide variety of
genealogical and computer topics and contributes to several
genealogical publications, including Ancestry Magazine and Genealogical
Computing. You can e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org or
visit his website at www.rootdig.com/,
but he regrets that he is unable to assist with personal research.