Counted Twice in the Census

By Sharon Atkins Lockett

Finding an ancestor in the census brings satisfaction to any researcher, but finding one person twice in the same census is a sure source of confusion or disbelief. Still, twice in researching my husband's ISAACS family, census records have delivered a double count for a single individual.

The first instance involves the 1920 census for Eastland County, Texas and Sam(uel) HOPE, the widowed spouse of Lucinda ISAACS HOPE. In an enumeration taken 29 January 1920, Samuel HOPE, age 67, widowed, is recorded as father, occupation none, living with his daughter Leona and her husband Joseph POE and their two young children.

A second listing, enumerated 1 April 1920, records Sam HOPE, age 62, widowed, occupation teamster, as head of household, which includes his son Tom and daughter-in-law Winnie and grandson Oscar. Both of Sam's children -- Tom and Leona -- appear in the previous census (1910 in Andrews County, Texas) in the household of S. M. HOPE, with wife, Lou,and mother, Elizabeth ISAACS. Therefore I conclude that Sam was widowed before the 1920 census and began the year living with his daughter, but later set up his own household in the same census area and year.

Differences in birthplace listings might cast doubt that these two records apply to the same person. Sam's birthplace in both listings is given as Texas, but on the earlier enumeration date both his parents are listed as born in Texas, whereas their birthplace is Mississippi in the second record. The first enumerator probably received second-hand information, since Sam's father was indeed born in Mississippi. Or Sam may have changed his answer. In 1930 Sam lists his father as born in Mississippi, but his mother as born in the "Irish Free State."

The second instance of double recording I found is in the 1870 census for Madison County, Alabama, for Alice CLARK, who later married John Fowler ISAACS (brother of Sam Hope's wife Lucinda). Young Alice CLARK,age 8, appears with two other CLARK children in the household of Julia CLARK, age 29, in an enumeration of Township 2, taken 10 June 1870. This household follows immediately the household of Basil O'NEAL, the father of the stepmother of John Fowler ISAACS, whom Alice would later wed.

Just over a month later, on 20 July 1920, a different enumerator in Huntsville, Madison County, Alabama, records Alice, age 8, in a household including CLARK and BATTES surnames. Reference to the 1860 census for Madison, Alabama, indicates that individuals age 10 or older in both 1870 Madison, Alabama households were children of Samuel and Julia CLARK, who possibly did not survive until 1870 -- they were both age 43 in 1860. Although the parents of Alice CLARK have yet to be identified, I conclude that young Alice was living with relatives in two separate residences at two different times in the same census area.

Finding two double counts in census records involving the same family is probably unlikely, even in a highly mobile society. However, this experience alerts me that census enumerations may be affected by short-term changes in residence, as well as by the enumerator's hearing and handwriting.

[Rootsweb Review Editor's note: The enumerators were suppose to record the household (their usual place of abode or where a person regularly sleeps) as of the Census Day, which was not necessarily the same as the date of the enumerator's visit. Census Day was 15 April in 1910 and 1 January in 1920. Obviously enumerators did not always follow instructions. I have found one ancestor who was enumerated three times in the 1850 census--in two counties in Iowa and one in Missouri. His age was given as 19 in two of them and 22 in the other and the enumerations were taken on three different days -- 26 August, 6 November and 7 November. The Census Day was 1 June in 1850. See "Finding Answers in U.S. Census Records," by Loretto Dennis Szucs and Matthew Wright, which is available from the publisher at]

Previously published in RootsWeb Review: 30 November 2005, Vol. 8, No. 48

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