Sunday, November 20, 2011

Watch Out: Census Pages Out of Order

I recently found the following census index listing on


It seemed very odd to have 6 young Appling children living with Melton Keesmon. 

The first Appling I found here was Aretha.  Since I was looking for Althea/Aletha, I first assumed that this was not the person I was looking for.  Then I realized that Nancy, John, Americus, and Oscar were siblings of Aletha, as listed in the 1860 census.  Hmmm. Seems like the right family.  But what’s with the head of household Melton Keesmon?

Since the children’s father was William Burrell Appling, I looked at his 1850 census listing.  I found him with his wife and 4 children, ages 14 through 21.  But who are Isabella and Eliza King?


The answer to both mysteries comes from realizing that the pages are out of order.

Melton Keesman is listed in family # 690 at the bottom of image 100 .

Burrell Appling, with his family # 717 is listed at the bottom of image 104.

The Appling children (Nancy, Cordelia, John, Americus, Oscar, Aretha) are listed at the top of image 101 with no family number.  However, the family immediately following them is numbered 718.

Similarly, the King children (Isabella and Eliza) are listed at the top of image 105 with no family number.  The family immediately following them is numbered 743, so presumably they are part of family # 742.

Mystery solved:  image 101 should follow image 104.  This is one more reason to look past the index and review the scanned document, especially when the information provided in the index seems a little fishy.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

You can’t always believe what you read

As family historians, we’ve all been told that you can’t believe everything you find on the Internet.  It’s easy to believe that a fact must be true because we find it in several places, but it is possible that they are all derived from the same faulty source.

One place that we often find errors is in the census.  Usually one family member gave the information to the census taker, and he or she might not actually know the facts.  For instance, a wife who is at home when the census taker arrives may not know the birthplace of her husband’s parents.

It is easier, though, to believe that a “fact” in print is accurate.  However, there are many reasons that an incorrect “fact” can creep into a printed work as well. 

Consider the following confusion that I came across.  A self-published (comb-bound) family history book states the following:
Clarence Gordon Self was born 28 March 1893 in Grant, Oklahoma, to Berry Crenshaw Self (born 14 November 1856 in Cumberland County, Kentucky to William Jennings and Marry C. “Polly” Guinn Self) and Viola Frances Bledsoe Self (born 5 March 1873 to George Chilton and Nancy Sloan Bledsoe in Russell County, Kentucky).  Clarence lived with his family in Kentucky from age two to nine, where he spent time with his uncle Jim Self, a lawman of some repute.

The 1900 Census states that Clarence was living with his parents in Creelsboro, Kentucky, and that he was born in Kentucky.

The 1910 Census shows that he was living with his parents in Pittsburg County, Oklahoma, and that he was born in Texas.

In the 1920 Census he is shown living with his widowed mother in Washita County, Oklahoma.  His birthplace is unreadable, but appears to have been Kentucky overwritten by Oklahoma.

The 1930 Census shows him married, living in Washita County, Oklahoma, and with a birthplace of Oklahoma.

His WWI draft registration card shows that he was born in Creelsboro, Kentucky.

My first inclination would be to believe that Clarence Self was born in Kentucky – because the census closest to his birth indicated so, and because he listed Creelsboro, Kentucky, on his draft registration card.  Since he filled out the registration card, you would think that would be correct.  However, the author of the book, a relative, seems to have “insider” information.

When you find conflicting evidence like this, you just have to consider all to be candidates until some conclusive evidence arises.  Texas doesn’t seem like a very convincing candidate, but Grant, Oklahoma, and Creelsboro, Kentucky, both seem viable.  Until someone comes up with a birth record from one of those places, this fact needs to stay in the “inconclusive” category.