Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Tuesday's Tip: Errors in census records

As long-time genealogists know, you cannot always take the information you find in census records as true. This is why we cite our sources, (1) in order to for us know where we got that nugget of information, and (2) so others can find it again in the future and interpret the data in that source.

When the 1930 census became publicly available in 2002, one of the first families I searched for was my husband's parents, because I knew exactly where they were living.

The Handler family was in Akron, Ohio.

1930 U.S. Federal Census, Akron, Summit, Ohio; Roll: 1875: Page: 14A; Enumeration District: 77-44; Ancestry.com image: 680.0. Record for Joe Handlar (sic: Handler).
Lines 29-36 show the Handler family: head Joe, wife Lena, and children, son Arthur, age 20; daughter Margaret, age 16; daughter Bella, age 12, son Alfred, age 10, son Louis, age 8, and daughter Hattie, age 7. Actually that last name should be son, Harry, age 7, my father-in-law. Because I knew the family, I recognized the error in that last name. When I showed this to my father-in-law, he laughed, and imitated his mother's accent as she likely recited the names of her children for the census taker. She was from Hungary, and spoke Hungarian, also referred to as Magyar. With this accent, it is absolutely possible that "Harry" sounded like "Hattie" to a census taker not familiar with the family.

A great thing about writing this blog is the chance to review my records that I may not have looked at in a few years. I now see that this census shows that Joe owned his home, at 553 Rhodes Avenue, valued at $10,000. This closeup at left shows that the Handlers were in apartment #1, and that there were two additional apartments in the same building, rented to the Tass family and the Newmark family. The Handlers owned a radio, but the two other families did not. This house stayed in the family for a very long time. Years later, my husband visited his grandmother, Lena, and his aunts, Margaret and Bella, in this house and he remembers it as a large house.

Joe was 43 (actually, I think he was 45, based on other evidence I have), and his wife was 40. I'm a little puzzled by the age at first marriage. He was 24 and she was 18? However, if his age is incorrectly reported, then the age at first marriage is likely correct. He is listed as being born in Jugoslavia, and spoke German before coming to the U.S. Lena is listed as being born in Hungary and spoke Hungarian. By the time of this census, they were naturalized U.S. citizens, with an immigration year of 1910. Again, this is not accurate. Joe (as Josef) arrived in 1910, and Lena (as Karolin) arrived in 1911 with baby Arthur (as Arpad).

Another interesting thing about looking at immigrant ancestors in census records in the early 20th century is birthplace. Although Joe Handler is listed as being born in Jugoslavia in this census, in earlier records, he is listed as being born in Hungary. A little research on the Internet tells me that after WWI, various European borders were shifting, and whatever community he was born in was considered part of Hungary until at least 1920, but was considered part of Yugoslavia by 1930. I have not yet tried doing research into Eastern European Jewish genealogy, but I know I'll have to read up on the history of the Austrian-Hungarian Empire when I do. 

Tuesday's Tip is a daily blogging prompt from GeneaBloggers, the genealogy community’s resource for blogging. It is used by many genealogy bloggers to help them tell stories of their ancestors. 

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