Stand up and be counted? Hmmm.

Sep 3, 2020 | 1 comment

Knock! Knock! Who’s there?

The U.S. Census Taker came to our door four or five months ago — “just to ask a few preliminary questions” she said.  “You can do the rest of it online.”  And so we did.  Months ago.

Monday there was a card in our mailbox addressed to someone that I assume was me.  “Cidney L. Stevens” it said.  The rest of the address was correct.  All my life (and that’s a fair amount of time, now) I’ve been Sydney M.  Granted, I’ve had several surnames — the part they got right.  But I’ve never spelled my first name differently and I’ve never used a middle initial other than M.  The card was a “reminder” to complete the 2020 census.  What a waste of time, paper, ink, etc.  Even in an automated world, good help is hard to find.

I also think it’s noteworthy that the 1920 census got my mother’s information wrong.  Her birth name was Helen-Dale Espy but, she went by “Dale” so there would not be confusion with her mother who was also a “Helen.”  At the time of the 1920 census, she would have been eight years old.

1920 Census

According to the census that year, Helen and Harry’s youngest child was “Allandale ” and was a son.  I didn’t come across that information until after my mother could no longer tell me what she knew about it, so I can only conjecture.

I know that she was a Tomboy, that she wore rompers or coveralls when she was playing with Willard (11 months her senior) and Edwin (3 years older than she) or the 13 other boys of Oysterville who were the only children near her age.  No little  girls.  I also know that she sometimes wore a cap to cover her curls — for bellying under the barn for eggs or climbing and running and hiding in the woods with all its stickery threats to a little girl’s hair.

Willard and Dale, 1914

Too, when she was very young — three or four — her hair was quite short — a curly cap.  When strangers came to the house to see my grandfather on business matters and came across Helen-Dale with her brothers, they often remarked, “What a fine group of boys you have, Mr. Espy.”  An enduring family story was my mother’s indignant reply:  “I’s not a little boy!  I’s a little gill!”

So… how much faith should we have in the census information when it comes out?  Two big errors in the same family within a hundred years probably isn’t a big deal.  But by how many times should we multiply it and with how many grains of salt should we accept the results?



1 Comment

  1. Jane E Smith

    Our family has a similar story. My brother is the family historian (and a PhD in history from Stanford), discovered that our grandmother was born several months after her mother died. Then she was not mentioned in her adoptive home (an aunt and uncle), though her sister, my great-aunt was in the census. I think this was the 1910 census. We started to be afraid that our great-aunt, whom we were very close to did not share our DNA. After much more digging, my brother thinks he has it straightened out as an error in the census and the death date of my great grandmother.


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