I’ve recently been searching for a family with the surname “Thomas” and discovered a quirk with Ancestry’s search filters. Ancestry does not appear to be using a Soundex system for name searches.
Soundex is a code based on the first letter of the surname and the next three consonants. Consonants are divided up into six groups of letters that sound similar to each other. Vowels and the letters “H,” “W,” and “Y” are not considered in the Soundex system unless they fall at the beginning of a name. So two names with the same consonants in the same order should be found on a search.
I was searching the 1940 census on Ancestry for Cordelia THOMAS born in Nebraska. I could not come up with her. I finally had to resort to a first-name only search and use some additional first names of other people I expected to see in the household. With that grouping of names, I eventually hit upon Roy THOAMS and family.
When I looked at the census image for the family, the enumerator wrote THOMAS – however the indexer for Ancestry transposed the “M” and “A” and indexed it as THOAMS.
THOMAS and THOAMS have the same consonants in the same order. In a true Soundex system, they would be indexed in the same group of names. But Ancestry does not always put them together. I have found dozens and dozens of THOMAS families indexed as THOAMS. And in my spot check of people listed with the surname THOAMS in Ancestry, every single one I looked at on the census was a THOMAS.
A couple of takeaways –
If you know other family members in the household, try searching just by first name. Unfortunately, I don’t always know other household members.
Remember that Ancestry doesn’t use a straight-up Soundex. You might have to think of alternate ways to spell even simple surname. And be sure to consider transposition errors.
if you are interested in more strategies for finding people on the census, check out my "Censational Census Strategies" talk. You can see when I'll be giving it presentation schedule on the "Lectures" tab of my website.
When you can’t find your ancestor on a census, you might need to be a little creative. Think of how your ancestor might have pronounced his name, and with those sounds in your head, think of what letter combinations might be used to spell that word.
At a recent presentation I gave, one of my attendees related that he looked for his ancestor “Oscar” and finally found him under the name “Auskar.” Totally makes sense – Aukland, New Zealand begins with the exact same sound as Oscar. “Aw” makes the same sound as well.
When your ancestor is an immigrant, their pronunciation of a word may look far different from the way it looks on paper. I’ve found myself channeling The Terminator, Arnold “Ah-nuld” Schwarzenegger recently as I research some of my German immigrant ancestors.
My great-great grandmother had a brother named Herman. His baptismal record shows Johann Hermann,[i] but his obituary[ii] and gravestone[iii] show him as Herman so I think that must be what he was “called.” Herman. HER-man. I mean how hard can that name be to pronounce?
But when I first found the family on a census in the US, I thought there was another son I didn’t know about. I even went back and looked for a baptismal record for this mysterious son. No luck. And then I channeled The Terminator. How might he have said “Herman”? Er-mun? Maybe Ahr-mun?
And I realized that mysterious “nutty” son “Almond” on the 1850 census, was indeed Herman.
"United States Census, 1850," database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:M85Q-HVT : 9 November 2014), Castian Frethoff, Tazewell county, part of, Tazewell, Illinois, United States; citing family 176, NARA microfilm publication M432 (Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.)
Next time you can’t find your ancestor on the census, say their name aloud, as they might have spoken it. Maybe you’ll “Terminate” your own census struggles.
[i] "Deutschland Geburten und Taufen, 1558-1898," database, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:N6F5-H3G : 28 November 2014), Johann Hermann Fruehauf, 02 Jan 1831; citing ; FHL microfilm 70,015, 70,016, 70,017, 70,018, 70,019, 70,020.
[ii] “Suddenly Called,” The Pantagraph, Bloomington, IL, 30 May 1891, page 3
[iii] Herman Fruhauf, Find A Grave Memorial# 112171351, www.findagrave.com : accessed 11 April 2017
Sometimes when you look at a census you get lucky. The census enumerator wrote the street names down the left side of the census page and filled in the house numbers so 100 years later, you can see exactly where your ancestor lived. But other times you get pages like the ones W. G. Campbell wrote for the Gardenspot Precinct of Stevens County, Washington in 1910 – no street names and no numbers to pinpoint the position of any of the 30-some households he enumerated. With no street names or numbers, is there any way to zero in on the location?
Yes! Land records may be the key. Look at the census to find which households owned property. Track down the locations of the property using the grantee index to find when those owners bought their properties and the book and page where the deed can be found. Using the property descriptions, map the property location. Though some people may have rented and not owned, if you have enough owners, you can probably determine the enumerator’s route and extrapolate where the renters’ homes were located.
Start by looking in the FamilySearch catalog for your county and state of interest and selecting land records. If you’re lucky, FamilySearch will have digitized images of the indexes and deed. If not, you may need to either request the microfilms of the indexes and deeds be sent to your local Family History Center or contact the county in question to get copies of the deeds.
For some locations and time frames, you may find information on the Bureau of Land Management General Land Office Records website (https://glorecords.blm.gov/search/). Search for your ancestor and his neighbors. If they received their land directly from the federal government, perhaps by a homestead application or a cash sale, they will be listed on this site. Look for all the neighbors, and find their Township, Range and Section numbers. People near one another on the census are likely to be in the same Township and Range, and if they are not in the same section, they will be in adjacent sections. There are 36 sections in each Township and Range combination, in a six-by-six grid. (Jacksonville State University has a webpage illustrating and explaining the Township and Range system at http://www.jsu.edu/dept/geography/mhill/phygeogone/trprac.html).
A researcher recently posted a query on a facebook group about one of W. G. Campbell’s Stevens County no-address-listed 1910 census pages. She wanted to know how to find where her ancestor lived. I couldn’t find Stevens county deeds on FamilySearch, but I looked at the BLM-GLO site and started searching for names. On the 1910 census I found household visitation numbers for various households, including neighbors Abbott (151), Tinnell (153), Fowell (154), and Belton (155)..[i]
The table below identifies a property location for each household:
Visit # Surname Township Range Sect Description
151 Abbott 030N 042E 32 NW ¼ NE ¼[ii]
153 Tinnell 030N 042E 32 NW ¼ SE ¼ and S ½ SE ¼[iii]
154 Fowell (Bailey) 030N 042E 34 NW ¼[iv]
155 Belton 030N 042E 28 SE ¼[v]
The facebook researcher’s family of interest was Neafus, visitation number 157. Though Neafus is shown on the 1910 census as owning property, he is not listed on the BLM site. It is likely that Neafus purchased the property from the original government grantee. In order to find Neafus’ deed, one would need to look in the deed books for Stevens County to get the exact property description, but it is likely to be in Section 28 or an adjacent section.
A couple of map sites will help. The BLM-GLO website has maps of the properties. Once you identify the property you are researching, you can click on the Map box in the center of the page, and a map will appear showing the township and range, the various sections, highlighting the location of the property of interest. You can continue to zoom in and see the roads. This will enable you to map the properties and look at the roads to see the path the enumerator took to reach his or her assigned households.
In the case of the facebook question, I’ve mapped out that the enumerator traveled southeast on Garden Spot Road to interview Abbott and Tinnell and then took a left on Keenan Road, heading north, first meeting Fowell and then Belton. Neafus is two households after Belton, and is likely in an adjacent parcel. Securing of copy of Neafus’ deed will identify exactly which parcel is his, but even with what I’ve researched here, I’ve identified pretty good idea of where Neafus lived, even without an address listed on the census.
Try using maps along with the census. They can be helpful to learn more about your ancestors and their world. And they might even pinpoint just where your ancestor lived.
[i] "United States Census, 1910," database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:MGVH-9JQ : accessed 14 March 2017), Arvilla Fowell in household of James Fowell, Gardensport, Stevens, Washington, United States; citing enumeration district (ED) ED 230, sheet 9A, family 154, NARA microfilm publication T624 (Washington D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, 1982), roll 1672; FHL microfilm 1,375,685.
[ii] Bureau of Land Management, “Land Patent Search,” digital images, General Land Office Records (http://www.glorecords.blm.gov/PatentSearch : accessed 14 March 2017), Abbott, Andrew P. (Stevens County, Washington), document number WASP 0003009.
[iii] Bureau of Land Management, “Land Patent Search,” digital images, General Land Office Records (http://www.glorecords.blm.gov/PatentSearch : accessed 14 March 2017), Tinnell, James G (Stevens County, Washington), document number WASP 0001270.
[iv] Bureau of Land Management, “Land Patent Search,” digital images, General Land Office Records (http://www.glorecords.blm.gov/PatentSearch : accessed 14 March 2017), Fowell, Arvilla – Bailey, Arvilla (Stevens County, Washington), document number WASPAA 009268. Arvilla Bailey, a widow, married James Fowell. The property on which they are enumerated in the census is recorded under Arvilla's name. James Fowell does appear to own property elsewhere in Stevens County acording to the land records.
[v] Bureau of Land Management, “Land Patent Search,” digital images, General Land Office Records (http://www.glorecords.blm.gov/PatentSearch : accessed 14 March 2017), Belton, James (Stevens County, Washington), document number WASPAA 009324.
A continuation from last week, as I begin to research the mysterious Mrs. J. A. Achard/Mrs. Shiland of 415A Third Street, San Francisco, who may have had something to do with the death of Sarah Ahern, wife of my great-great uncle, Jimmy Ahern.
The easiest place to begin looking for Julia was the 1900 US Federal census for San Francisco. I found her right away, living on Castro Street. She was 58, divorced, born in Michigan, had given birth to 6 children, all of whom were still alive, and she resided with her 27-year-old son, David Monroe and his wife, Nellie. Although no occupation is listed for Julia, David is a bartender. The city directory for San Francisco was able to shed a little more light on Julia, however. In the 1901 San Francisco city directory, Mrs. Julia A Achard, residing at 415A 3d is a midwife.
But now that I had her son’s name, David Monroe, born about 1873 in California, I thought I’d backtrack a bit on Julia and see what more I could find. The 1880 census gave me a few more names in Julia’s life. In Elkhorn Township, San Joaquin County, Julia Monroe lives with her husband, Percival Monroe and their four children, David, twin daughters Ida and Ada, aged 4, and a son Lewis, aged 1. Also in the house are three farm laborers – Fred Wermuth, the 20-year-old step-son of Percival Monroe, and Harrison and Charles Branack, ages 27 and 21, brothers of Julia Monroe. Looks like I’ve found Julia’s maiden name, Branack, and perhaps another married name for her, Wermuth, as well as five of the six children counted on the 1900 census.
Ten years earlier, Julia and P Monroe live in Elliot Township in San Joaquin, with a 10-year-old boy, Fred Monroe, likely to be the same Fred Wermuth as in 1880. Three presumably unrelated males, perhaps farm laborers, live in the house at the same time. Elsewhere in San Joaquin, in O’Neal Township, resides L.H. Brannock, a 52-year-old male farmer, L.M. Brannock, a 26 year old female, born in Ohio, Sarah Brannock, age 19, H. Brannock, a 17-year-old male, (could be Harrison from the 1880 census), Chas Brannock, age 12 and Estella Brannock, age 9, the last two born in California, plus three farm laborers.
The Wermuth part of the equation gets a little foggy – a Wermuth family seems to appear twice in the census. On a census taken 10 June 1870 in Elkhorn Township appear 44-year-old J.A. Wormeth, born in New York, 46-year-old Eliza Wormeth born in Arkansas and 12-year-old Willard Wormeth born in California. On a census taken 5 August 1870 in Stockton, appear J.V. Wormuth, age 46, Eliza Wormuth, age 46 and Millard Wormuth age 12, all with the same birthplaces as in the Elkhorn Township listing. No other Wermuths (or variants) appear in San Joaquin in 1870.
Rolling back another decade, the 1860 census for Elkhorn Township taken on the 18th of July gives a household full of Brannacks – Lyman H, Hester A, both 42, born in New York and Maine, respectively (the same parental birthplaces listed for Julia Achard in 1900), Julia A, age 18, Emily, 13, Sarah, 9, Harrison 7, Charles 2, as well as Frederick M. Wermuth, age 10/12, and four farm laborers. Alex, Elizabeth and Millard Wermuth are also living in Elkhorn Township.
The census provided some dry facts – names, ages, birthplaces, occupations. Now I had my “cast of characters.” It was when I got into the newspapers that my fascination with Julia took shape…
More next week…
 US Census of 1900, Year: 1900; Census Place: San Francisco, San Francisco, California; Roll: 103; Page: 8A; Enumeration District: 0134; FHL microfilm: 1240103, lines 34-36, accessed through Ancestry.com 30 January 2013
 Crocker-Langley Directory for San Francisco, 1901, page 164
 US Census of 1880, Year: 1880; Census Place: , San Joaquin, California; Roll: 80; Family History Film: 1254080; Page: 195C; Enumeration District: 104; household of Percival Monroe, lines 19-27, accessed through Ancestry.com 30 January 2013
 US Census of 1870, Year: 1870; Census Place: Elliot, San Joaquin, California; Roll: M593_86; Page: 79B; Image: 162; Family History Library Film: 545585, lines 12-17 accessed through Ancestry.com 30 January 2013
 US Census of 1870, Year: 1870; Census Place: Oneal, San Joaquin, California; Roll: M593_86; Page: 102B; Image: 208; Family History Library Film: 545585, lines 23-31 accessed through Ancestry.com 30 January 2013
 US Census of 1870, Year: 1870; Census Place: Elkhorn, San Joaquin, California; Roll: M593_86; Page: 56A; Image: 115; Family History Library Film: 545585, lines 38-40, accessed through Ancestry.com 30 January 2013
 US Census of 1870, Year: 1870; Census Place: Stockton, San Joaquin, California; Roll: M593_86; Page: 177A; Image: 357; Family History Library Film: 545585, lines 13-15, accessed through Ancestry.com 30 January 2013
 US Census of 1860, Year: 1860; Census Place: Elkhorn, San Joaquin, California; Roll: M653_64; Page: 100 (penned); Image: 354; Family History Library Film: 803064, lines 15-26, accessed through Ancestry.com 30 January 2013
 US Census of 1860, Year: 1860; Census Place: Elkhorn, San Joaquin, California; Roll: M653_64; Page: 973; Image: 359; Family History Library Film: 803064, lines 37-39, accessed through Ancestry.com 30 January 2013
This morning, genealogist Lisa Talbot Lisson presented a Facebook Live talk about using timelines. She had some great points about this helpful tool and inspired me to blog about timelines today.
Timelines have been helpful in my research over the years. For instance I could not find my great-great grandparents, James and Jane Ahern on the 1870 census. I had an idea that they were either in San Francisco or Sonoma County, but no amount of searching would turn them up. But then I created a timeline and noticed that they had daughters baptized at St. Vincent’s Catholic Church in Petaluma, Sonoma County in 1869 and 1871. The timeline showed me quite clearly I should definitely be looking for them in the Petaluma area in 1870.
Armed with this new insight, I did a search for every man named James who was born in Ireland sometime between 1825 and 1835 and lived in Sonoma County. I probably had 50 men or so who fit this broad description, and as I scrolled through the list, I could easily eliminate some just by the surname – Biggins and Craddock were not likely misrepresentations of the surname I sought. But once I got down to the H’s, there I found James Hern, exactly the man I was looking for! His naturalization records, voter registrations and other documents refer to him as “Ahern” but I suppose the census enumerator just misheard the name and called him Hern. And Jane? She’s Mary J on the census.
Timelines can help with research in so many ways. James and Jane Ahern didn’t were hiding from me in 1870, but once I narrowed down their hiding places with a timeline, I didn’t have to look too long to find them. Try making a timeline of your ancestor’s life. It might help you to find some missing records.
I’ll be presenting “Using Timelines to Understand Your Ancestors” at the Kelowna and District’s Harvest Your Family Tree Conference, September 23-25, 2016. If you’d like to learn more about timelines and how they can help in your research, come join me!
 Ahern, Sarah A, baptismal record, 22 May 1869, St. Vincent de Paul Church, Petaluma, Sonoma, California. Photocopy of page from unidentified register.
Ahern, J.I,, baptismal record 20 Oct 1871, St. Vincent de Paul Church, Petaluma, Sonoma, California. Photocopy of page 128 from unidentified register. Note: Additional writing in margin which appear to have been written later in a different pen and by a different person indicates “John” but John Cornelius Ahern was born in 1873, and Jane Isabella/Isabel “Belle” Ahern was born in 1871. It is my opinion the notation of "John" in the register is incorrect.
 Hern, James, 1870 U.S. Census population schedule, Year: 1870; Census Place: Vallejo, Sonoma, California; Roll: M593_91; Page: 456A; Image: 87186; Family History Library Film: 545590
When you’re looking for someone on the census, and you can’t find them, but you know they MUST be there, be willing to expand your search a little. You can expand the age range. You can expand the geographic parameters. And maybe, when all else fails, try to expand your gender possibilities. Such was how I finally found my great-grandmother, Frances Springer.
I was pretty sure the family had to be in Onondaga County. The record in her bible said that my great-grandmother, Frances Abelone Springer was born in Liverpool, New York on 13 February, 1857. Her father’s Civil War draft registration from June, 1863 indicates he was living in Salina, Onondaga, New York. The family should be pretty easy to find on the 1860 census, right?
Part of my problem might have been the names and the date of death for Johannes. The family genealogy done by a distant cousin (not sourced, of course) showed my great-great grandfather as Johannes Springer, born 1835, died Oct 3, 187_ at age 42, married to Louisa Caroline Hartman, born June 3, 1836. And I think at one time I had heard that my great-great grandmother was known as Caroline (but in retrospect, I think I must have been under a wrong impression. My bad.)
In any event I looked for Johannes and Louisa and their daughter, Frances, in the 1860 and 1870 census, and try as I might I couldn’t come up with the family. But then I found the Civil War registration for John Springer, and I knew they had to be somewhere in Onondaga County, so I expanded my search. Often when I can’t find a family in the census under the parents’ details, I look for the children.
There are several reasons this trick works for me. For example, an adult of age 30-ish could “look” somewhere between 25 and 40, a 15 year spread. But a three year old child is not likely to be listed as age 1 or age 10. She might show up as age 2, 3, 4 or maybe 5, a considerably more precise age than her parents.
Place of birth is easier to pin down, as well. Perhaps the parents were born in “Germany.” But the census might show Bavaria, Hannover, Germany,… who knows. But with the child who is only 2 or 3 years old, she is likely - not certainly, but likely - to be living near where she was born, and appear on the census with a birthplace near where she was living. So if I know my great-grandmother was born in Liverpool, NY in 1857, she’s probably going to show up as born in NY on the 1860 census.
So I begin to look for a 3-year-old girl, Frances Springer and there are none to be found in Onondaga. OK, maybe try the middle name, Abelone. Maybe she’s Abby or some variant. Nope. But… but… but, they HAVE to be there (says the genealogist, stamping her foot!) So… maybe Johannes is something else… hmmmm…. John? And could I let go of the “Caroline” and try Louisa?
In 1860 I did find a family, John and Louisa, both born in Germany, and their 2-year-old son, Frank. A son. Not my family.
Then I checked the 1865 New York state census. John and Louisa Springer, both born in Germany, and now three children appear – sons, Frank and Charley and daughter, Amelia. My great-grandmother had a brother, Charles, and a sister, Amelia. This is looking more like my family, but my great-grandmother is still a boy. Interestingly, the household enumerated immediately prior to John and Louisa on the 1865 census is headed by a Nicholas Springer, born in Germany. And finally, on the 1870 census, Louisie Springer is the head of household (that family genealogy I talked about earlier was wrong – John died in 1864) with her three children. Nicholas Springer, again, is right next to her on the census. And her children are now two daughters, Francis and Mina (Amelia) and only one son, Charles.
Why all the confusion? Maybe my great-great grandmother told the census taker her child’s name was Franke in her German accent, and the enumerators assumed Frank must be a boy. I don’t know… but I’m glad she finally turned out to be a girl, because otherwise, I wouldn’t be here to tell this tale.
So, when you’re stuck and can’t find that family on the census… Hey, babe. Take a walk on the wild side. Maybe that she was a he. On the census, anyway.
 Die Bibel, gift to Frances Springer from her mother, December 1872, in possession of Mary Kircher Roddy, Seattle, Washington
 National Archives and Records Administration (NARA); Consolidated Lists of Civil War Draft Registration Records (Provost Marshall General’s Bureau; Consolidated Enrollment Lists, 1863-1865); Record group: 110, Records of the Provost Marshal General’s Bureau (Civil War); Collecioin Name: Consolidated Enrollment Lists, 1863-1865 (Civil War Union Draft Records); ARC Identifier: 4213514; Archive Volume Number: 3 of 3. Record for John Springer, 23rd Congressional District, Salina, Onondaga, New York. Accesses from Ancestry.com
 Year: 1860; Census Place: Salina, Onondaga, New York; Roll: M653_829; Page: 99; Image: 18; Family History Library Film: 803829, household of John Springer, family #106
 "New York State Census, 1865," database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:QVNJ-NRGX : accessed 13 July 2016), John Springer, District 01, Salina, Onondaga, New York, United States; citing source p. 29, line 19, household ID 214, county clerk, board of supervisors and surrogate court offices from various counties. Utica and East Hampton Public Libraries, New York; FHL microfilm 860,900.
 FindAGrave memorial for John Sprenger, date of death 3 October 1864, Find A Grave Memorial# 23987756.
 Year: 1870; Census Place: Salina, Onondaga, New York; Roll: M593_1061; Page: 622A; Image: 81217; Family History Library Film: 552560, household 108
Ever create a spreadsheet, enter a whole bunch of data into it, and realize you set it up wrong? That It would be more useful and functional if the rows were columns and the columns were rows?
Here is an example. Here I’ve created a spreadsheet to figure out how any people with various surnames lived in a community across various census years. I listed my nine census years down the left hand side to identify the rows, and I put my four surnames as the column headers. Looks great, but what happens when I find more names to research in that community? My table will just get wider and wider, but not get any taller (at least not until they release the 1950 census.) To my eye, short and wide tables just seem harder to read than tall and skinny ones. By this time I’m feeling a bit like a dodo. If only I’d used the census years (there’s a finite number of those) as the column headers and the surnames as the row titles.
Do I have to retype the whole thing? Nope. I can transpose it. Here’s how…
Highlight the table, in this example A1 to E10. Click Ctrl+C to copy. Click the cursor in a destination cell elsewhere in the worksheet or workbook (in this example I clicked in A13). Click on the triangle below the Paste icon, then click “Paste Special” and the box shown will appear. Click on the box next to Transpose.
And here's what it looks like after, and I'm ready to enter more data!
Easy peasy. A few simple steps and now my table looks just like I want it to. And without all that pesky retyping. Yay! Time for more research…
Before you begin to write your family story, go back and look at the records you have amassed. Look, for instance, at the census records, especially focusing on those columns over to the right. We look at name, age, and birthplace, but we tend to ignore those questions that might tell us more about their daily lives. Can she read or write? How many weeks was he out of work? A hundred years ago a man’s job was to support his family. How did he feel about himself in 1920 when he’d been out of work six months in the last year? How did his wife feel about him?
The 1900 and 1910 censuses asked about how many children a woman had and how many were still alive. Compare these answers to the other people on the page and to your ancestors or siblings. Your great grandmother gave birth to nine children and only two survived. How did she feel six months before the census, when Mrs. Moriarty next door brought home a baby girl to be spoiled by seven older brothers? What is her relationship like with her sister-in-law with so many healthy children?
Take the time to compare your ancestor’s answers on the census to those of his neighbors. Consider the value of the assets he owns. Is he the only renter in the neighborhood? Is he the only recent immigrant in his neighborhood or is he one of dozens of immigrants? What is the ethnic background of most of the people in the locality? Imagine what dinner time might have smelled like in the Russian neighborhood your ancestor lived in.
Wring every single clues you can find on the census to help tell your ancestor's story.
Year: 1900; Census Place: Franklin, Somerset, New Jersey; Roll: 994; Page: 7A; Enumeration District: 0081; FHL microfilm: 1240994
Sometimes it is tempting to put in a birth year when searching for someone in a census. After all, if you know he was born about 1919, why wouldn’t you want to narrow the search? Well, including that might narrow your search results down to a big fat nothing!
Here is an example from the 1920 census for the household of Robert Powers. Robert is listed along with his wife, Annie, and daughter, Caroline, on Sheet 2A with additional children Rose, Robert, Edward and Norma shown on Sheet 2B. Also living in the household is lodger, George Hartman. George is actually the illegitimate child of Caroline Powers, and perhaps the sensitive nature of his birth is why he is listed as a lodger and not a grandson.
But look at George’s age. At first glance it looks like a “big” 7 followed by a 2. Many indexers have transcribed this as 72. But a more careful reading, combined with examination of the other ages written by enumerator, Mrs. M. K. Henderson, shows that for all the two-digit ages, both digits are written the same size. Mrs. Henderson does not tend to write one digit larger than another.
Also, take a look at the fractional ages of the other young children. While some enumerators use a slash (/) between the numerator and denominator, Mrs. Henderson uses a dash (-). The 7 above the dash has melded into the 1 (of the number 12) below the dash, making it look like a large 7 (written with a mark across the 7) followed by a small 2. However, based on other numbers written by Mrs. Henderson, she does not tend to make her 7s with a mark across them, nor does she use an oversized 10s digit, as shown in the age of Fanny Gizer, aged 79.
Mrs. Henderson has correctly listed George Hartman as age 7/12, and it is the transcription that is wrong.
There are three take-aways from this exercise: 1) Be careful when entering a birth year to search for someone in the census that you don’t narrow your search parameters so much that you miss them all together. 2) Study the enumerator's penmanship to see how letters and numbers were written. 3) When you find an error in the transcription, notify the image provider. I have done this with both Ancestry.com and FamilySearch to make it easy for the next researcher looking for George to find him.
Mary Kircher Roddy is a genealogist, writer and lecturer, always looking for the story. Her blog is a combination of the stories she has found and the tools she used to find them.