Do You Hear What I Hear?

Your relative answered a question for the census, death certificate, etc. Before you think they were simply dreaming up an answer, consider the other possibilities:

  • did they understand the question?
  • did they speak the language?
  • were they even really listening?
  • were they hard of hearing?
  • were they lying?
  • had someone else lied to them?

There are many reasons why a piece of information may be wrong. Be open to other possibilities besides your first conclusion.


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6 thoughts on “Do You Hear What I Hear?

  1. Sue W. McCormick

    I KNOW my mother lied. She always lied about her age — and admitted that she did when I was about 9. I now know that she was over aware of the fact that she was 6 years older than my father. This truly bothered her. (I’m 17 years older than my husband, and our marriage has lasted 20 years longer than theirs did, so it doesn’t bother me.

    But SHE was bothered, and so she lied.

  2. E A

    Also, sometimes the enumerator wrote down what he thought he heard, and spelled it the way he thought it was spelled. I have had instances with heads of households born and brought up in Yorkshire have given information to a Scottish enumerator, with quite interesting spellings of place names in Yorkshire, all down to accents and unfamiliarity with the area concerned.

  3. Karen

    Not sure what happened, but on the 1940 Census it has my parents living in the same area in 1935. They were not married until 1936. Not sure if she was living in Arkansas or Oklahoma in 1935.

    1. michaeljohnneill Post author

      My grandparents have the same error on their 1940 enumeration. They indicate they were living on the same place in 1935. They weren’t. They were married in December of 1935, didn’t take up housekeeping until the spring of 1936. They rented ground a good fifteen miles away (renting it from an uncle) and didn’t purchase the farm they were on in 1940 (and for the rest of their lives) until at least 1937 or 1938.

  4. Patty

    Recently found that information on one of my grandmother s marriage licenses answer to the question- Is this her first marriage, or Has she been married before ? The answer the groom to be said housekeeper or something I can’t quite read.

  5. Bonnie

    I sometimes think a 14 year old was the only one home and gave out the Census answers with guesses! And my, how men and women both lied about their ages, sometimes 3-10 years! Women to be younger, guys to be older for the draft. But the month/date is frequently the same.


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