When encountering a family of parent(s) and children, always consider the possibility that the children are not full biological siblings. Some children could have been from previous relationships either parent had and others could be theirs together. Even if there were no divorces or separations, previous spouses could have either abandoned their family or died. Left with children to support, remarriage was relatively common especially if the remaining parent’s economic status made it necessary.

Never assume that what appears to be a “husband wife and their children” actually is. It may not be.



7 Responses

  1. I have come across an instance where a person listed as a child is actually a grandchild, being the illegitimate child of one of the older daughters.

  2. that child/grandchild dilema is one of my biggest brick walls. The only thing I know for sure is that my GGreat grand mother lied A LOT– about a lot of things.

    • Unfortunately sometimes they did tell a lot of lies and sifting the few bits of truth from them can be difficult.

  3. A census taker may have listed everyone in a household with the same surname and/or birthplace, even if this was not actually the case.

  4. I just looked at a family where the mother was married a total of 4 times. In one census, the young children show up with both parents and the last name of their father. 10 yrs later, they are on the census with their mother and stepfather. The same kids now have the stepfather’s last name. I don’t know if they were using that in real life, but it was enumerated that way on the census.

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