Now What: Census Stumper
10/1/2004
Can you explain the absence of some family members from federal census reports, when their obituaries indicate that they were residents of the city during that time?
Q. Can you explain the absence of some family members from federal census reports, when their obituaries indicate that they were residents of the city during that time?

A. Although census takers occasionally missed people, it's possible that the obituaries are wrong. Grieving people may forget or confuse the dates when a deceased person lived in a particular place. Look for other sources, such as court records or city directories, to double-check the information.

But let's assume the obituaries are correct. Why wouldn't you be able to find your relatives in the census? They may have been counted, but are playing hard-to-get. And locating them may be just a case of learning to play along. For example, the enumerator could have misspelled the surname so badly that you simply don't recognize it. Have you checked every conceivable spelling of your name? For example, Mitcham might have been recorded as Machun, Mecham, Meekin, Maikin, Machen or even Meachon.