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Or not?

27 Oct 2012

I wrote:

Because there were a man and a woman in the 60-69 age bracket, and two men in the 20-29 bracket, in addition to Jabez and presumably his wife and kids. Maybe those could be someone else, but I’m thinking they’re probably Nathan, Grace, and two of the three younger sons. My money would be on Hiram and Nathan Jr., with Henry off apprenticing with a glassblower.

On closer look, it’s a little unclear.

If you have access to, or some other way of viewing the 1830 census for Madison County, I invite you to take a look at it. Jabez appears fourth from the bottom on Ancestry’s page 33 of 40 for the town of Hamilton. They say it’s page 305 of the microfilm.

There’s clearly a 1 in column 2 and a 1 in column 6 of the males, and a 2 in column 1 and a 1 in column 5 of the females. Then in 3 other male columns and 1 female column there are what look like ditto marks, and more faintly (as if filled in later with a different pen or a pencil) there are numbers written there, which are the same as the numbers above the ditto marks in the preceding household.

I’ve seen “ditto marks” like these in other census records where they in fact do not indicate “same as above” but are meant to indicate zero. For instance the 1840 census for Madison County; every box that doesn’t have a number has these “ditto marks”. But in the 1830 census most boxes that have no number are just left blank. On the page in the 1830 census with Jabez, though, these marks appear only in four of the last five rows, and only in boxes that contain a number in the row above.

So it certainly looks like the enumerator briefly started using ditto marks, and then stopped, and later went back and filled in the numbers. If so then several additional people including two in Nathan and Grace’s age/sex bracket were present.

But if that’s what he did then he must have confused himself, because if you look at the following image there’s the total number of people in the household, and for Jabez it says 5 which is what it would be if the ditto marks meant blanks. If they meant to repeat the number from the previous line then the total should be 10.

Likewise there are totals at the bottom of the page for all the households on the page, and those totals are correct only if the ditto marks indicate blanks.

I wondered if these totals were entered by a different person, who misinterpreted the ditto marks, before the numbers were filled in, but I think the totals are in the same handwriting as the entries. If so he should have known what the ditto marks meant!

But I also think, though it’s hard to tell, that the filled-in numbers are also in the same handwriting. So did the enumerator misinterpret his own ditto marks, fill in the wrong totals, and then later correct the ditto marks but not the totals?

One more point… if the additional people are there then they include 1 male age 10–14. (I didn’t notice this when I wrote the blog entry quoted above.) That is, born 1816–1820. But Jabez had no children before 1824 and I know of no children of Nathan and Grace after about 1811 (Nathan Jr.) or perhaps 1815 (Hannah). So this boy if he existed is a mystery.

I’m confused. My guess is those additional 5 people really were there, and the totals were wrong, but in any case it’s a mess.


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  1. I’ve revisited this. I really have to believe the “ditto marks” were really ditto marks, and that the 5 “extra” people were there. It’s kind of marginal interpreting them as Nathan, Grace, and children, though. The 10–15 male is hard to explain. Nathan Jr. would have been about 18 or 19, not 20+ but certainly not 10–15 either. And then there’s Hannah: If Edwin SMITH’s wife was Hannah HOLMES, she would have been about 15 in 1830 and I’d expect her to be here if her parents were. So maybe she wasn’t a HOLMES, and maybe the enumerator mistakenly entered Nathan Jr. in the wrong column. Or maybe this is some other older couple and their children… or something. Irene DIBBLE’s parents and siblings, possibly? Who knows?

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