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I'm trying to figure out some discrepancies. I think I just found the Luzerne County, Pennsylvania 1900 U.S. census record for my great grandfather (Jacob Weber), great grandmother (Elizabeth) and their oldest son (Art) on the FamilySearch pilot site. I included the citation information at the bottom of this posting.

The last name is spelled Weaber on the census, the wife is listed as Elisabeth, and the son's name is spelled "Auther," but those are minor differences. Most of the rest of the data jibes with what I already had. However, I found two discrepancies within the census records that are stumping me. I'm hoping someone with more census experience might be able to shed some light:

1. The census taker noted "age at last birthday" for son Auther as 4/12, even though birth month and year for Auther was shown as Jan 1899. If Auther was born in January of 1899, then his age at last birthday should have been 1 year, not 4 months.

2. Elisabeth's record shows "mother of how many children" as 1, but "number of these children living" as 0. Perhaps it means that Elisabeth was not Auther's mother, but if she was, then this is clearly wrong.

Can anyone help?

1900 U.S. census, Luzerne, Pennsylvania population schedule, Hazleton city, enumeration district (ED) 62, sheet 17, p. 17A (stamped), dwelling 326; digital images, FamilySearch pilot site (; citing National Archives and Records Administration microfilm T623, roll 1432; viewed image of original census record sheet.

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I looked at the image on Could there have been a language issue? This couple had been married for 5 months and they had a 4 month old son - not very unusual, but the birth date is likely wrong, as you say. The enumeration date is June 9 & 11, 1900, so if Arthur was 4 mos old his DOB would be February 1900. Do you have any other source for his birthdate? I also wondered if Arthur died as an infant and they were reporting that he was 4 mos old at death? Did Arthur survive childhood? Experience has shown me that there are many, many errors in census data - made by those being enumerated and the enumerators. Was the information given by the family or the neighbours? Ultimately you'd have to compare the information from this census with other data to come up with the "truth". Good luck!
Good points Diana. I haven't ruled out a language issue or the possibility that the information came from a neighbor.

As far as other sources for Arthur, I had my mom and one of her older sisters. They both remembered "Uncle Art" as the oldest of their mother's brothers. My Aunt also recalled that Uncle Art had 3 sons and a daughter. I know that it wasn't uncommon to name another child after one that died in infancy, so maybe. The next child for Jacob and Elizabeth that I know of was born in March of 1902 (my grandmother.)
Hi Kathleen! I don't know if I'm going to be of much help, but you need to understand that the job of census taker didn't necessarily go to the smartest man in the village. (See my blog post "10 Hard Truths About Genealogy"). I have found many 1900 census records where the year of birth listed was off by usually exactly one year (compared to birth or death records for the same individual). I think it was often because the date the census was actually taken was different from the official census date, which confused many folks. For example, its mid August, but the "official census date" was April 1 or something like that so folks were supposed to say how old they were in April, not then in August when the man was standing at their door.

Additionally, they just plain made mistakes. However your thought that Elisabeth may not have been Auther's mother is possible, so that is definitely a detail to look into. Check subsequent censuses for age at marriage or length of marriage to see if it coincides, that perhaps Elisabeth had been married before.

Best of luck
Can you back-track a little and show us where you looked before the 1900 census? Can you find him or the rest of the family in 1930, 1920, 1910?
Thank you to both Tami and Eileen.

The 1900 census was actually the first I was able to locate. After reading the replies that the two of you wrote, however, I became determined to find others. Then I made the happy discovery that my local library offers at-home access to HeritageQuest...

Anyway, I found the family on the 1910 and 1920 censuses (is that the right plural?) The ages provided on those records would seem to agree more with the February 1900 birthdate than with January of 1899. I hope to make a research trip to Hazleton, PA within the next year, so perhaps I can find out more there. Also, there is still the question of whether Elizabeth had a child prior to Arthur.
Check his WWI Draft record for his birth dated; also check if he had Social security. Good Luck, Maureen
Excellent suggestion, Maureen. Thank you! I'll let you know what I find.
The first thing to consider is the old style handwriting when reading the old census sheet. Next I suggest getting and actual copy of the page. Many of the census takers were poor at spelling and mangled many names and some were poorly educated. Is it possible to find another census taken for this family, either before or after the one you found and compare the two. People did not move around as much as they do now. Some guidelines for indexing many vary a little. Are you sure the family are all listed on one page? Another problem is people sometimes gave a nick name in place of the first name.
Thank you for your comments. I do have a copy of the page, but since this was one of my first attempts at a discussion, I didn't think to attach it. I'll do better in the future!
I have found that the early census are not as reliable as one would hope and although I use them, I do not rely on them to be
my only source of documentation. I would also attempt to obtain a copy of the birth cetificate, if this is a direct bloolline connection. If it is a Great Uncle I would try to obtain other verification of his birth perhapes an announcement in a newspaper. If you are doing family history instead of direct line, you could also look for his world war I draft registration.
After all he would know his birthdate and the registration cards were completed by the person registerating and not a third party.
I agree with you, Georgie, I wouldn't use census data as the only source, either. The birth announcement idea is great - I'll definitely pursue it and some other options until I can get to that research trip. Thank you!
I have read this discussion to the end, because I don't want to duplicate other advice. And a good thing I did, because I don't have anything to add to what they have said about the specific census record.

However, there have been suggestions about using other data to help you sort out the sometimes shaky census data. There is a small book ($8.95 from Amazon) called "Genealogical Proof Standard Building a Solid Case" by Christine Rose. It outlines the steps one takes to resolve conflicting data, and gives three elements to use in classifying the value of the evidence. As a person just beginning to assemble data for our family trees and our family histories, I am finding this book a useful help as I thread my way through conflicting data.




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