Tuesday, February 1, 2011

It's just the census, not gospel

I've been looking at a census record that has several errors on it and I thought it would be worthwhile pointing out the kinds of errors that were made.

The record in question is for a household named Donovan in the 1911 census in Ardagh East in the electoral district of Rosscarbery in Cork.

 James Donovan is listed as head of household, age 47.  According to his baptismal record, his age is off by two years, a relatively minor error.

Moving further to the right, he is listed as a farmer and single.  Then to the right of that, it shows he is married 50 years, had three children and three were still living.

A 47 year old man cannot be married 50 years.  Clearly that statistic belongs to the next person listed, his mother Johanna, age 78, a widow.

I know from researching my family that Johanna was Johanna Collins of Adrigole, and that she married John Donovan some time before June of 1852, when the first child I know about, Mary (Maria), was born.  I also know that they had at least seven children.

The next person in the household is Nora, listed as a daughter, age 35 (she was going on 42, going by her baptismal record).  She is listed as the daughter to the head of household, when she should be listed as his sister. The same applies to the next person, Maggie, age 36 (haven't located Maggie's baptismal).

The number of children born is listed as 3, which is erroneous.  James presumably didn't have children.  His mother gave birth to at least 7.  So where does that 3 come from?

In his 1915 obituary, at least five sisters were still alive to attend his funeral.  So the 3 in the 1911 census under the column for number of children still living is erroneous.

I had to rely on other sources (church records, Southern Star archives) to extract the right information out of this record.