Tuesday, January 24, 2017

A Strange Way to Write 0s and 6s

As I mentioned yesterday post, "When was Uncle Teddy Born?," Theodore Peters was listed as 6 years old in the 1860 census. 


However, it might not be clear to everyone that he was listed as 6. As you can see from the image above, the number next to Theodore looks like a long line followed by a short line. Why do I think this is a 6?


After looking at many pages written by this enumerator, his "6" often looks the same: a long line followed by a short line. In the family above, it makes sense that Henry is 6 and is listed between sibling with ages of 8 and 4.


In this family, Sarah is probably the mother-in-law of Vincent Lake. Again, from studying this enumerator's writing, his zero is often written as two long lines side-by side. So, Sarah is 60 years old. You can also see another example of a zero next to Vincent Lake's name in his family number: 1096.

Strangely, the enumerator didn't always write his zeroes and sixes in this strange manner. As you can see next to Vincent Lake, the number 1096 has a pretty normal 6. But, the numbers are written in this unusual way often enough to be certain that Theodore Peters is listed as 6 years old in this census.

Has anyone else seen samples of writing 0s and 6s like this? I'm wondering if it is from a certain culture or time period, though I haven't seen it before and haven't been able to find out any information about the enumerator as I can't make out his name.

6 comments:

  1. Think about the kind of pen that was used to write this - if you've ever done calligraphy, you'll know it's sometimes harder to write a loop all the way around, like the six in the far left columns and easier to write two lines coming down. They're supposed to touch at both top and bottom, but I'm sure it's because the enumerator (or transcriber) was writing quickly that it looks more like two lines.

    I have seen sixes written like this before, though I'd have to look through the census records I've collected to see exactly where.

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    1. Thanks, Elizabeth. I was wondering if it might have to do with their writing tool, though I wasn't sure what they were writing with in 1860. Yes, I have done some calligraphy, so I understand your point about straight lines being easier than those curves! Maybe a better question would be, why didn't more people write there 0s and 6s like this! Also, another GREAT POINT that this might have been a transcriber and NOT the enumerator. Thank you for pointing that out!

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  2. I did some transcribing and indexing for Greene County VA Historical Society of a Day Book from a former general store that they thought was from 1833. I quickly got used to the 0 and 6 thing, but here's another tricky one. When I recorded the purchase of a lock for the Greene County jail, I took another look at those 3's because Greene was not formed until 1838. I finally figured out the 3 was really a 5 by researching the ages of some of the customers - clearly some were too young to be shopping. I also added up purchases and found that 5 was correct, not 3. There was also a "brand name" hair tonic that had not been produced until after 1850. As Elizabeth pointed out, the writing tool plays a big part, but so does individual flourish . Now I'm wondering if the pen created the 3-5 confusion.

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    1. Interesting, Wendy! We do really need to slow down and pay attention to the individual handwriting. Great job on your 5s and 3s problem!

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  3. Dana, a good reminder to look carefully at what the enumerator writes -- both letters and numbers! Sometimes the L and S at beginnings of names look similar. Same with T and J. With these insights about writing in the 1800s, I better go back and take another look at my interpretation of those censuses. Thanks for the insight.

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    1. Yes, letters are often hard to distinguish! My Kaechle name was transcribed as starting with a B in one document on Ancestry. There's a lot to pay attention to!

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