Sunday, January 15, 2017

Resolving Discrepancies: A Census Example

Building a Solid Case

I am currently reading  Christine Rose's booklet, Genealogical Proof Standard: Building a Solid Case, 4th Edition Revised. Chapter 2 discusses that, whether or not conflicting information is found, a conclusion must be written. But, we must weigh all of the evidence we've gathered. Two important questions to ask are "who created the record?" and "why was the record created?" Answering those questions can help us determine the reliability of each piece of evidence.

My Research Question

Who were the parents of Carl Peters?

My Case Study: Resolving Conflicting Information

1860 U.S. Census, Pike County, Ohio, Pee Pee Twp, population schedule, page 394 [printed], page 158 [written], dwelling #1112, family #1083, Joab Peters household; image, ( : accessed 15 January 2016), citing National Archives microfilm M653, roll 1024.
In the past couple of months, I have written a lot about my Peters family who immigrated from Germany in the summer of 1859. Many records, including his baptismal record, identify Carl's parents as Joachim and Henriette (Bünger) Peters. However, though the 1860 US Federal Census does not state relationships, this record seems to imply that Carl's father was Joab, not Joachim. His mother was not listed at all, but a 43-year-old man named Morrice Peters was listed as living in the household. According to the GPS, these conflicts must be resolved in a written proof.

Peters Household        
1859 Hamburg Passenger List  1860 CENSUS  1870 CENSUS
Joach44  Joab47  Jochim58
Henrietta40  Morrice (male)43  Henrietta56
Louisa14  Louisa17  Louisa (living with husband)26
Eckard13  Echart15  Ackhard (living with Louisa)24
Carl10  Carl12  Charles22
Wilhelm7  William10  William20
Heinr6  (missing)-  Henry 18
Friedchen4  Frilde8  Freeda16
  Theodore6  Theodore10

Though I have other records regarding Carl and his parents, for this post I'm concentrating on resolving the issues surrounding conflicting evidence found in the 1860 census. [Note: In this proof, I'm ignoring ages since they are not consistent among the documents. However, I have baptismal records for the parents and the six oldest children who immigrated with their parents in 1859.]

Problems with the 1860 Census
  • The "father" is listed as Joab, not Joachim
  • The "mother" is missing, or she's listed as a male named Morrice
  • Henrich/Henry is missing
  • Wilhelm/William and Friedchen/Frilde are listed as born in Ohio instead of Prussia
No other records for Morrice Peters have been located. And, the fact that Henriette and Henry are missing is problematic. Neither had died, as they both show up in later records. And, with a one-year-old in the household, it seems unlikely the mother would be living elsewhere. Henriette and Henry have not been found enumerated elsewhere.

With this many errors, I think we can safely assume that this record is not reliable. Although the informant is unknown, either they gave a lot of erroneous information or the census taker did a poor job of recording the information. Perhaps the fact that the Peters family had only been in the United States for a year led to some language issues. Though there were other Prussians or Germans in this small community, it is unknown whether or not the enumerator could speak German. Attempts were made to locate the enumerator on a census to determine his place of birth, but he was not found. 


Despite what is found on the 1860 census, which has been determined to be unreliable, Carl Peters' parents were Joachim and Henriette (Bünger) Peters. 


  1. This gives me a lot to think about. I always just assume the enumerator wrote the information wrong or the informant provided incorrect information. I need to step back and make sure I've considered everything.

    1. I have seen a couple of others research the enumerator - especially to see if they were from the same country. I didn't spend a lot of time, but I couldn't find him. I had also thought about looking at some of the families surrounding my Peters family and finding them on the census before and after this census to check for accuracy. But, whatever the reasons for these errors, I strongly believe the enumeration of the Peters family for this year is unreliable and will look at each item as suspect unless I have further proof. I will be writing more about the younger two children soon!


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