Monday, April 13, 2020

Turn on Your GPS and Look at the Actual Image

Oh, it's tempting to accept the transcription here, and not look further.

After all, Aaron Work (1837-1924) is only a roomer in somebody else's household. He's a 1c4r, not a major figure in my husband's family tree.

But maybe he's rooming with a member of the FAN club (friends, associates, neighbors) possibly meaningful to family history?

Time to turn on the GPS (Genealogical Proof Standard). Don't settle for somebody else's transcription.

Always look at the image of the actual record. 

Here's what happened when I went looking for Aaron Work with the GPS in mind.

Transcription says household of King family

I was researching Aaron Work for last week's #52Ancestors prompt, because he was a fire insurance agent and the prompt was fire.

In the 1920 US Census, Aaron was widowed and a roomer, as the transcription shows. Following the Genealogical Proof Standard of referring to the original record rather than relying on a transcription, I clicked to view the Census page.

And that's when I saw something that I've heard about but not yet experienced in 23 years of genealogical research.

"Supplemental" entry

Aaron's entry was added later by a supervisor, long after the enumerator had completed that page. It was marked as "supplemental" and added on April 1st, whereas the rest of that page was dated January 22.

The official Census Day in 1920 was January 1st, but officials continued to follow up and look for people who had not been counted in the first round. Apparently Aaron was one of those people missing when the enumerator came to his door.

Look at the red arrow on the supplemental entry above. The note shows where Aaron really belongs in the Census: "See 4A, line 37." Also note that Aaron has many blank lines above his name. The entry directly above him, with blank lines in between, is of the King household, and therefore the transcription seems to have lumped him into that household. Wrongly, as it turns out.

Page 4A, line 37 

I clicked backward on the Census images from page 8A, where the supplemental entry was listed, to page 4A. Above is a snippet showing number 37 at far left of the Census page. The date of this page was January 13, 1920.

The two people in this household are brother and sister, names that I don't recognize but will have to research to determine if they're at all related to the Work family.

Where Aaron Work was on the day the Census enumerator originally came around, I can't guess. I only know that he was later tracked down and added as a supplemental entry.

If I had accepted the transcription without checking further, I could have been chasing King as a potential FAN club member--and gone down an entirely incorrect path.

Thanks to the GPS, I didn't take a wrong turn. I looked at the image and saw the household where Aaron Work would have been enumerated if he had been home.

In citing my source, I need to mention both the 8A Census page of the supplemental entry and the 4A Census page of the household where the supervisor said he resided in 1920.


  1. Excellent work. I need to revisit some of the "chewed up" households that I found in census pages in the past and pay more attention to any marginal notes. I had assumed that I was looking at one of the hand-made copies instead of the original record, and that the copyist had lost his place, missed some children in a household, and then put them in where he could after he noticed his mistake. (Obviously it was a "he," right?)

  2. I had a similar issue when the family I was searching was at the very bottom of one page and continued on the next. The names made no sense. Who were these children? When I noticed the big gap in the numbering of households, I realized the pages were out of order. It wasn't a census problem - it was an Ancestry problem, I guess. I alerted them and received a thank-you.

  3. Hi Marian, Thanks for commenting about the margin notes--sometimes they are difficult to decipher but may hold a good clue! Hi Wendy, Thanks for commenting about the gap in numbering of households...and it's great that you reported this to Ancestry to be corrected! Take care and stay safe, ladies.