US Census Shenanigans - Part 1  

Posted by Abba-Dad in

When I started researching our family history I thought the US Census was the best source of information out there. Little did I know that it is full of mistakes, missing info, duplicates and some of the weirdest spelling variations possible. In fact, sometimes the Census can leave you scratching your head more times than it will leave you smiling.

So here's an interesting story. My wife's Uncle Glenn met a woman in Florida that turned out to have the same maiden name as his original last name, Hytowitz. This is a fairly uncommon name and many of the Hytowitz's have changed their name at one point or another to Hyde. So needless to say, they were very surprised to find each other. They had no idea if there was a family connection between them or not (and we still don't know).

I got a message on from this woman the other day where she told me that he grandfather had a son, who was not listed on our tree for some reason. She wanted to know how to add him and his wife as well as their daughter, Jacqueline Hyde, who was a Hollywood actress and had roles in Woody Allen and Sidney Polack movies amongst several other roles. I might write another post just about her and using media sources to find out about recent relatives.

I was confused as to why her parents were not in our tree. My early Hytowitz research through the US Census was pretty exhaustive and I managed to scrape together several families and even connect some of them. But Phillip Hytowitz and Ruth Peller were missing. Until I searched for Ruth by herself.

When I found Ruth things started to fall into place. Here is the 1930 US Census for this family:

Jacob Peller owned the house at 708 Greene Avenue in Brooklyn, New York. The home was valued at $15,000 and he had 3 other families paying him rent to live there. Must have been a big house to hold 14 people in it. The shenanigans start when you see that Walther and Ruth Hytowitz are listed at the bottom of the household. He is 21 and she is 19 and they have been married for 2 years.

Originally, I had no way to connect this Walther Hytowitz to any of the other families I had found in previous Census years. So I had him listed as a separate family. He is listed as being born in New York State, with both his parents from Russia. So I just lumped him under the Russian Hytowitz generic names I used for all the families that I could not connect yet.

But if you look three rows above Walther Hytowitz, you see another Walther. This is Walther Peller, the son of Jacob Peller. Could it be that son and son-in-law were mixed up when the enumerator wrote down the names? Since we don't know who provided the information, could it be that one of the other 14 people in this house gave erroneous information? The only reason I know that the name Walther is wrong is that a living relative told me about her Uncle Phillip and Aunt Ruth.

So I tried to find out where Phillip was in the 1920 and 1910 Census. Finding them in 1910 was tough because had a transcription of Hertowich, which I updated to a 'variation' of Hytowitz. The 1910 Census lists Phillip as being 4 months old. The names of his older sister and parents match the 1930 Census as well as all other information.

1920 was even harder and I eventually tried to use the enumeration district numbers and went page by page to look for this family. Eventually I tried a different approach. I entered just the first names and left the last name blank. There are a lot of Samuels married to Sadies who lived in Brooklyn and were born around 1883! I then decided to search for the children and entered the oldest child, Lena, along with the first names of her parents. Bingo!

Seriously? The name in the index is Sam Heckowitz with a correction to Sam Herkowetz. How was I supposed to find them? Anyway, all the children are there including Phillip who is now 10 years old.

Oh and thank you very much mister enumerator for barely pressing down when you wrote. It is so hard to read what is written, no wonder there were so many mistakes.

So to recap, this family lived in three different places in 1910, 1920 and 1930. And their names were Hertowich, Heckowitz and finally Hytowitz. The were not around in the 1900 Census because the in 1920 it says the immigrated in 1904.

And that in fact is the biggest find of all. Because now I can check immigration documents and try to find out where Samuel came from and maybe I can find out who his parents were. That might connect some of the Hytowitz families I am trying to find common ancestors for. But that's a story for another post.

This entry was posted on Sunday, December 6, 2009 at 8:26 PM and is filed under . You can follow any responses to this entry through the comments feed .


Oh my God! You depicted it very much painstakingly. You are absolutely right. I also agree with you that keeping Census of America is the sturdiest thing in the world. Sometimes it seems your nerves has been tested after spending hour and find nothing in a site. I have visited couple of times and find immense records.

December 16, 2009 at 6:08 AM

I think there may be more to the story. Several lines below the entries for the Pellers and Hytowitzs are entries for Lena Peller and her daughter Ruth. Lena is a widow. My guess is that Lena Peller's maiden name was Hytowitz. Worth checking... John Hoenig (searching for information on Pellers)

April 26, 2016 at 8:13 PM

Post a Comment