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Genealogy/How to confirm a census record is that of your ancestor


Laney Jacobs (Unconfirmed)
Laney Jacobs (Unconfir  

Lany Smith (confirmed ancestor)
Lany Smith (confirmed  
How to know if you have come across the correct record in the census (Southern Histories for of Color)?
Can I figure if a record is my ancestor or not.

pre 1870 records for people 8th color are hard to trace, if you don't know if your ancestors listed birth is correct or if your ancestor was free before 1865.

This is my ancestors record below. I'm trying figure if  Laney Jacobs is the same person as my ancestor Laney Smith.

Name:   Lany Perry
[Lany Smith]
Age in 1870:   24
Birth Year:   abt 1846
Birthplace:   Georgia
Home in 1870:   Militia District 137, Thomas, Georgia
Race:   Black
Gender:   Female
Value of real estate:   View image
Household Members:   
Name   Age
Smith Perry   25
Lany Perry   24
Mary Perry   70
Mary Jane Perry   5
Lucy Perry   3

Name:   Lacey Smith
Age:   36
Birth Year:   abt 1844
Birthplace:   Georgia
Home in 1880:   Thomasville, Thomas, Georgia
Race:   Mulatto
Gender:   Female
Relation to Head of House:   Wife
Marital Status:   Married
Spouse's Name:   Perry Smith
Father's Birthplace:   Georgia
Mother's Birthplace:   Georgia
Neighbors:   View others on page
Occupation:   Keeping House
Cannot read/write:


Deaf and Dumb:

Otherwise disabled:

Idiotic or insane:

View image
Household Members:   
Name   Age
Perry Smith   36
Lacey Smith   36
Lucie Smith   13
Hardy Smith   12
Mattie Smith   10
George Smith   9
Fayn Smith   6
Hattie Smith   4
Junie Smith   2
Ola Smith   9m

I don't know common it is for place 8th birth to wrong

Census records by themselves are difficult to confirm conclusively.  You have to look at other records to get a better idea.  But even then, there is no certainly, only a higher or lower level of confidence.  In this case, because the spouses names and ages match, that is good evidence that the records are for the same people, ages being off by a year or two is fairly common.  The fact that both records show a daughter named Lucy with a consistent age also points to a match.  

That one has the last name messed up is also a common problem.  I have seen that issue in several records in my own family tree.  

That Mary Jane is not listed in one, but should probably still be living at home at 15 in the later one is a slight count against, but she might have died.  It was also not uncommon for young teenagers to marry, or to live with another family as a worker.  So there are possible explanations for this.  

Based on the consistent names, ages, and location, I'd say there is a high likelihood that these are match, especially if there are no others in the area that are close to a match.  In a few cases, if you look at the original census image, the census taker sometimes writes actual street addresses in the margins, although I found this more common in cities, not smaller towns.  The other thing you can do is look for other supporting documents that are consistent with the Census.

But there are very often a great many errors in census record details.  Don't think it's not a match due to a few inconsistencies.

- Mike


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Michael Troy


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I have been researching my own family history for several years. My focus has primarily been in Pennsylvania, but have also done research on family from New York, Canada, Ireland, Germany, and the Ukraine.

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