It is very important to know how to search through the indexes for the census.  It is wonderful that people have given their time to index these for us.  However, mistakes do happen.  I am not citing this error to “put down” someone for their mistake.  I am doing this so that we can understand how difficult it is to transcribe the census!

The 1880 U.S. Census for Dane County, Wisconsin1 – my ancestor’s brother (Babcock) is in the census with his wife and child:








The index says this is Willard Babcock, with Lydia and Cara being in the household.

However, if I single out the name, and enlarge, I see that the first letter is a capital H.  And, comparing the next letter with the “a” in Babcock, I see that it is “Ha”.






And, upon further comparison of the handwriting with other writing on the page, the name comes out to be “Hadow”.  And, since I know that the name of the ancestor is “Harlow”, I can see that his name could have been Harlow.

I have tried to find “Willard” in the handwriting, but I can’t.  However, I can understand how the indexer found the handwriting to be difficult to read.

Even though I know that Lydia is the wife’s name, I do not see how the indexer got “Lydia” instead of “Sydia” for her name.  On the census page, the “S” and “L” look exactly alike!  Maybe the indexer chose Lydia since Lydia was a name known better than Sydia?

It is very difficult to read the handwriting of the enumerator of every census!  I know I had a difficult time reading just one record.  The indexers are to be commended for doing as well as they do!!




  1. 1880 U.S. census, Dane County, Wisconsin, population schedule, Stoughton, SD 2, ED 69, page 14B (penned), dwelling 125, family 146, Harlow Babcock; digital image, ( : accessed 29 February 2012); citing National Archives microfilm publication T9, roll 1421.