What does it mean in 1820 Census when someone is listed with an "x" rather than a "1" ?

+1 vote

In the 1820 Census my ancestor Susan Murdock (age over 45) is listed as head of household.  However, there is also a male over 45 years old listed (according to the detail on the right), but there is an "x" rather than a "1" in that column in the actual census (and there are other "x" entries on that same page).  Does that mean that he was living elsewhere at the time?  I guess that would explain why Susan is listed as the head of the household.  Here's a weblink (listed as Susan "Moredock"):  https://www.ancestry.com/imageviewer/collections/7734/images/4433296_00138?treeid=&personid=&hintid=&queryId=b78a457550f8b508548b429326143c96&usePUB=true&_phsrc=DBj2884&_phstart=successSource&usePUBJs=true&pId=1508499  

WikiTree profile: Susannah Murdock
in Genealogy Help by Kenneth Kinman G2G6 Mach 6 (67.8k points)
edited by Kenneth Kinman
Can you give us a wikitree ID or more information on location?  Since many of us do not have access to ancestry, we can't see the image and can't look on family search for the same image without a location included.  Thanks.

3 Answers

+2 votes
Best answer

The 1820 instructions to the enumerator say the census date was to be the first Monday in August regardless of the date the enumerator visited the household.  The enumerators had six months to complete the census.  The totals of persons in each column on that census page does not include those with “x”.  It seems to me those entries were made in error.  https://usa.ipums.org/usa/resources/voliii/pubdocs/1820/1820a.pdf

by Beverly Cato G2G Crew (900 points)
selected by Kenneth Kinman
+1 vote
To me it looks like a 1 crossed through. Maybe because they put the 1 in the wrong column?
by Marion Poole G2G Astronaut (1.2m points)
0 votes

I think I found the profile Guseman-27. I found sources on family search that you don't have on that profile.

I found no census for Thomas Murdock and any variation in Monongalia, West Virginia for 1810 - 1840

I haven't found an 1820 census for her on Family search, but found the following:

Is her linked father of Christopher Joseph, sometimes known as Joseph or has 2 people been mixed up?

I found an 1820 for Godfrey Goosman - https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:XHLY-XXB and an 1830 for Godfrey Guseman https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:XH54-NWW

by Linda Peterson G2G6 Pilot (534k points)
Thank you for all this information.  I think Christopher is her father, and marriage records saying her father is Jos. or Joseph are incorrect.  But being German, perhaps Christopher did have a middle name (Joseph) at that early date.  As for Thomas Murdock being absent from Census records, tradition maintains that he was a surveyor, so his job may have taken him away from home much of the time.  And that is why I thought that an "x" (for the male over 45 years old) might indicate a family member away from home when the census was taken in 1820.
There were at least 4 marriage sources that match the date, so I am not sure how they could be wrong.  As I recall, 2 have jos or joseph and the other 2 did not have father specified in the index.  I don't recall seeing an image, but I could be mistaken.

Spelling of Murdock could be varied.I used wild card but that didn't help.

I haven't seen that x in the census image, but it might have been an area with one census taker that was trying to accommodate for the head of the house not being home and they were trying to count him anyway.
Yes, it would be helpful to see an actual image showing her father as Jos. Murdock (which the other record then expanded to Joseph).   I would not be particularly surprised if it turned out to be a badly scrawled Chr. Murdock that was then misread.  Or another explanation is that Christopher's middle name was Joseph.  They would have used his formal name Christopher in her birth record, but used his middle "calling" name in her marriage record.

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