Neighbor's children in the census??

+8 votes
In sourcing Marshall Coursen, I discovered that in the 1870 Census, he and his wife have three children, but mixed in the middle of their children are two children with the surname of Sherman. One is an infant; the other is a toddler.

The odd thing is that the family before them in the census has the last name of Sherman. It looks like their household contains the parents and either four adult children, or an adult son with his wife and two other adult children.

So, here is my speculation: The oldest Sherman son and his wife had two small children, and they happened to be at the neighbors the day the census taker came.

My question is: Would the census taker have included them in the Coursen household just because they were there for the day?

ETA the link to the census listing -- you have to look at the next image in order to see the youngest Coursen child:
WikiTree profile: Marshall Coursen
asked in Genealogy Help by Julie Ricketts G2G6 Pilot (266k points)
During war time, I've seen all kinds of mixed up families in households.  Would this have been during Indian Wars or the Civil War?  Perhaps the family was baby-sitting for an extended period during a disease outbreak.
Another possibility is that the enumerator made an error copying the census records.  In the case of some census years, the enumerator was to make a copy of the census records for the state and or federal census collection.  In some cases, enumerators were then ordered to destroy the original.
I saw the same thing (for another Sherman family : )   On the list, the Sherman family was above the neighbor's family, and a couple of the Sherman kids were at the top of the neighbor's household list.  My take - the enumerator simply but the neighbor's house ID on the wrong line.

2 Answers

+4 votes
My first thought would be they are grandchildren and are most likely related to the Shermans next door also.

I have seen a lot of mixed up censuses but never one with the children in the wrong family like that.  I have seen them where they stapled and numbered the pages in the wrong order so all the children at the top of the page in the ED look like they go with some one else.
answered by Maureen Rosenfeld G2G6 Pilot (180k points)
That thought occurred to me, too, but the family they are staying with are too young. The parents are only in their 30s, and their oldest child is 14. The head of the Sherman household and his wife are in their 60s, and it looks like their oldest son is probably married with his wife in the household, too, and I think the two Shermans in the Coursen household may be their children.

The younger Sherman husband and wife are roughly the same age as the Coursens, and I could see them leaving their young children with Mrs. Coursen for  while. Maybe the young Mrs. Sherman needed to go buy groceries or something. ;-) (or maybe she just needed a nap!)
Talk about "it takes a village." That sounds more like a census taker's mistake to me. If you can review the rest of his (the census taker's) data, maybe you can find a pattern. Perhaps the census taker needed a nap. :)

It looks very deliberate, Betty, but you have a good point. I'll take a look at some more pages and see what turns up.  It's pretty interesting, isn't it?
I love it!!! These mysteries are what keep me in genealogy. You know those "Where's Waldo" books.

Love those.

+3 votes
I've found that situation twice in census records.  A teenaged girl in the 1800's was listed at her parents' home and also at the home of a teenaged boy who lived in the same town.  

The mystery continues...
answered by Janine Barber G2G6 Pilot (133k points)

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