Can someone be listed on two census for two different places in the same year?

+7 votes
I have Guy McAlister clearly on the 1920 U.S. Census for Pueblo, CO, in the family of his aunt and uncle. But I'm pretty sure I've found him again on the 1920 U.S. Census for Boulder, San Juan, Utah, with his parents and brother. If census data collection took place at different times of the year, this seems plausible. I've  never encountered this before. What do you think?
in Genealogy Help by Christine Giles G2G6 Mach 1 (12.1k points)
retagged by Ellen Smith happens (though not very often)!
more often than one would think... I'm going to start a list (I probably have almost a half dozen in my family tree alone)

I started keeping a list of headstones carved with incorrect data (I have more than two dozen in my family tree)
This is new to me, and though I have never encountered such a situation, all the responses here have brought to my attention that there’s another thing I need to be cognizant of during research. Thanks to all.
yes, extremely puzzling the first time I encountered it. It took a lot of extra research just to verify that they were in fact the same person.

I still have a few cases where I'm just not sure yet.
My father-in-law (who is very much alive) is listed on Billion Graves, because he bought plots in a cemetery years ago. My mother-in-law (deceased) is listed, but she is not buried there. Her remains are in the closet, waiting for Dad to pass so they can be buried together. Just goes to show you that you can't rely on everything you find on the Internet . . .
Absolutely! I love your reply, because the more you research, the more you realize how true this is . . . I have notes all over my profiles about mistranslated data, erroneous data, etc. Always check the source document - don't trust the translation by itself.

9 Answers

+12 votes
Best answer
It happens quite often, more often than one might think. Which makes it really difficult to separate similarly named, yet distinctly different families (be sure to trace all the family members for both listings to verify they are the same family).

It happens most often with nieces and nephews, grandchildren, or siblings going back and forth living with different relatives (maybe parents died, or they just don't get along with each other).

Don't let the different states throw you -- check the maps -- sometimes they are simply just across the county line from each other.

I was helping someone with a case not long ago where he was old enough to find himself on the census, but was confused by the "family members" listed. Turns out, the census taker had included some neighbor kids in the family by mistake. He only needed to look at the whole page to help him remember his neighbors.
by Dennis Wheeler G2G6 Pilot (579k points)
selected by Pip Sheppard
I'm now curious as to what [incorrect] family info is on the census for me and my family during my own lifetime...because I don't ever remember a census taker coming to my house.
Nowadays, US census takers don't come to the house unless they think you didn't mail in the census form. We've been visited by census takers a couple of times after we did mail in the form -- once because the census people thought the house we lived in contained multiple apartments (at one time it did, probably around World War 2 when there was a local housing shortage) and once because they said they didn't receive our form (in that case, I wonder if we got counted twice, but I won't live long enough to find out).
+12 votes

I've seen this happen before.  Specifically, my ancestor Samuel Bailey appears in two households on the 1865 Massachusetts state census.  Nothing quite as extreme as separate states though.

I think it just comes down to who was reporting the household and who they considered to be members of their household.  Also, the 1920 census enumerated who was living in a household on January 1, 1920, but was not collected on that date, so whether a person was reported depended on the understanding of this fact and the memory of the other household members.

by Brian Lamothe G2G6 Mach 4 (44.4k points)
+12 votes
I've found similar situations several times - in those cases it appeared the person usually a young man was working and living with another family and was also listed by their parents as part of their household.  (Examples I can remember - hired man on nearby farm; boarding with a relative during the week and returning "home" on the weekend.)   In the reverse I've wondered if that's why I can't find some people because two households each thought the other was listing him.
by Jill Perry G2G6 Mach 4 (45.4k points)
+10 votes
There is usually a good reason for it. I’ve seen it in the late 1800 census for South Carolina in recently orphaned children where they showed up on the grandparents household and the original household. It looked like an older child answered the census at the original household.
by Gurney Thompson G2G6 Pilot (473k points)
+9 votes
Yes indeed. Army Sergeant listed with unit and also in family home in another town. Presumably the unit lists were drawn up well in advance.
by C. Mackinnon G2G6 Pilot (339k points)
+10 votes
I found the author, Helene Hanff, on the 1940 census twice, so I wrote about this on her profile.
by Robynne Lozier G2G Astronaut (1.3m points)
+7 votes

I know it's not a competition, but I have someone who appears to have been counted three times in 1940.

WikiTree profile:  Marion Crouse MacWilliams

by Richard Heritage G2G6 Mach 5 (58.2k points)
+4 votes
My great grandfather's were employees of the railroad and by the police.  They were often recorded at both their home address and their 'barracks' on the same census.  

And other family members might be listed at the home of their parents and at another home ie. grandfather was a boarder while attending college in RI - listed in that household- parents listed him also at their home in MA.
by Chris Hoyt G2G6 Pilot (879k points)
+4 votes
I have just come across this problem recently!  The guy I am working on right now is listed on the 1870 census with his family in Georgia, (granted it says at school)  but then I found another 1870 census for him (I think) in North Carolina at school.  But it gets even more confusing as in 1910 I have him listed with his wife and 2 daughters 1 boarder and 1 servant only to have him listed again in 1910 with only his wife and 1 daughter!  In the same place!  I am guessing that the other daughter either married within the few months that separate the 2 census' or either she passed away.  I am still looking for her in the following year (1920) but have no lead as to what happened to her yet!
by Liz Parker G2G6 Mach 2 (23.0k points)

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