Saturday, 3 November 2007

The Unenumerated

It occurred to me while sourcing the census for my mother and her family that I could not find them listed on the 1920 U.S. Federal Census!

Knowing that she was age 12, lived in Belmont, Massachusetts, with her mother, 3 sisters and one brother and that the address at the time was 311 Beech Street, I could not fathom why I could not locate the family! I needed to unravel this mystery.
I first did a search on for each member of the family using their full names. I came up empty. So, I started changing the parameters of the searches. I decided that my best bet would be to search for my grandmother, as her place of birth would distinguish her from any other Havilands in the state. Again, I got no hits. I tried using wildcards, spelling variations, first name only, last name only, with and without the town and county, with and without dates of birth. All of which came to naught. I even (foolishly) went through 3,500 of the names that came up in the search results to see if I could find my grandmother. Nope!

I thought I might be misinformed about where they lived, so searched the town directories. In 1918, they were living in the house; in 1922, they were also there. Huh? Then, why were they not showing up in the 1920 census? I decided a page-by-page search was in order.

The 1920 Census indicates that there are seven enumeration districts for the Town of Belmont: Districts 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18 and 465. I would have to figure out which one I needed to search. Each district's boundaries were listed on the general page for Belmont, Middlesex, Massachusetts. Although I was somewhat familiar with the streets, I needed a map to outline each district. Getting a town map from Google Maps, I started the chore of determining the district boundaries.

Using my graphics program, I created a layer for each district and began to plot the general outline of each. The landmarks and street names have changed a bit, but I was able to determine that the district which I should search was District 18.

Going back to, I began a page-by-page search of the census. After not finding the family listed anywhere, I thought I should try to plot the enumerator's route to see if she missed any streets. Although the town has grown over the years, the names of the long-established streets have not changed much, so following her route was not a problem. What I discovered is that she did not stop at my grandmother's house! The family should have been listed on Sheet 16A or 16B. Their neighbors (at 261 Beech Street) are enumerated, but 311 Beech Street is not!

I thought I was mistaken, so went through each page of the other six districts, including the McLean Asylum (my grandmother's occupation in 1922, according to the town directory was as a nurse), but could not find anything even approximating the surname. I found the names of friends and family, but not the inhabitants of 311 Beech Street!

The only conclusion that I can make is that the enumerator missed the house. There may be a reason for this. As mentioned in a previous posting, my grandmother supported the family with a store on the first floor of her home. The door to this store faced onto Beech Street with large display windows on each side of the door. It could be that the enumerator did not realize that the building was also a home. Or, it could be that the family was not home at the time (unlikely) and the enumerator forgot to return. Whatever the reason, the family is not enumerated on the 1920 U.S. Federal Census!

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