For years now, I’ve complained that I needed more hours in the day. Or a secretary. Or a clone.

Wouldn’t it be great to have the ability to be in two places at once? Think of how much you could accomplish: you could be cleaning your house AND visiting the Family History Library! You could go to work AND go to that genealogy conference! All at the same time!

Ok, I know my cloning fantasy is a little twisted, but I’ve actually been thinking about this subject for another reason. While doing some research for a client, I ran into an ancestor who seems to appear in the census twice in the same year, and this is causing me a great deal of annoyance.

For example:

* John Smith A, age 37, shows up in the 1870 U.S. Census in Connecticut living with his wife and children. His occupation is listed as “minister.”

* John Smith B, age 37, shows up in the 1870 U.S. Census on his parents’ farm in Vermont with his parents and siblings. His occupation is listed as “farm worker.”

Weird, no?

Now, I suppose this isn’t completely impossible. After all, the two census enumerations were taken at least 2 months apart. Connecticut and Vermont aren’t all that far away from each other, distance-wise, so I suppose John Smith could have left his wife and children to run down to his parents’ place to do a little late-summer farming.

But why?

And why the two different occupations?

I envision John’s little brother answering the door saying something like, “Oh, he’s just here working on the farm.” 

Farm worker. Check.

So my question for you is: Have you ever run into an ancestor who was in two places at once, or enumerated twice in the same census year? If so, how did you resolve this apparent ancestor duplication problem?

* NOTE: Names and locations have been changed to protect the innocent. And yes, I’m sure that this is the right guy. And no, he wasn’t a “boomerang” child. Did they even do that in the 1870s?

Copyright © by Elizabeth O’Neal
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