Thursday, August 11, 2016

Solving a 1920 U.S. Census Mystery

One of my colleagues at the Chula Vista Genealogical Society had an interesting problem recently - he found his father in a 1920 U.S. Census record, but it was confusing to him and to the rest of us in the meeting.

Here is the family at the bottom of the first page (Cook County, Chicago Ward 4, ED 204, Page 1B, Roll 314):

And at the top of the next page is the rest of the family (page 2A):

Nicholas Reiss is the person of interest here - the third name down on the image above.  He is age 4, listed as a Son, born in Illinois, with parents born in Illinois.  The parents on the first image above are Vito and Elviro Rizzo, both born in Italy, with one child, a brother-in-law and a cousin-in-law in the household.

My first inclination was that somehow Reiss was an Anglicization of Rizzo for the two Reiss children, and I didn't notice the birthplaces for the two Reiss children.

My next inclination was that the two children may have had a different mother than Elviro Rizzo and were therefore listed after Elviro's natural children.

Today, I looked again at the image above and noticed the address, the "house number" and the "family number" for the Vito Rizzo family and the two Reiss children on the census record.  For the Rizzo family, the numbers are 14 and 26, and the address is 462 West 28th Street in Chicago, Cook County, Illinois.  For the two Reiss children, the numbers are 9 and 14 and the address is 452 West 28th Street.  In the margin for the two Reiss children is the note "See 1A."

The enumeration of the Reiss children is apparently out of order for some reason (obviously an enumerator error).  I went back two images and found the record for 452 West 28th Street, house number 9 and family number 14 (on page 1A):

There is the Otto and Rose Reiss family, with three children listed, with everyone born in Illinois.  The two Reiss children in the second image above almost certainly belong to Otto and Rosa.

By Jove, I think we've solved the dilemma!  My colleague isn't Italian after all!

I wonder how often this happens and we don't even realize that the enumerator made a mistake and left out two children from a family and fixed it a page or two later.  If we had done a search for all Reiss families in Chicago, we would have found it sooner.


The URL for this post is:

Copyright (c) 2016, Randall J. Seaver

Please comment on this post on the website by clicking the URL above and then the "Comments" link at the bottom of each post.  Share it on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ or Pinterest using the icons below.  Or contact me by email at


Geolover said...

It happens often enough that we really o have to pay attention.

Also pages can be microfilmed or uploaded out of order.

T said...

Yes. I had one of those. PITA for sure!

Dana Leeds said...

Thanks for sharing this example. I know I will be paying closer attention in the future. Great job!