Bizarre Entries You Would Never Expect to See in the U.S. Census

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We are currently offering free access to all MyHeritage U.S. census records until April 12! Don’t miss this opportunity to explore this invaluable collection. Click here to start perusing it.

Back in the days before censuses could be taken online or by mail, the U.S. census was conducted by enumerators who went door-to-door. These individuals were normally recruited from the local village or town.

Taking the census was probably a fairly tedious and repetitive task. So we imagine that unusual and funny census answers — such as the ones our research team gathered below — provided some welcome amusement among all the drudgery.

Here are some funny entries we found:

Catherine “does as she pleases”

In the 1880 census, a 15-year-old girl named Catherine Cudney had “does as she pleases” listed as her occupation:

Apparently, her 4 younger siblings were just “at home” and did not “do as they pleased” like Catherine!

Our research team traced Catherine through subsequent censuses to find out what became of her. The 1900 census finds Catherine at age 35, married to a man named William Bobb and raising 6 children. No occupation is listed for her in that census. 30 years later, In the 1930 census, she’s a proprietor in the rooming house industry, working on her own account. Finally, in the 1940 census, she has no occupation listed.

We hope she continued to do as she pleased for the rest of her days.

Napoleon Waterloo

We’re not sure exactly what meaning Napoleon Waterloo’s parents were going for when they named him, but yes, it turns out that there was an individual of that name listed in the 1920 census at 7 years of age.

According to the census, his father was born in Luxembourg and his mother in Germany.

We found him in a yearbook from the Evanston Township High School in 1930:

It appears that, as befits an individual with a name like Napoleon, he fought in World War II.

According to his gravestone, Napoleon finally “met his Waterloo” in May 1957.

Patrick is a “worthless drinker”

Patrick Leary, born circa 1840, is listed as a “worthless drinker” in the 1880 census.

We can assume this unflattering description was provided by Mary Leary, who is listed as the head of the household. It appears that Patrick was a family member of her husband’s.

The loafer and the blowhard

Whoever took the Kansas State Census of the Salina Gypsum Township in 1875 must have had some fun.

Job Law, 27, is listed as a “loafer.”

James Coleman, the 55-year-old head of a household, is listed as a “blow hard.”

It’s not clear whether these descriptions were suggested by the residents themselves, or stand as a testament to the enumerator’s opinions of the individuals in question. Either way, they were fun to come across!

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  • Rod Corkum


    April 5, 2020

    The one on loafing reminds me of this Abbot and Costello routine which your reader might like. Did you know it was a real job? It’s a scream.
    http://youtu.be/Q_TGQ7rGL-Q

  • John Akard


    April 5, 2020

    Abbott and Costello had a routine that was almost as good as “Who’s on first.” Abbott explains how he got a job at a bakery as a loafer. When Costello claims he was loafing too, Abbott says you must join the Loafers Union. They give you Dough that you Knead to Loaf. Costello hears that you Need mMoney to be Lazy. It’s one of my favorite of their routines. See URL at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tRs37ugCxyM

  • John Andrikanich


    April 5, 2020

    Why are not later census’ available?

    • Esther


      April 12, 2020

      Hi John,

      The 1950 federal U.S. census will not be released to the public until April 2022.

      Best, Esther / MyHeritage Team

  • Jon Slaton


    April 5, 2020

    Two things: I’m 71 now, and all my life my grandfather on my mom’s side was “Duard”. Lately I found out his name was “Durward” according to his birth certificate. Among other papers I also find him as Darward. However, the census had him as “Buraard”. I can only guess – the census taker didn’t hear it correctly, the person giving the info slurred it, or ??. The second thing is my grandparents on my dad’s side had 5 daughters before they had him. They called all the girls boy’s names. My aunt Dixie they called “Dick”, and so on. On the census she is listed as “Dick” and as a boy. I cannot tell you how many people online have an extra boy in my dad’s family. So of course they named my dad “Connie”.

  • Frank Van Orden


    April 5, 2020

    My mother took the Census in the 1950’s, and one of her entries recorded twins named Ureter and Urethra. One can imagine the illiterate mother giving birth in a hospital and asking the person who delivered them for suggestions for names.

  • Ellen Herring


    April 5, 2020

    In the 1880 census in Pleasant Valley, Iowa, there are two men named Hans Lage, each with a wife named Christina. (The spelling varies.) They each have a number of children, with similar names. It took a long while to get it all straight, but I do know now I am descended from one of them and a friend of mine from high school is descended from the other. We have never been able to determine how the two Hans’ were related to each other in Schleswig-Holstein, but believe they must have been uncle and nephew somehow. Not really as humorous as it is amazing and amusing.

  • Bernard Hermanson


    April 5, 2020

    When do the census records from 1950 and 1960 become available? And I am on a fixed income, but I love research and your colorizing feature make the yearly fee worthwhile. Hopefully the colorizing feature will be upgraded soon. It occasionally leaves out color in spots and some colors are wrong.

    • Esther


      April 12, 2020

      Hi Bernard,

      According to the “72-Year Rule,” the National Archives releases census records to the general public 72 years after Census Day. As a result, the 1930 census records were released April 1, 2002, and the 1940 records were released April 2, 2012. The 1950 census records will be released in April 2022.

      Best,
      Esther / MyHeritage Team

  • Lee Foster


    April 5, 2020

    My dad, in 1960, was asked by a census worked what his maiden name was.

  • Karl Merchant


    April 6, 2020

    Possibly the “loafer” worked in a bakery? An old Abott & Costello joke…

  • Ward Lamon


    April 6, 2020

    To extend search of lamon with relatives later living in illinois north of Chicago Evanston

  • Bubba


    April 6, 2020

    Big deal! US census data has always been free and accessible.

  • Kroban Piotr


    April 6, 2020

    I’m looking for information aboult my famyly in America name
    Kroban

  • Nancy Franklin


    April 6, 2020

    Thank you

  • hilliard burt


    April 6, 2020

    please keep me informed

  • Sally Pavia


    April 6, 2020

    Fun seeing what people put down on the census about family members. Makes you wonder what your family members would have really liked to have entered.

  • Frederick Light


    April 11, 2020

    Very interesting, I will subscribe very soon.

  • eric schapel


    April 14, 2020

    what do you know?

  • Karen Bentzen


    April 17, 2020

    Looking for Karen Bentzen born in New Jersey in 1934–her mother was Else Bentzen and her father was Edmund Carl Bentzen; both immigrants from Denmark