Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Enumerator Heaven or Hell?

Mom and I were chatting by phone this morning while she perused the 1850 US Census online. "Oh, this enumerator wasn't so great cause I can hardly read a word. You should see what he did with Hartley," she moaned.

I'm new to all of this but one of the first things I did observe while working on the 1900 census for Manhattan was how there could be three enumerators in the same number of blocks if you hit it just right... or wrong. Just when I'd get the hang of reading one guy's writing the ED would switch and some other guy would torture me with his script! Yikes!

Mom and I agreed that what we'd really like to do is sort enumerators into piles and do something with them all. You can tell by the writing that some enumerators took the job seriously and tried to get it all letter perfect, listened to names real hard, and counted correctly. Those are the good guys and we'd send them to Enumerator Heaven. In Enumerator Heaven there would be the most exquisite of quill pens and little cherubs flying all about to grind the fine ink, sharpen the pens, and prepare parchment. And there'd be snacks. Plenty of yummy snacks. They love it in ED Heaven:)

The next group kinda tried - a little - but you can tell they thought it was just a job... a paycheck. That's it. We'd send them to Enumerator Purgatory to think about what they did and about how hard it makes life for all the genealogists who will look at their work! We know they had it hard out there but any job worth doing is worth doing well... right Mom? We'd make them continue enumerating, listen to lectures for hours on the fine points of being an excellent enumerator, and practice cursive writing... like in Sister Mary Joseph's class. No snack time in ED Purgatory! They wouldn't get out until they got it right.

The last group goes to Enumerator Hell. I remember clearly while looking for my husbands grandmother's people in the Lower East Side of NYC that the enumerator must have been drunk while on the job. Seriously, there could be no other explanation for the handwriting! These enumerators are hopeless. They're gonna stay there forever... or at least as long as there's still one poor tired genealogist left on earth trying oh so hard to read their writing.

Here's my brother, probably in the 1960s.
I'll just post this here and see how long it takes him
to tell me to take it off;)
He's a big deal trial attorney now!

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