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Text art of the words "From the Vault" in 18th century manuscript font.
The Blog of the Indiana State Archives

  IARA Divisions State Archives Collections From the Vault Blog

1880 Census Mix-Up

Indiana State Archives conservator Elizabeth Hague was preparing a large, disbound volume of the 1880 Agricultural Census when she discovered a mix-up had been made. The Agricultural Census pages for 1880 Deer Creek Township, Caroll County were the pages from the 1880 Population Census. The volume of Indiana’s Agricultural Census was not handled since being microfilmed in 1969. Researchers regularly use the microfilmed copy, and no one ever mentioned noticing the mix-up.

Elizabeth happened to be working on the volume in preparation for digitization. She noticed that the large pages were becoming brittle, especially along the edges. Before repairing the tears and chips in the pages, Elizabeth needed to individually assess each and every page. After two weeks of preservation work, Elizabeth created a custom box to store the volume. As she carefully and neatly re-stacked the pages, she noticed a different form among the Agricultural Census pages – pages from the 1880 Population Census! These forms are more familiar to genealogists as the Agricultural Census is a less-used genealogical resource.

Curious, Elizabeth wondered if the names on the mixed-up pages appeared in the Population Census. Elizabeth checked the 1880 Population Census online. She typed in several of the names from Deer Creek Township, Carroll County and confirmed that none of them were in that census.

Elizabeth next went to IARA’s microfilm collection to check out the Deer Creek Township, Carroll County Population Census. Upon mentioning the mystery to an archivist, the search turned to There, nestled between various Population Census forms of Indiana, they found microfilm scans of the missing Deer Creek Township 1880 Agricultural Census forms!

It appears that the Deer Creek Township pages were mistakenly switched when the individual township booklets were bound together, shortly after they were taken in 1880. At some later date, the volumes were rebound, and the issue persisted. When the federal government microfilmed the originals, the camera operator either did not notice, or did not question that the Agricultural Census forms did not belong with the rest of the volume’s contents. Decades later the microfilm was digitized and put online, and problem replicated with the mistaken filing. Somehow, no one noticed the mix-up until Elizabeth conducted conservation on the volume, not even the ones scanning it to put the volume on microfilm or the internet! How many years have genealogical researchers of Deer Creek Township missed out on information from the Population Census due to this mix-up? Will this discovery lead to any new genealogical finds for anyone?

A single handwritten page from the 1880 census.