NOTE FROM DearMYRTLE: This is a detailed commentary composed with the hope will take immediate action to remedy this situation.

Is Ancestry “dreaming up” new census fields for the 1900 US federal population abstracts associated with its collection of census images? Maybe Ancestry is interpreting what an enumerator meant he made notations in various fields on his census form?

We look to evidence of abstract screen shots shared by Russ Worthington in his blog post Observations of the new Ancestry .api posted on his FTMUser blog today.

Russ viewed indexed entries and accompanying digital image of original census pages through his Family Tree Maker 2017 software. The problem has little if anything to do with FTM or RootsMagic, but instead reveals a problem with how presents the indexed entries on its website.

Here are Ol’ Myrt’s concerns.


Why has Ancestry chosen to rename the “relationship to head of family” field to “mother”?

It sounds like a database manager, rather than a genealogist, has become overly creative but incorrect with labels for indexed data. This problem will lead less experienced researchers to incorrect relationship conclusions.

Using Ancestry’s iOS app, I ran into this same problem. When reviewing a census image, the abstract assumed the wife was mother to all children in the household. Luckily I knew about a first wife who died. I had to go to my desktop and update my Ancestry Member Tree to assign children in the census to the correct parents and attach the census image manually.

This begs the question – what if I didn’t know about the first wife and her several children?

How does this happen?

In Russ’ example and mine, Ancestry’s census abstracts assume a woman listed as a wife to head of family is the mother to those listed as sons and daughters of the head of family, when in fact she may not be.(1)


Cousin Russ correctly noticed there was no field labeled “Ethnicity” though the 1900 population schedule does have a tiny column “Race or Color.” WHY has Ancestry chosen to rename the field “ethnicity”?

Why is Ancestry interpreting abbreviations?

There is no ethnicity known as “American” nor is there room to write that in the tiny box. (2) Only these abbreviations are found in “126. Column 5 Color or Race” description.

  • “W  white
  • B = black (negro or of negro descent)
  • Ch = Chinese
  • Jp = Japanese
  • In = Indian
  • As the cas=e may be.” (3)

I’m thinking an unspecified abbreviation “A” written by the enumerator could represent “Asian” (different from Chinese or Japanese) but it certainly could not be “American” since there is no such race or color. Either way, only the letter “A” should appear in Ancestry’s abstract.

In Russ’ example the letter “W” for white has been entered as “American” in Ancestry’s abstract.


It appears Ancestry database managers have incorrectly and inappropriately chosen to interpret what an enumerator wrote in a column of abbreviations? (Sigh)

In the US we consider a transcript a word-for-word printed or typed version of a document.

In the US we consider an abstract a selection of text from a document considered important for the purposes of the abstractor. This make take the form on an index.

 Myrt’s Musings

In no way should a transcript, abstract or index depart from original spelling, abbreviations or labels in a document; nor should the compiler of a transcript, abstract or index interpret the original text.

Anything less increases the possibility that those reading the transcript, abstract or index may draw the wrong conclusion.

 This is is a case for “get the original.”

Happy family tree climbing!
Myrt 🙂
Your friend in genealogy.

1) “125. Column 4 Relationship to head of family”, 12th Census of the United States Instructions to Enumerators (Washington DC: Census Bureau, 1900) p 28. ( / viewed 27 Aug 2017). Note the scanned images in .PDF format are linked here: :

(2) “126. Column 5 Color or Race”, 12th Census of the United States Instructions to Enumerators (Washington DC: Census Bureau, 1900) p 29. ( / viewed 27 Aug 2017). Note the scanned image in .PDF format linked here:

(3) I.B.I.D.