Kathy Gunter Sullivan of the Rootsweb North Carolina Lincoln County Mailing List in describing errors she found in listing in an online census database provided a caution we all should think about in our census research.
Unfortunately, the original Lincoln County 1810 census returns were
recopied into an “official” version. So what we have today is a
third-hand derivative source for Lincoln County’s 1810 census. The first
version was in original order by household visitation. The second
version was rewritten into semi-alphabetical order by the census
enumerator. The third version was rewritten by the Lincoln County Clerk
of Court as a final “official” record. Obviously, the final version,
having passed through many reincarnations, reflects human error. The
result today is at least a third-hand derivative source for Lincoln
County’s 1810 census. The bottom line is that we are long way removed from the original 1810 census information.
We should all question whether such things might have happened in our own counties of research interest.
There were other concerns she found in her research concerning the census of that county. The full posting is available for reading at the Rootsweb Archives at http://news.rootsweb.com/th/read/NCLINCOL/2009-12/1261365253.