Editing Census Record Indexes

Large scale Polish immigration grew after the first group of Polish immigrants arrived in Panna Maria, Texas in 1854. So Poles appear in the 1860 US Census and each one thereafter. Familysearch.org now lets you edit names in all the US census indexes. This is a fairly recent development (as of this update in July 2021) since for some census years, editing had not been allowed.

This topic was brought up in this article. It's true that some images might be blurry or the handwriting is terrible leading to bad indexing. But Anglo census takers and indexers have not been kind to Poles. One might conclude that the Poles went into hiding when they can't be found in the index. They are probably there but likely with some absurd spelling. This is why being able to edit the indexes is so vital.

One time I was looking at a 1900 census return from Peru, IL. I was surprised to see the census taker was actually Polish and had neat handwriting. The problem was the indexer was not familiar with Polish handwriting and made each Polish z an r. They made each Polish ł into a t, confused c and e, and missed the i at the end of many adjectival surnames (for example Nowick instead of Nowicki). I have now fixed an index that never should have been broken (for example their Prrechowski is actually Orzechowski) in the first place.

In rural areas it is not a terrible hardship to examine each census page looking for that misplaced ancestor. It is a big problem when trying to find someone in a populous place like Chicago.