Gender determined later

1850 U.S. Census, Windham, Connecticut

I found a rather curious census entry that was definitely not as it appeared. The above 1850 census in Windham, Connecticut listed Anna C. Tingley, age 56, Merchant; Ann M. Tingley, age 60, no occupation; Anna N. Tingley, 27, Clerk; and Ann M. Tingley, 23, no occupation. This quartet would appear to be an all-female household, with two women named Anna and two women named Ann. The women named Anna have occupations, while the women named Ann do not. Does this seem peculiar? It is!

The two women named “Anna” are actually two men named Arunah. These are part of the Lippitt family of Rhode Island for whom Newbury Street Press is preparing a genealogy. Ann Maria Lippitt (1790–1858) married Arunah C. Tingley (1792–1863) at Providence, Rhode Island in 1814, and the couple had a son Arunah N. Tingley and a daughter Ann Maria Tingley. The family moved to Windham after the children were born. The two Arunahs first names are misspelled frequently (the father is also called A.C. Tingley). The family (minus the younger Arunah) moved to Chicago, and Arunah C. Tingley’s death was reported in Willimantic [Conn.] Journal News with the following additional information:

“Arunah C. Tingley, whose death is announced under our obituary head, was for a number of years in the early days of Willimantic a prominent business man and is well remembered by all our old residents. He was at first agent for the Windham cotton manufacturing company, and continued in that capacity until after their second mill was erected. He was also engaged in merchandise and traded in the company’s old store, which stood where the present one now stands. He afterwards kept the hotel in the center of the village for a number of years.”[1]

The son Arunah N. Tingley (1822–1893) enlisted in the Civil War, and settled in Waterford, Connecticut, where his name was also constantly misspelled, although he was assigned the correct gender. It’s only this 1850 census that got both Arunahs’ names and genders off!

This makes me wonder, if in at least this case, the census taker did not initially record the gender? You would think if he was interviewing the family, it would be clear who was male and who was female. Even if the enumerator got the information from a neighbor, it would probably have been clear this was a household of two men and two women.

However, say the census taker did not record the gender. Either this information was filled in later, and surmised from the names on the form, or another associate filled them in, likewise by surmising the gender from the written given names.

While I’m sure most of us have seen census inconsistencies with ages, birthplaces, and names, this is the first time I have seen a census inconsistency with gender!


[1] Willimantic Journal News, 26 June 1863. Willimantic is a neighborhood in Windham, although it was a separate town 1893–1983 before being annexed back to Windham.

About Christopher C. Child

Chris Child has worked for various departments at NEHGS since 1997 and became a full-time employee in July 2003. He has been a member of NEHGS since the age of eleven. He has written several articles in American Ancestors, The New England Historical and Genealogical Register, and The Mayflower Descendant. He is the co-editor of The Ancestry of Catherine Middleton (NEHGS, 2011), co-author of The Descendants of Judge John Lowell of Newburyport, Massachusetts (Newbury Street Press, 2011) and Ancestors and Descendants of George Rufus and Alice Nelson Pratt (Newbury Street Press, 2013), and author of The Nelson Family of Rowley, Massachusetts (Newbury Street Press, 2014). Chris holds a B.A. in history from Drew University in Madison, New Jersey.

17 thoughts on “Gender determined later

  1. I’ve seen the wrong gender recorded on a few rare occasions. It’s why I don’t usually enter it when doing a search. In the days of curlicue handwriting, Pat and Cat, abbreviations for Patrick and Catherine, were occasionally misinterpreted by the census taker and the wrong gender entered on the page. We won’t even get into transcriptions.

  2. It’s not often I see references to Windham, CT. My grandfather, Ralph Wiliams Johnson, was born there and his family had been there for about 200 years. His father, John Brooks Johnson, was also a store keeper and at one time, his store was in that Greek revival building on the town mall. His mother was Sarah Abby Williams, daughter of George Williams. They had moved to Windham from the North Stonington area.

  3. My dad’s older brothers Marion and Lawrence are recorded in the 1920 federal census with the wrong sex and the wrong names, “Merriam” and “Florence.” I assume because my grandparents had only lived in North America for about 10 years, their broken English and thick Romanian accents made it difficult for them to communicate with the census-taker.

  4. I have an erroneous gender for a family member named Perle or sometimes Pearl. Enumerated as a youth with gender as F, the next census as M, and finally by using his middle name Donald, plus his marriage, both of which helped me determine the correct gender of M.

  5. I have a couple of children in a descendant genealogy I’m working on to whom I can’t assign a sex because their gender neutral or odd names are assigned different sexes on two or more censuses and I have thus far not obtained a birth or other record to clarify. Others became clear when I found a marriage record.

  6. My maternal Grand father was named Elsee (Roberts). That same line has another male by that given name and Ive also seen another spelling varaition of the name, Elsie. A County history, that includes the Roberts clan list a daughter by that given name but Ive seen no other refernce to her leaving me wondering if she actually existed. BTW, Elsee is a variant form of Elizabeth (Hebrew) so perhasp they were expecting a girl. Sure a mystery.

  7. I hit a brick wall trying to find additional information on my husband’s great great-aunt Emily whose transcribed baptism records I found on family After months of unproductive research, I found in my collected papers, an old handwritten note by a great aunt who identified Emily as Emile.
    Then I investigated the original church records where the priest recorded the baby’s name as “Emly” and he did not identify the gender of the baby. The later transcriber changed the spelling and added a gender to suit the name. What a lot of confusion this created!

  8. In the 1860 census of Bureau Co. Ill my ggg grandmother was listed with the correct gender but she was listed as Lewis. For a long time I failed to notice the gender of F and could not figure out who Lewis was. Her name was actually Eunice which sounds a bit like Lewis and apparently the census taker didn’t find it odd for a 56 year old woman to be named Lewis.

    1. By the title of your post, I thought for a moment you were referring to that child in Canada that was born this year and the parents refuse to assign a gender to the child’s birth record, instead letting the child decide who and what they are when they are about 5 or 6. The whole subject of gender is going to influence our genealogy quests more and more I believe.

  9. My husband’s grandfather was identified as Minty in the census when he was 8 years old in 1880. His gender was given as female and he was identified as a daughter. Later census records and his marriage all register as Minton, his correct given name.

  10. If a slightly deaf census-taker (probably male) saw a (perhaps swaddled) infant, these errors could occur. Or, if the family were not at home, or had communication issues, the helpful neighbor rattled off the next door’s names ((in which case ‘helpful’ neighbor also might have adjusted Mama’s age….).

  11. My maternal great-grandmother’s name was Louie. She was very often referred to in records as Louis, but fortunately I have enough records to prove her correct gender.

  12. I’ve seen census gender confusion for babies and very small children. I was wondering if anyone else had noticed the mixing of first and middle names. In on the federal census about 1860 or 1870, most of my relatives are listed with Surname, Middle, First names – you don’t realize it until the next census and as you search other records.

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