Posted in Research tips

Baby Mohamed Clendennen: A lesson in creative indexing 

Today, I share a humorous reminder of why we always check the original source whenever possible, and always look at indexes and abstracts with a healthy dose of “hmmmm…what does it really say?” Last week, whilst searching for Thomas Clendennen [Clendenen] in the 1910 U.S. Census index, I was surprised to find a newborn, little “Baby Mohamed,” enumerated with the family.  

20121227-171828.jpg  Could the Clendennens have been that rare Muslim family in the Bible Belt of central Texas in 1910? That would certainly be a noteworthy entry in the family history. (But…Hmmm, what does it really say, came that little voice inside me.) And so here it is—the actual entry in the census record. What do you think it says? 

20121227-181356.jpg  Yes, little “Baby Mohamed” is actually little “Baby Not Named”, but it is easy to see how a casual glance at the handwriting could lead an indexer to mistake a wee yet-to-be named Baptist for the namesake of an Islamic Prophet. So folks, let’s make a resolution to be thorough in our research—don’t be satisfied with information obtained from indexes or abstracts. Dig a little deeper into original sources—you may solve a mystery or two.


I am an Accredited Genealogist® professional living in California. I have been researching and teaching since 1988.

19 thoughts on “Baby Mohamed Clendennen: A lesson in creative indexing 

  1. Preach on, Sister! I dismissed an Iowa death index for my great great grandfather for 5 years because his date of birth was off by 50 years and I didn’t know at the time he’d ever lived in Iowa. When I discovered he’d left my great great grandmother and their 6 children and was living in Iowa, I ordered the death certificate. Sure enough, it was the old rascal and the the transcriber had transposed the numbers: 1849 became 1894.

    But baby not named = Baby Mohamed takes the cake!

  2. I’ve seen indexers do strange things with the pre-1850 census’ where the enumerator says “Amt. brought over”. LOL

  3. Hahahaha! That’s actually the best one that I’ve seen yet! And I’ve seen quite a lot. I am incredulous, at times, that the transcriber really thought that what they were typing was correct. Thanks for the chuckle. 🙂

  4. My best one so far has been the surname Fenwick transcribed as Ferencak. I only managed to find them by doing a first name search.

    1. Good thinking! That one would have been impossible any other way. I like how the search capabilities of genealogy websites keep improving, so you can try out different things, like you did.

  5. I found one in the Scottish census where the youngest child was listed as “Mammy’s Pet”. Seriously. On the original document!

      1. I just HAD to go through the heap in my drawer that I print off and write “for interest” on the back. I couldn’t instantly find it but I have it somewhere. I’ll do a blog post about it one day but I need permission as publication of the Scottish documents is not permitted without written consent. They have given me permission before but need to know the specific document and purpose. Some are a scream :-~D

      1. I am sure someone has. People just assume everything they read on the internet is true. I had one tree where the person had a spouse and marriage record for a baby who died in infancy. The person never even checked to see if it made any sense.

  6. So funny!! I just finished up an intensive census search, finding some records I had not been able to find before. Fortunately, one of my cousin’s names was Drusilla, and that made the search easier. I found my Breneman ancestral name spelled: Breneman, Brenneman, Breman, Bremin, Bremerton. No wonder I couldn’t find some of them before!

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