In the 1910 census, I have a family headed by Elias Riback (b. 1876), with wife Sophia (b. 1873) and children Annie (b. 1898), Harry (b. 1902), Bessie (b. 1904), David (b. 1906), and Bernard (b. 1908).

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The 1920 census is consistent with this:

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In the 1930 census, I find Ellis Ribeck (b. 1875), with wife Sophia (b. 1873), and children David (b., 1907) and Bernhardt (b. 1909). This is reasonably consistent.

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In the 1910 census, the couple is reported to have been married for 13 years, placing the date of marriage in 1897, the year before the birth of the first child. Sophia is also listed as having five children, all living, which accounts for the entire family in 1910. So far, so good. In the 1930 census, however, Ellis's age at first marriage is listed at 22 (marriage date: 1899), while Sophia's is given at 33 (marriage date: 1906). While the families match on all other points, I am at a loss as to how to explain the discrepancy.

I also don't know who reported these numbers to the census taker. How is that information recorded in the 1930 census (if at all)? Finally, there is a notation "al" between the names of the two sons (David and Bernhardt). What does that mean?

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    Also notice the "relationship to head" column says "wife - N" for Sophia in 1930. – American Luke Nov 19 '12 at 2:12
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    That's probably an H, as in who the home maker was. There is a set of explanations at the bottom of the census record for that. – Gene Golovchinsky Nov 19 '12 at 4:44

Possibly the marriage question was misunderstood in 1930 and the number of years they have been married was entered for Sophia (that would fit). Doesn't explain the 22 for Ellis though.

The "al" after Bernhardt is actually "ab" (see another example further up the page).

Ab or ab—Indicates a temporary absence at the time of the census. This means the person lived at the residence, but was not present at the time the census was taken. This abbreviation is usually found following the name or relationship.

Source: Ancestry: What do the abbreviations in the 1930 census mean?

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    Very nice on the "ab." – GeneJ Nov 19 '12 at 0:20

The 1930 U.S. census, "Instructions to Enumerators ...," is available online from www.census.gov. The University of Minnesota has also what appears an online transcription, "1930 Census: Enumerator Instructions."

I do not know what the notation "al" would mean; I do not recall working with that notation before.

As to the apparent inconsistent reporting about their ages at first marriage in 1930, the information does seem oddly out of place. The ages of the sons seem notably consistent; ages of the parents is almost so.

Interesting to me, is that on my first pass through the instructions, I did not find guidance about "who" should be asked (when to inquire of a child or a neighbor). From the U of Minn. transcription, the instructions do suggest a little caution on the inquiry for first marriage, "Where the marriage is evidently a first marriage, it may be good policy to ask for "age at marriage," rather than "age at first marriage," or to ask the question in this form and then make certain that the parties have not been married before."

Assuming you have other information about Elias/Ellis and Sophia, then the thirty years after-the-fact notion in that later census that his first marriage is given later (not earlier) suggests to me it is likely an error/oversight. Unless you have reason to believe that Elias/Ellis was married to two different women named "Sophia," then her record likewise seems likely an error/oversight.

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    All other census records agree on the single marriage, and I have en evidence the contrary. The marriage itself took place in Russia, and so the odds of finding a record of it are slim. – Gene Golovchinsky Nov 18 '12 at 23:59
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    @GeneGolovchinsky Information about the parents names that might appear in the records of the children, though, would be a sources for that additional information. – GeneJ Nov 19 '12 at 0:19
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    I've found a birth record for Bernard *(one of the sons) that matches the parents. I am pretty sure I've got the family right. Interestingly, in the 1940 census, there are four people in the household: Elias (age 66), Sophia (age 65), David (age 32), and Bessie (age 25). Bessie's age is off by ten years! – Gene Golovchinsky Nov 19 '12 at 1:25
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    @GeneGolovchinsky When you gather the other children's marriage and death records, my bet is you'll locate even more confirmation. – GeneJ Nov 19 '12 at 1:27

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