Degree of blood was not required on the early rolls. When it was included, for a short period, blood quantities were artificially compressed into only three categories that may have led to confusion in later years when more specific categories were required. The 1930 Indian census did not allow more than three distinctions to be made in amount of blood because a mechanical reading device was to be used. Circular 2676 (1930) said about the new census form, Form 5-128, that it must be filled out in absolute conformity to instructions on reverse. This ruling is necessary because a mechanical device has been installed in the Office for tabulating the data .Thus for degree of blood then symbols F for full blood; ¼+ for one fourth or more Indian blood; and ¼ for less than one fourth. No substitution of more detailed information is permissible in any column. Later, in 1933, the agents were told to use the categories F, 3/4, ½, 1/4, 1/8. Still later, they were urged to be exact if possible. If someone were going to use the 1930 blood quantum information in retrospect it could lead to mistakes. Obviously, you cant go from an artificially compressed category and return with greater detail, and be accurate.
Accuracy of the Indian CensusesWhat can be said in retrospect about the accuracy of the Indian Censuses? Even with the instructions, agents were sometimes confused as to whether they should list the names of people who were away. If the agent had the address, and knew the person was still maintaining ties with the family, he would probably consider the persons as still under his jurisdiction, and count them in his census. But if persons had been away for several years, the agent was supposed to remove them from the roll. He was supposed to report the reason the person was removed and get the OK from the Commissioner. The Commissioner instructed the agents to remove the names of people who had died, or who had been away for years. He was very annoyed at the agents for failing to be accurate. His constant harping suggests there were continuing inaccuracies. In the end, the Indian Census Rolls may, or may not be considered a list of all those people who were officially considered "enrolled." Some tribes did adopt them as a base roll. But, it is also clear that the numbers had varying meaning. Very likely you could, at least by the mid 1930s, equate the presence of a name on a roll as indicating sustained presence in the tribal jurisdiction of that Agent with a status of membership understood. As early as 1914, the Commissioner started asking that the numbers on the roll should indicate the number of the person on the roll the year before. That indicates that although the roll was freshly numbered each year, with minor variations gradually occurring due to births and deaths, it was nevertheless reflective of a continuous group of people. This is the way most rolls look, until the 1930 changes.
Understanding the Indian Census - An ExampleHow could a person who was on the Flandreau rolls for the Indian census in the 20s and 30s, also have had children listed in a "street directory" at the same time, in Massachusetts?
There are several possibilities. Theoretically, if the children were living in his household on the reservation, they should have been counted as members of his family on the BIA census. This is also true, if the children were away attending school, but lived with him otherwise; they should have been counted. If he was separated from his wife and she took the children to Massachusetts, they would be part of her household and would not be counted on the reservation census with the man. If she was not an enrolled member of that tribe or reservation and lived away with her children, she would not be counted, nor the children, in the agent's count for the census of that reservation for that year. If the mother was a member of a different tribe or reservation, the children might have been counted on that other reservation's census. Agents were instructed to list people who lived on the reservation but were not members of that tribe. But they were not counted in the total census count. The point was that a person should not be counted twice, and the agent had to include some information that would help resolve the issue. They were supposed to indicate what tribe and which jurisdiction the person was from. They usually would give the general address of people who were away. When the census was submitted, it would be easier to figure out if someone had been left off of one or included on another when they shouldn't be. The Commissioner of Indian Affairs was less concerned about factual names than concerned that the total number be accurate. That is not to say that the exact identity of persons was not important; it was. The Commissioner noted that the censuses would be useful in making annuity rolls, and in determining issues of inheritance, so he wanted them to be correct.