What is this name in this 1870 census document? (Genealogy research)

I’m doing genealogy research and was trying to find the first name of my great-great-great-grandfather, which I didn’t previously know. Anyway I found him and his family in the 1870 census but I can’t for the life of me make out exactly what his first name is – all the entries are hand-written in a fancy cursive typical of the era. (btw the last name is Duncan.)

I could use your opinions! Here is the document and his name is outlined in pink (warning BIG image, but needed to see the detail and to leave in all the other names for comparison purposes).

I’m pretty sure the first two letters are ‘Th’ – the first letter looks just like other obvious 'T’s in the document. I thought it could be “Thor,” but that seems so unusual (even for someone born in 1825 Maine). And is that the dot of an ‘i’?

Need your help Dopers – what could it be??

p.s. Just FYI - his 8-year-old daughter, Lavinia, listed underneath him, is my great-great-grandmother…

Also what do you think his middle initial is? At first I thought it was H, but then I realized it might be a K… look at other Ks in “Kate” on lines 1 and 30… but then also compare it to “Herbert” on line 14, and it looks like the H.

Looks like Thoi H to me.

If it’s any consolation, Mrs. Geek spends hours and hours and hours at her computer trying to decipher stuff like this.

It looks like the census taker dotted the R on an Elmer a few lines below that, so I’m going to go with your Thor guess. “Ship’s Carpenter” also looks like a dotted R.

The first name looks to me like Thos - an abbreviation for Thomas.

My guess would be Thos (Thomas) H. Duncan. It looks to me like the census taker used too much space writing Duncan and had to shorten the first name.

Curses! Foiled again.

Also might be written as Tho’s, with the apostrophe filling in for the missing letters.

It almost looks like an abbreviation of Thomas: Tho’s. I noticed that all of the dots the person wrote for the letter ‘i’ on the page are high up on the line - this mark is closer to the word. I wonder if it is an extraneous mark - look at the word Carpenter for the person’s occupation on line 3. There are two similar marks there - apparently for no reason.

And I vote for ‘H’ for the initial.

Very good guess on the shortened Thomas – Thos or Tho’s. You guys are awesome! Still interested in more guesses…

Awesome: I found the family in the 1860 census and it is transcribed as “Thos H.” in the database. Here it is – I think you guys are definitely right, it’s Thomas. I’m excited!


I’m tempted to wonder if the middle initial is for Herbert, as in the 15 year old Herbert further down in the family.

the “h” , “k”, and “th” are rather closely written this hand. interesting slant as well.

i guess they had less history and computer stuff to learn back then and could concentrate on handwriting.

Very good question. I am trying to track Thomas further, so hopefully I will eventually figure out his middle name. Herbert’s a good guess.