Monday, June 1, 2015

Census Tip

When dancing with the ancestors, sometimes you can't find your ancestors on a particular census record. It's frustrating and . . . there are many reasons this might happen: 

  • your ancestors weren't home when the census taker came a knockin'
  • the census taker transcribed the surname horribly wrong
  • the transcriber transcribed the surname horribly wrong
  • the census page has not been indexed yet (yes, this still happens)
  • the census taker used your ancestors initials rather than full names
  • and other reasons
An example from my own research: 3 x Great Grandpa James Matthew Johnson

First - with common surnames, trying to narrow it down is sometimes impossible. In this instance, I had Census Records for the following years: 1850, 1860, 1880, and 1900. I was obviously missing 1870. I did the normal Ancestry search from within James Matthew Johnson and his wife Charlotte (Ballard) Johnson.


Did I mention nothing?

Okay, there were some 2,000 records scattered throughout Kentucky.

I then narrowed the search to Nelson County, Kentucky!


I was frustrated and then, as happens from time to time with me, I thought . . . why not try searching each of the known children.

Child by child I searched specifically for the 1870 Nelson County Census and . . . voila. I found it! Woo-hoo!

First - James Matthew was listed as J. M. Johnson. Note the usage of initials versus his full name. Second - the person who indexed the record transcribed Lottie as Sallie. It was an easy mistake, but also a mistake that made finding this record quite difficult.

So, when dancing with the ancestors and missing a census record or two . . .
  • Search for the children
  • Change the search to initials versus full name
  • Keep trying!!