16 February 2011

Wisdom Wednesday - Have You Done Your Census Homework?

Many times as genealogists we get so caught up in the search for the vital records on our ancestors we overlook one of the best tools we as genealogist have.  The census!

When clients come to me asking for just about any sort of research at all, one of the first things I ask is, "have you done your census homework?"  They often look at me like I'm speaking greek or something.

Finding your ancestors on all census available for their life span is a vital part of researching your ancestors. Recording that data in your software can offer all sorts of clues to not only their family & descendants, but also their (and yours too!) ancestors.

Place of birth, ages, relationships, occupation, and how many children born are just a few of the details offered.  Many people get frustrated when ancestors can't be found.  Look at the past years you have found them, pay attention to who is next door, sometimes searching for them instead of your ancestor can lead the way.  Did you record the address if it was noted in the side margin? 

In the 1920 census for John Krugman and his wife, I knew they were in Lorain County, Ohio but no search of the family proved fruitful.  No variation of Krugman I offered led me to them! I was sure that they had not returned to Germany, so where were they?  Finally I referred back to my source & notes and found the address.  When I went and found the address on the 1920 they were there, right were they had been 10 years ago.  They were listed as Kauffman's.  A far cry from Krugman for sure!

Some tips for researching the census -
  • Spelling really doesn't count (if you think it does, I know a really quaint little quilt shop that could use the business!)
  • Record as much info in the source for where you found them, including an address if possible.
  • If you can't find them remove the township or city.  If that doesn't work, remove the county, perhaps the boundaries changed in the area you are searching.
  • Using the most unusual child's name can be a real plus when you are unable to locate a family.
  • Don't get hung up on precise ages.  Birthday's didn't seem to be quite the deal they are now. You don't know who gave the ages so its possible they could be off.
  • Be sure to note the columns for physical & mental disabilities, military service, occupation & schooling. All of those things can lead to other resources for information.
  • If your ancestor is still not found, look back & see who the neighbors were. A few quick searches for them might lead you to your ancestors (unless they moved of course!)
  • Don't give up!  Yes, It is possible that people did get skipped,  it did happen. But until you've exhausted all options, keep trying!
Happy Researching!


IrishEyesJG said...

Great advice as always Karen. Thanks for sharing it with us. Cheers! Jennifer

IrishEyesJG said...

Dear Karen,

I realize this is my second comment, but I just wanted to say thank you. Your post reminded me to take a second look at a census document I had not viewed in quite some time, and led to me make a connection between a couple of people I was having trouble connecting. Funny how sometimes a fact is right under our noses and we don't see it. Cheers very much. Jennifer

Raelyn said...

I really like your blog about doing Census Research. Censuses can be a great tool, but you do need to know how to use them.

There is a new census tracker and extraction software for windows out there to help make researching and recording censuses easier. Check out www.TheMagiKey.com I saw them at RootsTech last week.