First Name

Last Name

Ancestry Daily News
  Michael John Neill – 9/24/2003

1870 Census Finds

1870 census images discussed this week can be viewed here.

The ongoing release of the every-name 1870 census index at has been of interest to many genealogists, myself included. While there are still a few states I am anxiously waiting for, I have already spent quite a bit of time searching the ones that are currently available.

A previous Ancestry Daily News column, Ready to Try 1870, discussed two lines I was anxious to locate in 1870 using the index. My initial attempts to locate a John Ufkes (born ca. 1838 in Germany) in Illinois were initially unsuccessful. Instead of spending hours searching the index for John, I decided to try and locate his sisters in 1870, hoping one of them would lead me to my John. And it may have.

John's older sister Christena married Rolf Habben in Germany where some of their children were also born. They immigrated to the United States in the mid-1860s and were the couple with whom John initially lived when he immigrated in 1869. This couple was finally located in the 1870 Illinois census, but not without some trials and tribulations.

Finding a Sister
The Habbens are enumerated as Ralph and Christina Hoppen in Bear Creek Township, Hancock County, Illinois in 1870. They were located by performing a Soundex search for "Habben" in Adams and then in Hancock County, Illinois. These two searches had to be conducted separately (once for each county) and the two counties were particularly chosen as family tradition (and a variety of records) indicated the families had lived in both counties at one time or another. They counties were not chosen on a whim. Of course, just because Hoppen and Habben are Soundex equivalents does not mean I have the right couple. I must compare information on the enumeration with other information I have on the couple.

Comparing the Hoppen enumeration in 1870 to known records on the family of Rolf and Christina Habben, it seems pretty reasonable to conclude I have the right family. Other than the last name and Ralph's age, other information from the 1870 enumeration is extremely consistent with other records. And even the census name is relatively close to the family's actual surname (Hoppen versus Habben). This family is enumerated on page 47 of the Bear Creek Township 1870 census schedules. Their daughter, Mary (as Mary Habben) is enumerated on page 45 as a domestic and their son Benjamin (as Benjamin Hopen) is enumerated on page 42 as a laborer. I was hoping that Christina's brother John Ufkes was hanging out somewhere nearby in Bear Creek Township. And he may be.

Is it Him?
On page forty-six of Bear Creek Township, I located a John Fulkes, aged 25. The surname Ufkes is spelled many ways and one never knows exactly how a census taker will list it. John would have actually been 32 in the 1870 census, but an age discrepancy is not unheard of. This John was single and living as a hired hand in the household of Lubb[e] Smith. My John was known to have been single in 1870. Could this be the guy?

While I'm not certain where my John was in 1870, he very likely would have been in Adams County, Illinois, (where he is known to have lived in early 1869) or in Hancock County, Illinois (where he was living when he married in 1874). And here is this John Fulkes living in the same township as my John's sister Christina. There is a little nagging voice in the back of my head that is wondering, wondering if John Fulkes is really John Ufkes or not.

Bear Creek Township, Hancock County, Illinois in the 1870s contained many immigrants from Ostfriesland, Germany, where John Ufkes and his sister Christina Habben were from. Having worked on many families from this area, I am relatively familiar with the surnames originating in that region. And Ufkes is not the only surname that could be rendered as Fulkes. There are several, including Folkerts and Focken. Also being aware of the the other Ostfriesen immigrants to the Bear Creek Township area, I knew immigrant families in that location had the surnames of Folkerts and Focken. This John Fulkes might not be my John Ufkes after all.

The 1880 Census?
I continued my census search for the Habbens to 1880, when they were still living in the same part of Hancock County. The family was easily located. There on the same page as Ralph Habben was a John Folkerts. This John Folkerts was aged 32 in 1880, an age which is reasonably consistent with the John Fulkes who was aged 25 in 1870. Based upon this discovery and what I already knew about the immigrants to this area, I do not think that the John Fulkes in 1870 is my ancestor John Ufkes. Of course, research should continue, as this John Folkerts might not have immigrated until after 1870. If that is the case, then I need to continue to analyze.

Watch What You Grab
One just cannot take a reasonable match and assume the connection is solid. Try to avoid jumping to conclusions. Census takers do make mistakes, especially with names that are not English in origin. But do not compound their mistakes by jumping too quickly to conclusions based upon desperation to find the answer or an ancestor.

In this case, effective analysis required knowledge of:
--- Other families in the area
--- The frequency of certain similar surnames
--- Records other than the census

What Should I Do?
I am going to continue looking for John in the 1870 census. For now, my search will focus on his other sister, Antje, who was unmarried in 1870 and should be enumerated under her maiden name. While the 1870 census search interface at allows me to search on several fields, I must remember the following when searching for Antje:

--- Ages in the census could be incorrect.
--- The age I have for the ancestor in 1870 could be wrong.
--- The original entry might be difficult to read.
--- Places of birth, especially those in Germany, may have been entered incorrectly or inconsistently with census department guidelines. My own ancestors who were all born in Ostfriesland, Germany, are enumerated sometimes with a variety of places of birth, including: Germany, Hanover, and Prussia.
--- A page-by-page search of the census may be necessary.

I have already made several page-by-page searches of the townships where I thought John might be living. I may wish to re-search these pages manually and expand my search region. It is possible that John's entry in the census is so completely misspelled that the index may not be the best tool to use. Of course, the majority of the time the index can help us find some ancestors quickly, saving us more time for the difficult ones.

Editor's Note: subscribers with access to the U.S. Census Collection can search the every-name index to 1870 (in progress) at:

Copyright 2003, Michael John Neill is the Course I Coordinator at the Genealogical Institute of Mid America (GIMA) held annually in Springfield, Illinois, and is also on the faculty of Carl Sandburg College in Galesburg, Illinois. Michael is the Web columnist for the FGS FORUM and is on the editorial board of the Illinois State Genealogical Society Quarterly. He conducts seminars and lectures on a wide variety of genealogical and computer topics and contributes to several genealogical publications, including Ancestry and Genealogical Computing. You can email him at: "mjnrootdig @" or visit his website at:, but he regrets that he is unable to assist with personal research.