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From the Ancestry Daily News
  Michael John Neill 6/5/2002

From the Census Index to the Census Image: Part I

Copies of the images (with all the confusing page numbers) are available on this site.

This article will be part of an ongoing series containing techniques for acquiring the census image once an entry and page number has been located in a census index. While the image discussions concentrate on the images at, users of library microfilm will also find much of the discussion relevant as the census images were created from the microfilm that genealogists have used at libraries for decades.

Most of the 1800 census index references at are linked directly to an image. Our discussion here is applicable for those situations where the link does not appear to be correct or the user is working from an index printout and not directly from the linked index. As always, it is worth remembering that census pagination (especially in the early years) is far from consistent.

While we will try and "hit" the correct census image or page with as little scrolling as possible, researchers should not focus solely on the one desired entry. Other family members may be lurking on the same or nearby pages. Going a few pages forward and backward, or even viewing the entire township or district, is generally a recommended idea and an excellent way to locate additional family members.

The census entries located in this week's article are for various men named James Rampley. They are not all the same man. The Maryland individuals are related, but their relationship to the South Carolina entry is not known at this time.

James Rampley, 1800 Maryland Census, Harford County, Page 118
My procedure for locating the image:
I maneuvered my browser to the main page of census images for Harford County, Maryland 1800 from the main Census Images page. The images were organized by district and my index reference only provided a page number, without the district or township. I would have to do a little experimentation.

Based upon scrolling through some images from this census, it appeared that each image represented one "page" in the census, but it looked like generally one "page" in the census was actually two sheets of paper (the left and right hand side). The page numbers were on the bottom left corner of the image.

I viewed the districts one at a time, starting at the first image within each district. The fourth district started on page number 113 and contained 16 images. James was on page 118. Fortunately each image contained only one census page. Census page 118 was five more pages than the page I was on (113). Page 113 was image No.1. Since each image was one census "page," I simply added five to the image number and went to image No.6 from this set. There, at the very bottom was the desired entry for James Rampley.

James Rampley, 1810 Maryland Census, Harford County, Page 155
My procedure for locating the image:
I had the same problem that I had in 1800. The index did not provide the "township" and the images were broken up using various villages within the county and a set of pages for "other townships." I was not certain of where James lived within the county, but I decided to start with the "other townships."

Again, based upon the first image, it appeared the book had been laid open and two facing sheets had been filmed and included on one image. The problem was the "top" (actually left hand) page had three page numbers on it. 102, 722, and 694 (crossed out) were listed. 102 was a stamped page number and the others were handwritten. Based upon experience, I decided to start with the stamped page numbers.

Then, I had to think.

Using the stamped page numbers, there are two census pages on each image. I began on pages 108 and 109. I needed to be on page 155. This means I have forty-six (155-109) census pages to go. But there are two census pages on each image. This means I have twenty-three (forty-six divided by two) images to go. I am on image No.1. This means I need to try image No.24 and hope that I am close to page 155, the desired page.

Image No.24 is census page 155. And there is the entry for James Rampley. Whew.

James Rampley, 1820 Maryland Census, Harford County, Page 62
My procedure for locating the image:
Again, the images for Harford County, Maryland, in 1820 were split up into the five election districts. The index reference, which I had only provided a page number. It will be necessary to view the first image or two of each district in order to determine on which page number each district starts. I can also view the last image as well in order to determine the ending page within that district. I may again encounter multiple page numbers on each census page.

Looking at the first image, it again appeared that each census image contained two adjacent pages from the census book. There were several numbers that could have been the page numbers used in the creation of the index. The image contained the stamped numbers 448, 449, 442 (crossed out), 5, and a handwritten 267. Speculation indicated that the 448 and 449 were paired up and were (perhaps) numbering each page separately (left and right hand side) whereas the other numbers were numbering each set of facing pages together instead of separately. It appeared the numbers starting with the "5" were placed in the bottom corner of the "page" as each page of the book was turned.

I decided to operate on the assumption that district 1 would have the lowest page numbers. Since the page number I needed was 62, I decided to use the page numbers stamped where the five was stamped on the first page.

District No.4 started at page 56 under this system. The page I wanted was page 62. This meant I needed to move ahead six pages under this numbering system. I was already on image No.1 in this district and should enter image No.7 (Six images after the image No.1 which I was at) for the desired image. Sure enough, there was the stamped No. 62 and another entry for a James Rampley.

James Rampley, 1830 South Carolina Census, Spartanburg County, Spartanburg District, Page 241
My procedure for locating the image:
All the areas of Spartanburg County were placed in one set of images for the 1830 census, a total of 218 images. Each "page" in the census is split over two images. I zoomed in and in the upper left hand corner of the image was the number "222." Fortunately, there were not page numbers dropped "willy-nilly" over the page. Image No.1 was the left-hand side of census page 222. Image No.2 was the right-hand side of census page 222. Since each census page is split over two images, census page 223 will start on image No.3. Unless there are blank pages or other irregularities, each odd-numbered image will be the left-hand side of a census page and should contain the page number itself. The problem is that I would like to get to census page 241 without having to manually scroll through each image.

A little arithmetic is necessary.

James is on page 241. I am on page 222. This means I have nineteen pages to go (241-222=19). It takes two images to get through one page in the census, which means that the image containing James should be thirty-eight (nineteen times two) images from where I am currently. I currently am on image No.1. This means that (if there are no irregularities, blank sheets, etc.) that James should be on image 39. Sure enough, when I look at image No.39 in the 1830 census for Spartanburg County, South Carolina, I find James Rampley listed.


Copyright 2002, Used by the author on his web site with permission.

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Copies of the images (with all the confusing page numbers) are available on this site.

Other online genealogy articles by Michael John Neill