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From the Ancestry Daily News  
  Michael John Neill – 12/17/2003

 Family Tree Maker 11

Every Name or Head of Household Index?

One of my spare-time obsessions recently has been locating well-known people in U.S. federal census records. I have been using various indexes to find individuals in 1850-1870 census indexes. These indexes were not all created in the same way, so the way to search each one is different. There are some commonalities, but there are differences. The greatest difference of all is that for 1870 there is a nearly completed every name index at Indexes pre-1870 are generally not every name indexes.

One of the first things I determine when using any census index (online or not) is what names are included in that index. It is imperative that I know this information in order to use the finding aid effectively. Not all census indexes were created in the same way, nor are they all searchable in the same fashion. In terms of who is included, indexes are typically:

— Head of household indexes that also include others in the household with different surnames
— Every name indexes

Head of Household Indexes
We'll discuss the head of household indexes first. A child enumerated in a census record could be listed in any of the following situations.

Living in a Household with a Relative—Same Surname
Typically this relative will be a parent, but it could be a grandparent, uncle, aunt, etc. A child enumerated in this household will not appear in the index. It will be necessary to know the name of the head of household in order to find the person in the actual census record. If the name of the parent is not known, it may be necessary to search all households headed by a specific surname within a certain geographic area. Children could be enumerated with aunts, uncles, or grandparents, so do not automatically ignore references to individuals that are too old to be the child's parents. The child may not be enumerated with his parents in the census.

Living in a Household with a Relative— Different Surname
If a child is enumerated in a household headed by someone with a surname different from the child, the child should appear in the index as a separate entry. However if the child is enumerated with a stepfather, there is a reasonable chance (especially in earlier records) that the child is enumerated with the surname of the stepfather. This could be a problem if the surname of the stepfather is not known. If it is known that the biological father died and the mother subsequently married again, try to determine the name of the second spouse. The entire family may all be enumerated with his surname in the census.

Living in a Household with a Non-Relative— Different Surname
If a child is enumerated with a non-relative in the census, the surname is typically not changed. However, if the child was adopted (officially or unofficially) by the couple with whom he or she was living, their last name in the census might not be the same as their last name at birth.

All of these situations point to the importance of learning as much about the person's family background as possible. Sometimes this can be done from later census records, obituaries, family histories, probate records, county histories, and other materials.

Every Name Indexes
Every name indexes are easier to use, largely because it is not necessary to know the name of the household head (typically the father) and because one can search for other family members if the desired person's name cannot be located in the census.

Common Names Require More Search Parameters
Not all presidents are easy to locate. President Andrew Johnson's name is not all that unusual. To effectively locate him required entering first name and last name in addition to a state and county of residence. Locating these location parameters may require a search of other records, such as county histories, biographies, obituaries, pension records, and similar sources.

Use Wildcards Where Appropriate
Scott Joplin is enumerated in 1870 as Scott Joplino. Effective searches for him would be a wildcard search Sco* Jop* or a Soundex search based upon Scott Joplin. I performed a wildcard search because I was uncertain if his name was spelled Scot or Scott in the census and was initially concerned that the spelling variant would not be a Soundex equivalent. In this case it was (an added vowel was the only difference), but that will not always happen.

Use Soundex Where Appropriate
I was not certain if James Penney (founder of the J.C. Penney department store) was listed as Penny or Penney. Since these two spellings are Soundex equivalent, all searches for him were conducted as Soundex based searches. Searches for Samuel Clemens (also known, but not enumerated as, Mark Twain) were also conducted as Soundex based searches for a similar reason.

Short-Term Spouse?
Carrie Nation, known for her temperance activities, was not always Carrie Nation. Nation was the surname of her second husband. She is enumerated in 1870 as Carrie Gloyd. Mr. Gloyd died shortly after the marriage and Carrie is enumerated as a head of household living with her mother-in-law. Women can be more difficult to locate under the name of an unknown spouse, as their surname will be different.

One way to learn of additional spouses is to pay particular attention to marriage records that indicate the bride has been married before. Sometimes it will be spelled out and sometimes the only indication is that the bride is listed as a Mrs. instead of a Miss.

Spelling, Phonetics, Writing, and Legibility
We've discussed some of these issues before, but we'll note it here for completeness. Remember that vowels can be interchanged, some letters can be misread and that the census page itself can be difficult to read. The census page for Ulysses S. Grant in 1870 (when he was president) is very difficult to read at the bottom—and of course that is where Grant's name is listed on the page.

Track Your Searches
We'll wrap up this week with perhaps the most important reminder of all: track your searches.

There are situations where it is necessary to search through many entries in order to locate the one that appears to be correct. Don't just mindlessly surf the results page. Print out the list of results and then mark the entries off as you go through them, noting why the entry is not the “right one.” A person can easily be interrupted mid-search and not be able to remember which entries were looked at and which ones were not. Failing to track what you do as you do it is just asking for trouble (and is not good research methodology besides).

Note: Famous census entries discussed this week can be accessed through this portal.

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 Magazine and Genealogical Computing. You can e-mail him at: or visit his website at:, but he regrets that he is unable to assist with personal research.

Copyright 2003, All rights reserved. Used by the author on his website with permission.

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