Given Name(s) Last Name

from the Ancestry Daily News
  Michael John Neill – 12/31/2002

My 1930 Census Experiences

To be perfectly candid, I was not too excited about the 1930 census when it was released on 1 April 2002. I did not expect it to reveal any significant information on my family members. Consequently, I did not rush out to view the microfilm. When the images were released on, I searched for the "easy" families, paging through the actual images. For the remaining entries, I decided to wait for the index.

Initial Searching
I quickly located my four rural grandparents, all of whom were still living "at home" in 1930. Three were easily located by searching the same township in which their family was enumerated in 1920. My paternal grandmother, whose family moved several times during the 1920-30 time period was located by searching several townships along Hancock-Adams County, Illinois, line. When the families are rural and don't move often or very far, it is not too difficult to find them in the census.

It was a slightly different situation with my wife's grandparents.

One grandmother was located in Rock Island, Illinois. Her father was located in several city directories around the 1930 time frame. I determined what enumeration districts these addresses were located in. I then searched the census images for these enumeration districts manually, until the desired family was located. This is the approach one typically takes when searching an un-indexed census—determine the address or area of residence as precisely as possible and go from there. I was not able to do that with my wife's other grandparents.

For the remaining three, I decided to wait until the census index at came out. One grandparent was living in one of several Illinois counties in the west-central portion of the state. Two others were living in the greater Chicago area.

Tracking Down All The Siblings
Once I had access to the index, I decided to broaden my search. I tried to locate as many of my children's ancestors and their siblings as possible in the 1930 census. This was not an easy task. My wife and I both have grandparents, great-grandparents, and great-great-grandparents who were alive in 1930. I started with the grandparents on my side of the family. After about an hour of searching, I located all my grandparent's siblings, except for one brother of my paternal grandmother (whom I still cannot locate). My search for my paternal grandmother and her siblings resulted in more information than I expected.

Finding Grandma Twice
I found my grandmother, Ida Trautvetter, living with her parents and her younger brother in Keene Township, Adams County, Illinois in 1930. The family was located by a manual search of the census before the index was released. There were five older siblings living in the same general area. I decided to wait until the release of the index. The surname, Trautvetter, frequently gets rendered into several other forms. As a result, a Soundex search was conducted for the surname Trautvetter in Adams County, Illinois, where the family was centered. Fourteen hits were returned. Two results were for Soundex equivalents of the name Trautvetter that were not spelling variants typically encountered. Based upon the first names of the others, the remaining eleven results were all extended members of Grandma's Trautvetter family.

As I scanned down the list, I noticed three listings for Ida Trautvetter, with ages 56, 18, and 19. There really should have been two: my grandmother and her mother. The oldest was my grandmother's mother and the eighteen year old was my grandmother, as enumerated in her parent's household. The entry for the nineteen year old intrigued me: it was for an Ida L. Trautvetter, aged 19.

My grandmother's middle name was Laura and her actual age at the time of the census would have been 19.

This Ida was listed as a servant in the index and I thought I had the answer to my question before I ever looked at the image. I knew that my grandmother started "working out" at a relatively young age and that she continued "working out" until her marriage to my grandfather in 1935. The Ida L. entry is in a township adjacent to the township where her parents were enumerated in 1930. I'm pretty certain it is the same person for several reasons:


  • Family tradition indicates grandma "worked out."
  • Extensive work on the Trautvetter family indicates no other Idas in the family were born even close to 1910.
  • Proximity of the two census enumerations.

    If I had just started my research or been unfamiliar with the family I would have had to wait to conclude the two persons were one and the same. There are many cases of first cousins (or even more distant relatives) having the same first and last name.

    Grandma was enumerated in Adams County, Illinois twice. The first time was on April 4-5 in Keene Township with her parents. The second time was on April 19th in Mendon Township where she was working as a servant.

    But it turns out that Grandma was not the only member of her family enumerated twice in the 1930 census.

    Another Case of 1930 Double Entry Bookkeeping
    My search for Trautvetters in Adams County, Illinois, had located three of Grandma's brothers: John, Cecil, and Carl. I was missing Elmer.

    I broadened my search to include all of Illinois by performing a Soundex search for Trautvetter as a surname in Illinois. No luck on Elmer. I could have spent the rest of the afternoon trying various spelling and handwriting variants for the surname in Illinois. I chose a different approach and decided to quit grasping at straws. I would use my knowledge of local history and geography and think about where the family might reasonably be located instead of mindlessly searching.

    The states of Iowa and Missouri are in close proximity to Adams County, Illinois, and should be considered as possible areas of residence. Availability of employment is another consideration. At the time of this census, there were more employers in southeast Iowa than in northeast Missouri (although it was the 1930s and work anywhere was difficult to come by). I also seemed to remember Grandma saying her brother had lived in Keokuk, Iowa, for a time. Based upon what I knew about the area and what Grandma had told me, I decided to start with Iowa.

    My search of the index was conducted as a Soundex search for the surname Trautvetter in Lee County, Iowa (where Keokuk is located). Much to my surprise, there were six entries all with the surname Trautvetter. Four were for Elmer and his family. But there was Carl again. Was it the same one? I had already found Grandma enumerated twice, what was the chance her brother was enumerated twice as well?

    Comparing Carl's Two Entries
    Carl's Illinois entry is in Loraine Village, Keene Township, Adams County, Illinois, the same township where his parents are enumerated. Carl and his wife Celia are the last household enumerated and Carl appears as a 25-year-old farm laborer born in Illinois in the enumeration dated 29 April 1930. The information included in their census enumeration is consistent with information already known about this couple.

    Carl's Iowa entry is in Ward two, city of Keokuk, Lee County, Iowa. Carl is listed as Carl W., a 26-year-old foreman born in Illinois. Also listed on the 11 April enumeration is his wife Celia.

    There's no doubt the entries are for the same couple. The statistical probability of two couples named Carl and Celia Trautvetter within fifty miles of another is quite slight. The details of the two entries (except for the geographic location and the occupation of Carl) are in sync.

    Conclusion after finding the multiple entries: Consider searching indexes even for those individuals who have been located manually. While you won't always turn up multiple enumerations, you might turn up more distant relatives for whom you had not thought to look.

    Looking for a Lake
    No, I'm not looking for a body of water.

    The individual was Ola Lake, born in Missouri in 1906 and my wife's grandfather. Ola was known to have married in the greater Chicago, Illinois, area in the late summer of 1930. Family tradition indicated that Ola had left Missouri and located work in Chicago, where he met his wife. Consequently, my search started in Illinois, focusing on those counties in the Chicago area.

    A simple search for Ola Lake in the 1930 Illinois Census Index did not produce the desired entry. There were several reasonable variants I could enter for first name (Ola, Ollie, Olla, Olie, etc.) and I had planned to use a wildcard search. However, the wildcard search would not work in this case. Wild card searches in the 1930 census index must include at least the first three letters of the search term. My name variants necessitated a search for Ol*—which I could not perform. I decided to focus on the last name, place of enumeration, and place of birth as my search terms.

    A search for individuals with the last name Lake, living in Illinois, and indicating a place of birth in Missouri resulted in fourteen matches. One was an Ollie Lake living in DuPage County, Illinois (enumeration district 48, Milton Township). Upon viewing the census entry all the information was consistent with information already located on Ola, particularly the age and the place of birth. Never forget the importance of nicknames.

    Finding Claude
    I knew little about my great-great-grandmother's brother Claude Sartorius, born ca. 1884 in Illinois. An exact name search for Claude in the 1930 census index brought no results. A broader search was necessary. Claude was eventually located by performing a Soundex search for Claud* Sartorius, born in Illinois. The name on the enumeration is clearly spelled Claude Sartoris. Claude was enumerated in the Veteran's Home in Danville, Illinois. I had "lost" Claude ca. 1920 and this census reference has opened additional research avenues as I was unaware of any military service for this uncle.

    Oversight or Revelation?
    I spent nearly a half an hour searching for another ancestor of my wife. In frustration, I searched for his wife instead (taking advantage of the fact that the 1930 census at indexes every name). Boom! There she was in the index, listed in the "right" location, "right" age, and "right" place of birth. I viewed and printed the image (it even indicated the "right" children). One problem. Her husband is not listed and her marital status in the census is given as "widowed." Her husband died in 1935 (per his death certificate and tombstone). This census entry definitely requires follow up and further analysis.

    Consider searching the index even if you think you've found everyone. Don't neglect to search for all of your ancestor's siblings in the census. A whole new world of questions may be waiting just beyond that search button.


    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 e-mail him at: or visit his website at:, but he regrets that he is unable to assist with personal research.

    Copyright 2002, Inc.

    Used by the author on his website with permission.

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