From the Ancestry
1880 Online Strategies: Part I Search the 1880 Census for free
This week we will look at several searches from the 1880 online census index. This wonderful finding aid is available for free at both Ancestry.com and at FamilySearch. The interfaces are slightly different and there are times where one search interface is more effective than another. Learning the differences takes some time and practice.
The 1880 search interface at FamilySearch gives the user some unique options. Most notable is the ability to search for similar names and to search for a specific individual in a household headed with a person with a specific name. Both options are helpful, but both have their limitations. Searching by head of household is particularly helpful when searching for children with a known likely head of household. The ability to automatically search for similar names is another nice feature at FamilySearch. Users can also use the pull down menus to filter their search by a specific state, county, or township. However all of these features, which serve to narrow the search results, have their disadvantages.
The 1880 search interface at Ancestry.com allows the user to perform Soundex and wildcard searches. There are times where these techniques are particularly effective, but they too have their limitations. Ancestry.com does not allow for a head of household search.
Before spending hours or days searching the census database online, consider whether a manual search may be more effective. If the desired individuals are likely residents of a rural county, it may be more efficient to search the census manually, either via microfilm or the images at Ancestry.com (which require a census subscription). This week we’ll start our two-part series by looking for various names in the online databases.
The search for Meinert was conducted at FamilySearch. Our desired individual was found by querying the database for just the surname of Huls in Hancock County, Illinois, where Meinert was believed to be living in 1880. The Exact Spelling option was turned off in order to locate as many potential hits as possible. (Surnames located included Hull, Huls, and Hultz—the last spelling is actually a phonetic rendering of “Huls”). Meinert was enumerated as Minor Huls. It should be noted that a Soundex search at Ancestry.com for Meinert Huls would not locate the Minor Huls enumeration. This is because the Soundex option at Ancestry.com only works on the last name (also in this case, the spellings of Meinert and Minor are not Soundex equivalents anyway). Nor would a search of the 1880 census at FamilySearch for Meinert Huls with the exact spelling checked locate the reference either. There are times where omitting the first name when searching is the best option.
In this case, I decided to search for the family at FamilySearch. The rationale was that I knew that Harriet should be enumerated in a household with Charles and I wanted to use the household search feature at FamilySearch. My search was simple to conduct: I searched for a Harriet Hartsell living in a household headed by a Charles. That was all. There was only one hit. While further research needs to be conducted, there is a good chance that I have the correct family. The ages of Charles and Harriet match the estimates I already had from other records and Harriet’s place of birth is correct. Harriet’s father was named Andrew and there is a child Andrew in the household. Not proof, but enough of a coincidence that this reference demands further follow-up.
Based upon family information, Foche should have been living in Adams County, Illinois, at the time of the 1880 enumeration. A search was conducted for the surname Goldenstein in Adams County, Illinois, with the Soundex option checked. There were twenty-seven matches, one of which was a Voke Goldenstien. It should be noted that FamilySearch did not catch this reasonable variant for Goldenstein even with the exact spelling option unchecked. Subscribers to the census records at Ancestry.com could readily view the census image.
Those who are not subscribers could go back to FamilySearch, search for the spelling the way it appears in the database and then view the other members in the household at FamilySearch. The Voke reference is enumerated in the household of Eme Aden. I readily recognized this name as the uncle of Foche Goldenstein. The age of Voke matched what was already known about Foche and it appeared I had the right individual. However, I did not assume I had the right guy just because he was the only hit in the database. I should still view the actual census.
My search was conducted as a wildcard search with the last name of Sart*, no first name, and a location of Adams County, Illinois. There were twenty-seven matches, including Sartorius, Sartorins, Sartains, and Sartori. As fate would have it, my Hinrich was not enumerated as Sartorius (his brother was enumerated with the correct spelling), but rather as Sartorins. This is a variant spelling that Soundex options would not catch.
Further complicating matters was the fact that the census enumerator listed seven out of nine household members by their initials only. Because Hinrich was enumerated as H. A. Sartorins, searches at both sites were not successful in locating Hinrich or Henry Sartorins.
If I had not been fortunate enough to locate the individual using a wildcard search, I might have had better results searching for other members in the household.
The following searches were conducted for John:
John’s place of birth is listed as West Friesland. And therein lies the problem. It’s technically not John’s place of birth.
Next week, we’ll discuss John’s place of birth in more detail and see some additional techniques for dealing with atypical places of birth in searching the 1880 census database. We’ll also see some cases where first name variants create additional search challenges. Remember though, if you have good reason to believe someone should be enumerated in a certain jurisdiction the actual census can always be viewed and may be preferable to spending hours searching an online database.
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: firstname.lastname@example.org or visit his website at: www.rootdig.com/, but he regrets that he is unable to assist with personal research.
Copyright 2003, MyFamily.com.
Used by the author on his website with permission
Other Genealogy Articles by Michael John Neill