From the Ancestry
1880 Online Strategies: Part II Search the 1880 Census for freeLast week's article discussed the free online 1880 Census database available at both Ancestry.com and FamilySearch.com. While both sites search the same data at no charge, there are differences in how the search interfaces are constructed, and there are times where one search interface is more effective than another. This week we continue our discussion by looking for various individuals whose names are not all that easy to find.
Misspellings and Locational Stumbling Blocks
The FamilySearch interface to the 1880 census allows the user
to choose a place of birth from one of the dropdown menus. Germany is
one of the choices, but if I search for John with a birthplace of
Germany, it will not locate him. In this case, John's place of birth
was enumerated as "West Friesland." Natives of this area typically list
a place of birth of Hanover, Prussia, or Germany. However, the place of
birth listed for John is not in Germany, it is in the Netherlands.
John will only be located if the place of birth is left blank
or is set to the Netherlands. One must be careful when searching the
1880 census transcriptions for those born in Germany. FamilySearch will
search for multiple parts of the German empire if Germany is chosen as
the place of birth from the drop down menu. Those unfamiliar with the
locations used in the database are advised to look at the entire list
and locate the area where the ancestor was born on both modern and
Name Close, Residence Uncertain
The problem with Antje was a common one: I had absolutely no
idea where she was living in 1880. This immigrant was known to have
lived in Illinois, Missouri, and New Mexico after her 1860s era
immigration. People who "get around" are always more difficult to
locate in census records and are one of the reasons national databases
are so helpful.
Antje was located at FamilySearch by entering her name in as
Antje Albers and choosing a year of birth of 1811, with an error of
plus or minus five years. Several matches were found. Antje was located
in Denver, Colorado, living with her son L.U. Albers.
Antje also could have been located in the Ancestry.com search
interface for the 1880 census. In her case, the best search would have
been to use wildcards on her first name (Ant*) and her place of birth
(Ger*). The Ancestry.com search interface will search only for births
in Germany if Germany is entered in the birthplace box. Since there are
entries in the database with a place of birth of "Ger" this search term
(Ger*) will catch both entries. However, a search at Ancestry.com for
Ger* will not catch those entries that list a place of birth as
Bavaria, Saxony, etc.
German locations may be entered in the database in one of many
ways (typically dependent upon the census entry), including (but not
This incomplete list is provided to give the reader an idea of
the potential abbreviation and spelling considerations they may face.
Census takers did not always follow instructions, so consistency in
place names is not to be found in the 1880 census.
For German searching, it usually best to use FamilySearch and
choose Germany as the birthplace. Just make certain that your ancestor
would have put some German state as his place of birth and not Austria,
Bohemia, the Netherlands, etc. instead.
Significant Last Name Problems
What to do? In this case, I would use FamilySearch and take
advantage of the ability to search based upon family structure. Joseph
should have a wife and at least eight children in his household in
1880. Our approach will start with his wife.
Joseph's wife's name, Cesarine, was frequently Anglicized as
Sarah. My initial strategy was to search the 1880 census database at
FamilySearch for individuals named Sarah living in a household headed
by a person named Joseph in Clinton County, New York. Knowing that
Cesarine was born in Quebec, I entered Canada as the place of birth. No
age or other information was included.
There were only four results, one of which was an entry for
Sarah Demarrah. An analysis of the other family members in the
household made it clear the correct family had been located. No last
names were even used to conduct the search in this case.
Some General Comments
— For wildcard searching, use the Ancestry.com search
interface. Remember that the wildcard character, *, must be preceded by
— For household-based searching, use the FamilySearch
interface. If other details are sufficiently known, it may be possible
to locate the family without even entering the last name.
— For similar names searching, use the FamilySearch interface.
Keep in mind that this search will not catch all similar names nor will
it catch all Soundex equivalents as we saw in last week's column.
One Last Note
Actual census images of entries discussed in this week's
column can be viewed here.
Next week, we'll see an 1880 census enumeration that is
slightly unusual in that the head of household is the wife. What makes
this unusual is the fact that the husband is living and is also
enumerated—as the last entry in the household!
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. All rights reserved. Used by the author on his website with permission.