Of course, before any census index is searched, there are the following caveats:
- Census information may be incorrect. Someone other than the person enumerated may have provided the information, or the informant may have been uncertain, uninterested, or deceitful.
- The original could be difficult to read.
There are several items one needs in order to search a census. Some of these items can be entered as search terms and others are viewable on the census entry. Personally I hate to have to constantly go back to my database to look these items up while searching.
I need all names, not just the “official” one–first and middle names, nicknames, and diminutives. A person can be enumerated with any combination of these names and what I think is the middle name may actually be the name under which the individual is enumerated.
All reasonable variants must be considered; a printed list of variants for any last name is always an excellent idea. Relying on memory to keep track of all variant spellings is not advised and significantly increases the chances the entry is overlooked. Use a Soundex converter ( http://resources.rootsweb.com/cgi-bin/soundexconverter ) to determine which variants have the same Soundex code.
Year of Birth/Age
The census provides an age; many Ancestry.com indexes convert that to an approximate year of birth. Consequently I like to have both in front of me while searching, keeping in mind that these ages and years are always estimates. Any age in a census can easily be incorrect, although the younger a person gets the smaller the potential error in age. A two-year old is not likely to pass for seven, but a fifty-two-year old could possibly pass for fifty-seven.
Place of Birth for Person and Their Parents
This information will be listed in the enumeration for the individual and their parents. For the person being indexed, it will be searchable. Having what I “know” to be correct on hand for comparison purposes is helpful.
Residence in 1910
Determine the probable residence in 1910 as precisely as possible. In urban areas, this may be an absolute necessity if the name is common. Even in rural areas, there may be several individuals with the same name, especially if the location is not known very precisely. City directories, vital records, obituaries, estate records, or any record that will mention a residence will be helpful in determining the location more precisely.
Other Family Members
If your person was not living alone in 1910, names of the other members of their household (and their identifying information) will aid in your search. In some situations this information may be necessary to distinguish between multiple households containing persons with the name of your lost person. Other times searching may be easier for one of these other people than for your desired person.
Become familiar with the political boundaries and geographical features of the area where your ancestor likely resided. Also consider how likely accuracy of the information you “know” about your ancestor and review other census enumerations for additional clues. And if the area of residence is small, consider a page-by-page search of the census images.
Here are two examples of profiles I used for individuals I am researching:
First names: Martha Ellen, Mattie, Marta, Ella, etc
Last name: Sargent (S625)
Last name variants: Sargeant, (S625) Sergent, (S625) etc. 1900 census enumerated lists name as Sargin (S625).
Year of birth: ca. 1859
Age in 1910: about 51
Place of birth: Illinois
Parents’ place of birth: possibly Indiana
1910 residence: precise location unknown, between Warsaw, Hancock County, Illinois and Lima, Adams County, Illinois
Other family members in her 1910 household: none. Husband was institutionalized (and enumerated) elsewhere and child was located with her own family.
First names: Levi, possibly Louis
Last name: Demar (D560), Demare (D560), or Desmarais (D256)–and a thousand variants on that.
Year of birth: 1886
Age in 1910: 24
Place of birth: New York State
Parents’ place of birth: New York State
1910 residence: upstate New York, or Chicago, Illinois.
Other family members in 1910: father Louis (living in Chicago); sister Mary living in Chicago; other sisters remaining upstate New York. Marital status in 1910 is unknown.
NOTE: This organization might have resulted in my locating Levi. I need to determine if the entry in Dutchess County, New York is the person for whom I am looking.
Good luck and get ready! The every name 1910 census index is on the way.
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 currently a member of the board of the Federation of Genealogical Societies (FGS) www.fgs.org. He conducts seminars and lectures nationally 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.