Given Name(s) Last Name


Ancestry Daily News
  Michael John Neill – 8/6/2003

Ready to Try 1870

The ongoing release of the every-name 1870 census index at has sent me back to some dormant brick walls in my own research. I'm particularly interested in those families that I had put on the back burner because I had no real idea of where they were living in 1870. A manual search of three or four states is not always practical when other families are not quite so difficult to research. This ongoing release of the 1870 every name index has caused me to dig out some old material, re-analyze it, and decide the best way to search these new indexes in an attempt to make some connections.

Although it is tempting (and occasionally successful), randomly typing in names is not generally an effective research procedure. Tracking what is done as it is done is extremely important. This prevents repeatedly researching the same names in the same fashion over and over in the same database. Many times, the overlooked research method is the successful one.

This week, we'll look at two 1870 brick walls in my own research. In the first case, nothing is really known of the family pre-1880. In the second case, despite a significant amount of information there is a gap in the person's life from 1869 to 1874.

Ira and Ellen Sargent
This couple's first appearance in any record is the 1880 census in Hancock County, Illinois. Ellen disappears around 1883 and Ira appears in several records up to his death in 1916, but nothing provides information on either of their parents or specific information on their origins. From a variety of records it is reasonably known that Ira and Ellen most likely lived in Missouri, Iowa, or Illinois at the time of the 1870 census, probably with their parents. In an attempt to search the census as effectively as possible, I'll think about where each of them might have been in 1870. Organizing what I know and what I expect of them in 1870 will help me to focus my search of the every-name 1870 index.

Searching for Ira
First names: Ira William or William Ira
Surname: Sargent
Surname variants: Sergent, Sargeant, etc. Most spellings are Soundex equivalents to Sargent.
Year of birth: ca. 1845
Age in 1870: ca. 25
Place of birth: Canada
Parents' place of birth: Father and mother were likely born in Canada, although one census indicates the father was born in New York state.
1870 residence: Unknown—thought to have been Illinois, Missouri, or Iowa. First child was born in one of those states in 1874. Ira might have been enumerated with his parents (names unknown) and might have still been living in Canada in 1870.

Two searches will be conducted, one for the first name of Ira and another for the first name of William. I will leave the Soundex option turned on to catch most of the spelling variants. To catch a capital "S" read as an "L," I will search for the surname Largent as well. I will not enter an age in the search box when searching for Ira, as his year of birth is speculative. Additionally, ages in census enumerations are notoriously incorrect as well, especially in pre-1900 census records. Nor will I enter the location in the birthplace box unless the number of results with it left blank is too large to manually view. Generally speaking, the fewer search boxes filled the more likely I am to find the desired entry.

Searching for Ellen
Ira's wife is a little more complicated.

First names: Florence Ellen, Ellen, or Ella
Surname: Butler
Surname variants: Buttler, Butter, etc. Butter is the main potential surname variant that is not a Soundex equivalent of Butler.
Age in 1870: ca. 13 (based on 1880 census)
Place of birth: Missouri (based on 1880 census)
Parents' place of birth: Michigan (based on 1880 census)
1870 residence: Unknown—probably Illinois, Missouri, or Iowa. First child was born in 1874 (when Florence was aged about 17) in one of these three states. Ellen is probably enumerated with parents (names unknown) in 1870.

I will have to enter several separate searches for this individual. Most likely, I will search census indexes for Missouri, Illinois, and Iowa separately, starting with the following searches:

First name: Ellen
Last name: Butler (with Soundex turned on)

This will require four separate searches for each state (Florence Butler, Ellen Butler, Florence Butter and Ellen Butter). The Soundex option will be turned "on," but searches for Butler and Butter must be conducted separately as these are not Soundex equivalent surnames. I will leave the place of birth blank unless the number of results is too large to view manually.

Joh Ufkes
This ancestor is known to have immigrated to the United States in 1869, originally settling in Adams County, Illinois. The 1870 census for that county and Hancock County, Illinois (where he married in 1874 and spent much of his life) have been both been searched manually to no avail. I know quite a bit about John, but I have not found him in 1870.

Name: John, Johann, or possibly Jan(n).
Surname: Ufkes
Year of birth: 1838
Age in 1870: 32
Place of birth: Germany
Parents' place of birth: Germany. His parents never emigrated.
1870 residence: Most likely west-central Illinois, although there is one family tradition that John spent some time in Nebraska before his marriage in 1874.

There are some additional items that may help in the search for John. While John's surname is Ufkes, his full name was actually Johann Frederichs Hinrichs Ufkes. Johann is another of my ancestors from Ostfriesland, Germany, where last names and patronymics occasionally present research challenges. The middle names for Johann are occasionally confused by English speakers as surnames and may explain why he has not been located in 1870. Another Ostfriesen ancestor Hinrich Jacobs Fecht is enumerated in the 1870 census as Henry Jacobs, without the surname of Fecht. The entry was confirmed as Henry by comparing names and ages of other family members.

Johann's possible 1870 enumerations include the following:
- Johann Frederichs
- Johann Hinrichs
- Johann Ufkes

Compound this with the potential first name enumerations of Jann, Johann, or John, and I have my work cut out for me. In all of these cases, I will have the Soundex option turned on and will search only those specific areas where Johann is thought to have resided.

If I cannot find John using one of these combinations, I will also look for John's sister and brother-in-law, Christina and Roolf Habben, who were living in the United States in 1870 and with whom Johann lived in 1869. It is possible that John is enumerated with them in 1870 or living nearby. Unfortunately they have not been located in 1870 either. In this case, searching for all three individuals may be the answer to my question.

Revisit the 1880 Census
Another step I'll take is to revisit the 1880 census index at and make certain I have not overlooked any likely family members. Information from the 1880 census will help me to locate some of these individuals in 1870, as I'll have names and other information with which to make a comparison of families.

While I can't wait for the every name 1870 census index to be released for the areas I am researching, I shouldn't wait for the index to be posted to begin thinking about my search procedures. It is never too early to get ready.

Editor's Note: The exclusive every-name index to the 1870 U.S. Federal Census is currently available for the following states:

--- Alabama
--- Arizona Territory
--- California
--- Connecticut
--- Dakota Territory
--- Delaware
--- Georgia
--- Missouri
--- Nebraska
--- New Hampshire

U.S. Census subscribers can search these states or  browse the images.

Copyright 2003, 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 email him at: , but he regrets that he is unable to assist with personal research.

Used by the author on his website with permission.