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from the Ancestry Daily News  
  Michael John Neill --- 9/27/2001

1880 Census Beginnings Part II: More Experimentation

Last week's article " 1880 Census Beginnings "     discussed my difficulty locating the family of Michael and Franciska Trautvetter    in the 1880 United States Census and National Index from the Family History    Library.

A few readers took the time to search for the family themselves and a few also sent in problems of their own. This article will continue with the search for this family and hopefully will provide readers with some ideas on how to make use of this source. Of course, one can always revert to actually reading the actual census. These techniques are discussed as there are situations where it is not practical to manually search an entire state in order to locate an individual or family. When a specific locality is known, a manual search may be the best approach.

Note: Links to images of census entries discussed in this article can be found at:

Michael and Franciska Trautvetter---Where Are You?
Last week our initial searches were unsuccessful. One suggestion was to perform the following individual search:
Given name: F*
Surname: T*
Female, white, Illinois, Hancock County

If the county of residence had not been known, this search would not have been practical. There were twenty-five matches in a county with a relatively small population. For those who are not aware of how the "*" is interpreted, this search produced all those entries where a female was listed whose first name started with an "F" and whose last name started with a "T."

Why the focus on the wife? Michael Trautvetter's name was actually John Michael Trautvetter. He could have been listed as either John or Michael (or one of several variants). The vast majority of reasonable variants for the wife's name Franciska began with an "F." This was why the wife was the focus instead of the husband.

This type of broad search may be effective, but will not locate the desired individual if her surname has been rendered or interpreted with an initial letter other than a "T."

Before this search was started, I was warned that the use of the wildcard ("*") might substantially increase my search time. I started the search and went into the kitchen to feed the cats and myself. When I returned the results were displayed.

In terms of navigating the results, this search has one advantage. All the specific individuals who matched my search terms are listed in the top half of my screen, I don't have to scan through all the "complete" matches. Specific data on one match is displayed on the bottom half of my screen. I can scroll through the top half and when an entry on the top half has been "chosen" by clicking by the name, the more complete transcription appears in the bottom half. With this search, I was going to have to manually search all the entries to determine if there were any potential matches. I found one such Franciska—Franciska TURNHOFFER. She has a husband Michael, and the township of Walker is even correct.

There's just one problem. Franciska Turnhoffer's age is sixteen years off from my Franciska's age. Michael's age is significantly off as well. The children partially match, but not entirely. My Trautvetter family should have had no children older than eleven, based upon the other information I had. Age discrepancies in a census are not necessarily cause for alarm. However, I was familiar with the surnames in the area and did seem to remember that there were Turnhoffers in addition to Trautvetters. Perhaps I better keep looking.

Calling All Vetters
I decided upon a different approach may be in order. The vast majority of variants for the surname end in "vetter." I wanted to search for names in that fashion.

But I would not search for this as a surname in the individual search box. Instead I would search for this term in the neighbors-advanced query.

Why? Because I am lazy. If I search for this term in the individual search box by entering "*vetter" in the surname field, then I have to search each individual state CD. For Illinois there are two CDs and I would have to search for "*vetter" as a surname twice, once on disc 28 (A-L) and again on disc 29 (M-Z). By entering the term "*vetter" in the Neighbors-Advanced Query box, I was able to search statewide on this item. This search would locate "vetter" wherever it occurred, even if it was a part of the first name. However, since I did not have an "*" at the end of the word, names such as "Vetterman" would not be found.

It did take a while for this search to be conducted. However, it was worth the wait.

I found Michael and Franciska in the Hancock County, Illinois entries listed as Michal and Fransiska DRATVETTER. The names of the children and everyone's birthplaces and ages were very consistent with information I had already obtained and I was fairly certain this was the family I needed.

Another nice feature of the Neighbor-Advanced Query search is that the matches are sorted by County. I noted an entry for Theadore TRARAUTVETTER[sic]. No wonder I had difficulty this relative in the transcription. This spelling is how the name is listed in the actual census.

The *vetter approach worked in this case as the vast majority of variants on this surname end in "vetter." There are times however when other approaches are in order.

Where are Franciska's Parents?
I also wanted to locate Barbara and Conrad Haase, the mother and step-father of Franciska Trautvetter. They were both alive in 1880 and should be listed in separate households as their divorce took place in the 1870s. The problem was that I was uncertain of exactly what children were living with what parent.

I decided to start searching for Conrad. Searching for Conrad Haase in the individual search screen (exact spelling turned off) brought about no matches reasonably close to where Conrad was believed to have lived. Searching for just men with the last name Haase (exact spelling turned off) in Hancock County, Illinois, where the family was suspected of living, also produced no results.

I decided to try the Neighbors-Advanced Query search. This time I decided upon a different approach. I was uncertain which of Conrad's four children would be living with him. Consequently I decided to focus only on Conrad while searching. Conrad was known to be a farmer, so this hopefully is the occupation he is listed as having in the 1880 census.

I searched for:
conrad hancock farmer
(in the Neighbors-Advanced Query search)

This was done to catch men with the name "Conrad" listed in Hancock County (hence the use of the word "hancock" as one of my search terms) with the occupation of farmer. Of course it might very well catch men named Conrad Farmer living in Hancock County or men named Conrad Hancock living in Farmer County, but I was willing to take my chances. (Note: There is no Farmer County in Illinois, but it is mentioned to make a point).

It took me a while to scan the matches, but one appeared to be the correct person: Conrad HOWE listed in Walker Township. The names of the three children listed are names of his known children. The birth dates are reasonable matches as well. A viewing of the actual census image made it easier to see how Haase got listed as Howe.

Where's Barbara?
I decided to search for Barbara by avoiding the individual screen altogether. Given the spelling variant of Haase under which Conrad was located I decided to not search based upon the surname either.

My search in the Neighbors-Advanced Query box was thus:

barbara and (ann or anna or anne) and hancock

Barbara for Barbara's first name.

Ann or anna or anne---for the daughter who likely was living with Barbara as she was not listed with her father Conrad. The variant spellings of ann are connected with the word or so that only one spelling has to appear in the entry. The parenthesis around the variants of ann serves to group them.

Hancock---for the likely county where Barbara was listed.

To sum it up, the entries that will be returned should have the word "Barbara," one of the forms of Ann (hence the parenthesis around the Ann variants and the "or" in between them), and the word "Hancock" listed. I waited anxiously for the search results.

Sure enough, they were located in Warsaw, Hancock County, Illinois with Barbara listed as Barbara HAAS. The surname here would not have been difficult to catch, but this serves to illustrate as an excellent example of searching on words other than the surname.

Note: Links to images of census entries discussed in this article can be found at:

Next time: more experimentation and workarounds with the 1880 Census---including some suggestions sent in by readers.


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