The Census is the primary and principal source for genealogy research in America. From 1790 to the present day, the US Constitution has mandated a physical count, by federal marshal’s, of all the people in the households across America. Before, in between, throughout, and after, state and local censuses were taken at many levels of jurisdiction–with varying amounts of information.
Today, we have so many indexes and online images that we are tempted to use these valuable data in a hit-and-run fashion. We skip back through the decades, linking census entries (whether they match or not), blissfully oblivious to the wealth of evidence each schedule provides. And we crash head-on into the proverbial pedigree brick-wall.
Break your losing streak! Use census indexes and images to:
- Identify what locality to search. And when you find your guy, stop and search the other records in that place.
- Identify your ancestor who is passing through a place and is not recorded in any other records in that jurisdiction–a child could be born or could die and be buried and the family moves on, leaving few other traces of residence.
- Distinguish your family from others of the same name and migration pattern–match with entries on the tax rolls so you can see your ancestors from all other residents–remember that non-residents could also pay local taxes so pay attention to these persons too.
- Plot migration routes of family members based on places of birth and death.
- Locate probable relatives of the same names; watch for namesakes and relatives from both sides of the family.
- Identify immediate neighbors who could be related–those who travel West with your family
- Determine the number living in the household as a check for children who die before age 21 and as a check against birth and death dates recorded in New England States and Maryland.
- Watch for variations of your surname for additional research in other records: F and Ph; B and P and V spellings for example.
- Complete your family groups and extend your pedigree tentatively.
- Identify children listed in pre-1850 school census schedules by name and age–then match regular census schedules where the children are listed only in age groups.
- Determine other records to search in that same locality and others–if the head of the family is elderly, search the probate records for a will and/or estate settlement. If a couple was married within the year, search the marriages. If the family owned real estate, search the land records. If the head of household had a skilled occupation, look for directories and licenses.
Stay tuned for a list of Locator Indexes that can aid your searches when places of origin and migration patterns are not clear in the data you have. When surnames have changed, check these indexes for variants and translations from foreign languages like German, French, Italian, etc. Enumerators often made adjustments in the spellings of names based on what they heard, how they interpreted the names, whether or not they could spell the name, and how they were told the name was spelled. Stay tuned! Your favorite genealogist, Arlene Eakle http://arleneeakle.com
PS Been in bed with bronchitis for two weeks. My cough was finally conquered by the second round of antibiotics. Bronchitis and I are old friends–used to get it every year–sometimes twice a year. This is my first bout (and I hope my last) for more than 15 years. I have been blessed. No pneumonia this time around.