Using the Census, Part II: Locator Indexes

When places of origin and migration patterns are not clear in the data you have, use these Locator Indexes to determine where to search.  When surnames have been changed–check these indexes for variants and translations from foreign languages like Grman, French, Italian, and Spanish.  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.

  1. 3,169 surnames with 10,000 or more persons.  Report of Distribution of Surnames in the Social Security Number File, 1 Sept 1974.  Department of Health, Education, Welfare.  Available in Government Document Libraries, some public libraries, most university libraries. 
  2. 20,909 Spanish surnames.  Based on names from Madrid, Basque area, Catalan, Galicia, Castile.  Special computer database for the 1980 Census.  Computer printout available  Genealogy Library Center, Inc., 60 West Main Street, Tremonton UT 84337 (mailing address: PO Box 40, Garland UT 84312) and selected research libraries in Washington DC.
  3. 27,337 surnames A Century of Population Growth, Washington DC:  Bureau of the Census, 1909.  Reprinted 1969 and 1980, Genealogical Publishing Company, Baltimore MD.  Available in most genealogy libraries and on microfiche, Family History Library, 60100733-76.  Significant list to discover origins because since 1790, most foreign surnames were Americanized to different spellings than those on the 1790 list.  For example, many Irish surnames dropped O and Mc from the surname.  E. Kay Kirkham, Survey of American Census Schedules (Salt Lake City:  Deseret Book Company, 1959), reprinted as Table III:  Names Represented by 100 white persons by state and territories at the first census, 1790,  5,700 Surnames from the 1790 Census, plus variants, reprinted by Heritage Quest, 1998. 
  4. 1,650 surnames. Meredith B. Colket, Jr., Founders of Early American Families:  Emigrants from Europe, 1607-1657.  Cleveland:  General Court of Founders and Patriots of America, 1975.  See also his “English Surnames of the Early American Colonists and their Backgrounds,” Genealogical Journal 8 (Sep 1979):  163-68.
  5. 5,000+ additional names1800 Census Index.  North Salt Lake:  Heritage Quest, 2000.  A completely new index to the second census taken in 1800–with over 5,000 additional names not found in earlier indexes.  1790 and 1810 are also newly indexed with several thousand new names added to those indexes. 
  6. “The Population of the United States, 1790:  A Symposium.”  Core surnames that are always German, Dutch, Swedish, French, and Welsh.  For example, Irish surnames are also discussed with the comment that a core “list of just Irish names is impossible to make.”  Hughes, which is usually considered Welsh, is actually Irish.  Very important article.
  7. Debra L. Newman.  Special Lists 34:  List of Free Black Heads of Families in the First Census of the United States.  Washington DC:  NARS, 1973 and reprints.  Names are alphabetical state by state.  Use with Raymond Martin Bell, “A List of Slave Owners, Washington County Pennsylvania, 1782,” National Genealogical Society Quarterly 59 (1971): 22-23.  And Carter B. Woodson, Free Negro Owners of Slaves in the United States in 1830 together with Absentee Ownership of Slaves in the United States in 1830.  Westport CT:  Negro Universities Press, n.d.
  8. African-American Census Schedule Online.   Includes blacks and mulattos in mortality schedules, 1870, free people of color, and slave census lists.
  9. Early American Series.  Ronald Vern Jackson, etal.  Bountiful UT:  Accelerated Indexing Systems (AIS). 27+ volumes, “odds and ends” of inhabitant lists and hard-to-find records for each state–tax lists, petitioners lists, residents lists, church census records, pew rents, rent rolls–many are unique to specific areas and canbe used to locate ancestors and shorten search time.

These nine Locator Indexes will get you started.  Watch this blog for another batch of indexes guaranteed to help you discover spelling variants of surnames on your pedigree.  You will be amazed at what the spellings, variants, misspellings, and alternates can tell you about the origins and migrations of your ancestors!  Your favorite genealogist, Arlene Eakle

PS  I am so much better today, that I almost feel like I can take on the genealogy world.  My cough is almost gone.  So I can laugh outloud without coughing!


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