Genealogy Friday: Tips for Researching Census Records

Searching census records can be confusing, especially when your ancestor does not appear in a search.  These are some tips I hope helps:

o   Search using various spellings of the surnamesearching

o   Search using children or spouse

o   Refine search using dates and place

o   Search that census year directly

o   Leave off the last name {best done if you search one census year directly}

o   Include parents’ names {or spouse or children}

o   Look for children to see if parents {or other siblings} live nearby

o   Look at the actual census record when found {sometimes the transcription is wrong}

o   Search for neighbors

o   Research the area to see if there was a mass exodus {especially when the country was expanding west}

o   Did your loved one move?

o   Search for parents, maybe they had to move back home  {or in with a sibling}magnifying glass

o   Search without a name {try using dates, location, place of birth, etc.}

o   Use the birth and death dates to bookend the search

o   Search for another year to determine his birth year, place of birth or even parentage.  Then using that information do another search in the necessary year.

o   Try a wildcard search: Smith or Smyth could be Sm?th; you can also search using Sm***

o   Be familiar with nicknames

o   Don’t rule out middle names {search them also}

o   Search for initials  {this is very common}

o   Search for unusual names {especially the most unusual name in family}

o   Search first names only {using filters such as birth date, place, etc}Sherlock

o   Record all the little details, they may give information for another census year

o   Check the handwriting {is it difficult to read, a misspelling, etc}.

o   Reverse surname and first name

o   Think outside the box

o   Browse the census records [especially if you know the area where they lived]

o   Search for other spouses

o   Search for other surnames  {sometimes women or children are listed under another surname or you may find them by searching for the children with an earlier spouse}

o   Change the birth year {use the +/- 2,5 or 10} to search.  Often this information recorded is wrong.

o   Remember that less is more  {the less you search for the more you may find}

o   Use the boxes to link spouses, children and/or parents

o   Experiment with various options until you find the individual {you may want to keep a list of what you’ve tried}

o   Realize they may be missed by the census taker.  I had a case of this with a family.  I searched through the entire census in Abbeville County, SC on the 1870 census.  None of my family was listed and this was a HUGE family.  I knew they had not all moved and then returned.  Sadly, I realized the census taker had missed the entire area where they lived.

Join the Conversation:  What other search suggestions do you have?

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