Thank you for your continued weekly genealogy research suggestions. I have been reading them faithfully for several years but do not recall seeing this problem exactly. Perhaps this might help someone else. My father and his family lived on the same farm for more than 100 years; however, I could not locate them using the index for the 1920 census. When I searched line by line in the exact location, I found the transcriber had listed everyone in the family with my grandfather’s first name as their last name–specifically as James instead of Smith.
Look for the NeighborsÂ Â
In looking for “difficult” people in the censuses, I have had some success by looking for people who were neighbors (listed near them in a previous census, tax list, or city directory). Sometimes the people I am looking for are right where they are supposed to be, only their names have been mangled by the enumerator or the transcriber, or their entry is on a damaged section of the page.
Getting Around the Twists and Turns
I had several unusual turns in finding my Pritchard ancestors in the census. Benjamin Pritchard was an illegitimate child who was raised by his paternal grandparents and used their last name (Hobson) as his own through the 1860 census; this was the name with which he was married. I discovered this when I found an unpublished but documented family history in a local historical society archive in western North Carolina. He served in the Confederate Army in an area where many crossed into Tennessee to serve in the federal Army during the Civil War. Sometime between 1860 and 1880, he switched to his mother’s last name–Pritchard–and this is the name on all his military records–even from the Mexican War, twelve years before the 1860 census. He lived on the same property for fifty years, but lived in three different counties, so I had to check county lineage to know where he was for each census. And whoever transcribed the 1880 census for submission to the census bureau got caught up in the previous name and added â€œMcâ€ to Pritchard, making a line by line search necessary to find Benjamin that year–there were several McGhees immediately preceding the Pritchards and the transcriber just kept on, making the Pritchards the McPritchards. I still haven’t found him in 1870…
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