Search by Location
There is one option for searching census records that you did not mention. Many of my family members were farmers and lived in small communities. I have searched by putting in the location with no first and no last name. It brings up everyone who is indexed for that location. I have done this for a community that has several hundred in it and for a few locations that have several thousand. For large cities I found this not practical. Using this technique I have found people that I would never have otherwise. Their names were indexed very differently than what I could imagine, yet were discernable by reviewing the results list of names using this search method. I had gone through searching the census using a list of all possible name spelling combinations with and without Soundex and wild cards and was not finding them; however, this method was a success several times.
I also found relatives this way. If there are small communities surrounding the location of interest I will do the same for that location and scan through the names. There are times that the people listed as neighbors in the census might not be the closest in distance from the family I am searching. This is because of the layout of the roads and topography of the land. Someone may be living next to the acreage of the family being researched but on another road that might not appear until several pages later in the census. So when looking at â€œneighborsâ€ on a census record, these relatives would be missed but using the above method I will find them and other surprises as well.
Spaces as Important as Spelling
When we research census records on Ancestry.com we get so involved with the spelling of names that we forget that spaces are as important as spelling. Each search year may vary in some respects as to the use of spaces with certain names.
When I researched my own name in the 1930 census on Ancestry.com, I could not find my name as McCall. When I searched for my name as
â€œMc Call,â€ I found my name immediately, with my parents, James and Beulah in Champaign County, Illinois. Try it.
I would guess that the same thing might happen when searching for names that begin with other prefixes such as Mac, Von or De, etc.
John A. McCall
Switch Given Name and Surname
If you can’t find your relative by surname, try switching given names and surnames. My grandfather was listed in the 1900 census as John, Wichett, when it should have been Wickett, John. (Also note how the scroll k was read as an h by a transcriber.) I only found him because a sister lived with him but was shown as a sister-in-law, Wickett, Empress, on the same census page.
If you have a suggestion you would like to share with other researchers, send it to: mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org . Thanks to all of this week’s contributors!
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