are among the most enlightening sources of information about our ancestors.
They can reveal such personal details as date and place of birth, education,
relationships, family origins, occupation, and citizenship status.
They also place the family in a particular location at a certain point
in time, and thereby lead to other key sources such as church, court,
vital, land, military, and immigration records.
new addition of census indexes online, it is easier than ever to search
for your ancestors. The online census indexes available to members
of Ancestry.com enable researchers to search through U.S. federal censuses
for all states, from 1790-1870, simultaneously. This capability can
enable researchers to locate ancestors who had previously been thought
to have fallen off the face of the earth without searching state by
state, thus saving many hours of research time. For more common names,
searches can be restricted by state, county, township, year, or even
page number to limit results.
we want to look by page number? Once you have located an ancestor in
the database, you can take that information and pull up other names
from that page in the censusyour ancestor's neighbors. Your ancestor's
neighbors may provide valuable clues that can be used in other areas
of research. In days gone by, it was common for families to remain
in close proximity to one another, so it is not uncommon to find parents,
siblings, or cousins living next door. Groups of families from the "old
country" often traveled and settled together in America. Where
your ancestor might have replied to a question of his homeland with
the name of the country, a cousin or traveling companion from the same
area might have been more specific. These neighbors may also show up
as witnesses in other documents, business partners, and in rural areas
where it was often miles to the nearest town, it was common to marry
the girl or boy "next door."
searches can also be performed to help locate spelling variations,
be they errors on the part of the "sensis takir," or due
to the Americanization of the surname by the immigrant.
It is important
to remember not to stop at the index. There are often serious errors
or omissions in the indexes, and although your family member may not
be included in the index, he or she may appear in the actual census
record. Apart from that, the actual data is where much of the gold
great clues, census data must still be questioned. Individuals responding
to the census taker may not have known the answers to some questions.
Some may have lied (even then an overwhelming number of women were
29), or the census taker may have gone to a neighbor for information
if the family was not at home or didn't speak English.
also study the handwriting of the enumerator by picking out the most
legible letters and words. For example, the enumerator listing Abraham
Lincoln in the 1860 census (Illinois) wrote the letter "L" so
that it resembles an "S." Without looking at other words
on the page, one might think that he was a "Sawyer" instead
of a "Lawyer."
of any inaccuracies that may be found in census data, the clues they
provide can give us an interesting glimpse into the lives of our ancestors.