1930 Census
Find your Ancestors in the 1930 Census
1930 Census:
USING CENSUS RECORDS
(Ancestry.com)

– Juliana Smith

Census records 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.

With the 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.

Why would 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 census—your 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."

Soundex 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 lies.

While providing 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.

You should 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."

Regardless 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.

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