I’m having a great time these days researching a convicted counterfeiter who served time in the 1930s in Leavenworth Federal Penitentiary. I dropped a bundle ordering his 191-page file from the National Archives in Kansas City, but it may be worth it in entertainment value alone. But I digress…
I’m looking at his file and trying to build a profile of him. Part of that includes developing a list of associates, what Elizabeth Shown Mills refers to as a “FAN club” (family and friends, associates, and neighbors.)
Several pages in his file have to do with his correspondence while in prison – who he wrote to and who wrote to him. One such contact was a woman, Mrs. Mary Davis of 5644 Halsted Ave, Chicago, identified as his aunt. The correspondence form was stamped “1929.” I thought I might try to find Mary Davis on the 1930 census to see if I could find a clue as to how she might have been his aunt – through his father’s side or his mother’s.
I searched on Ancestry for Mary Davis in Chicago, Cook, Illinois in the 1930 US Federal census and got 200 hits. Ugh. Some were far too young to be the aunt of my 42-year-old prisoner. But there were still a lot of hits to go through.
On Ancestry’s list of possible results there are six data columns shown: name, parent or spouse name, home in 1930, birth year, birthplace and relation to head of house. Another column on Ancestry’s display says “View Record.” If you hover your cursor over an item in that column, a pop-up window appears showing 15 additional data items plus a list of household members.
Ancestry’s basic display only gives six data points, but they have indexed another 15. Think about that. If they’ve indexed them, you can search on them. These additional fields include things like ward of the city and dwelling number (which most people wouldn’t know), but also parents’ birthplace. And street name!
I knew from the correspondence log from the prison file that Frank’s aunt Mary Davis lived on Halsted Avenue. I went back to Ancestry and edited the search, adding “Halsted” in the keyword box and now my top result is Mary Davis, born 1858 in Iowa, living at 5436 Halsted. The house number is slightly different than the one on the prison log, but this is a very likely candidate for my guy’s aunt.
The take-away – remember to use that Keyword box when searching on Ancestry. It will help you to quickly winnow down a long list of results. Many of those details you see in the pop-up window which appears when you hover over a potential result can be searched using Keyword. Play around also with checking the “exact” box which appears when you use the Keyword field.
Now, I’m off to learn everything I can about Mary Davis!
I wrote a blog post in February, “No Image Available? Maybe There is One!” In it, I described searching on FamilySearch and coming with a hit on an index record, complete with the dreaded “No image available” message. I outline a workaround where sometimes you can find the image on FamilySearch.
A similar situation sometimes happens with an Ancestry.com search. I recently found a result on Ancestry for an 1885 Iowa census record.
In my search for John Goodall, I got this screen on Ancestry. Note the “No Image – Text-only Collection” notation on the top left. But near to the bottom are two important notations – “Family History Film: 1021457” and a few lines above that “Page Number: 363.” Let’s see what I can find on FamilySearch!
On familysearch.org/catalog/search, I typed the film number in the box labeled “Film/Fiche Number” and clicked “Search.”
I got one result.
When I clicked on “State census, 1885” I got a couple of options.
Where it says “Records of Iowa State Census, 1885 are available online, click here” I clicked and entered John Goodall and Crawford in the name and residence boxes. My first hit looked like the one I was looking for:
When I clicked on the document icon, I get a transcription of the record, a source citation, and a link to the census image.
Here's the image
In this case, FamilySearch had the “Records of Iowa State Census, 1885 are available online, click here” button, which took me to a search page. If they hadn’t had that direct link, I could have scrolled further down the “State Census, 1885” page until I got to film number 1021457.
Again, with the magnifying glass image, I was able to search the film, but even without the search capability, the presence of the camera icon is a clue that I can browse the records. I’ll be linked to the correct film and will just need to poke around until I find page 363.
Note that sometimes when you click on the camera icon, you’ll get a message that the records are only available for viewing at a Family History center. It all depends on the agreement that FamilySearch has with the agency who owns the records. I like to save these searches up, and monthly or so make a trip to my local Family History Center and look at all the images I can’t get from home.
But remember, when you’re searching on Ancestry and they won’t show you the record image, if you see a reference to a “Family History Film” follow my steps and see if you can find the image on FamilySearch. For free, even! Score!!!
Mary Kircher Roddy is a genealogist, writer and lecturer, always looking for the story. Her blog is a combination of the stories she has found and the tools she used to find them.