I was recently looking at an agricultural census schedule. For those not familiar with the Agricultural “Ag” censuses, they were taken in 1850, 1860, 1870 and 1880. If your ancestor listed “Farmer” as his occupation, you definitely want to look for the “matching” agricultural census which will tell you about livestock he owned, acres planted, how many bushels of this or pounds of that he grew and more. It is a great snapshot into your ancestor’s life as a farmer. Take the opportunity to compare your ancestor to his neighbors – calculate things like yield per acre, etc. to see how productive he might have been in relation to his fellow farmers. And look at him over time – if you can find him in 1860 and 1870, does he have more land? Does he have more cows? Did he drop that unproductive rye crop and plant more acres in wheat?
Ancestry has filmed these agricultural censuses as well as some other “non-population” schedules.
The way the 1850 schedules are arranged, the farmers’ names are written down the left side of the page and boxes were filled in for each column as they applied. There are 19 columns on the front side of the page. After the enumerator asked Farmer John all the details on the front side, he’d flip the page over and ask another 27 columns (up to column 46). Lots and lots of data!
The schedules were microfilmed and the images are available on Ancestry. But there is a little bit of a problem. Ancestry has arranged them by State, then county, then township, in alphabetical order of town. Easy, right? Well… if your ancestor is has is name on the last page of the town, you can’t “flip the page” to get to the
back side of Farmer John’s page. How are you going to know how many pounds of maple sugar or bushels of peas he produced????
I was looking at Franklin Township, Delaware County, New York. “My” guy, “Enas B. Tisher” is on line 1 of image 10. As you can see, that is image 10 of 10. Where’s the back side of his page?!! I can’t type 11 in the box at the bottom- that won’t work.
If I click on the filmstrip icon next to the 10 I see the start of another township, Hamden, which apparently has 5 images. Maybe that will be it…
But nooooooo. Look in the upper right hand corner of Enas Tisher’s page. In (sloppy) black marker it says 313. Hamden’s first page has the number 259. So… somebody somewhere had a stack of these agricultural enumerations and started numbering the pages in numerical order (I mean really, how else would you number pages?!) But Ancestry, thought these should really be in alphabetical order, by town name.
So how did I finally find Mr. Tisher’s back page? I looked at the filmstrip, scrolled forward or backward to the first image for every town, and when I finally got to the town of Masonville, I could see, right there in that same old black marker, “315.” The numbers on the left side of the page? Yep, that’s exactly the data I was seeking for my old buddy Enas. 3 Bushels of peas, and 400 lbs of maple sugar (I think…)
Don’t take my word for it, compare the data numbers on the left side of the image with those on Enas Tisher’s page on image 10 in Fisher. The same. But the numbers on image 1 of Masonville, “black marker” page 315, were written in someone else’s handwriting.
Lesson learned, those “flip side” of the pages are somewhere. You just need to be a little creative to find them.
My title is one of those adages I remember my father saying in my childhood. Dad wasn’t teaching me genealogy, but that lesson definitely should be applied to using the census. What were the instructions for the census taker, anyway?
Every ten years, enumerators knocked on doors and asked questions of the inhabitants of the houses. They filled in the responses on a one-page form. Before they began their duties, they were trained and given voluminous instructions.
For example, the 194 instructions to the 1910 census fill 11 pages. Regarding nativity and mother tongue, instruction #123 states “If the person was born abroad, but of American parents, write in column 12 both the birthplace and Am. cit.-that is, American citizen. If the person was born at sea, write At sea.”
A 1930 instruction regarding occupations states “Builders and contractors-Only persons engaged principally in securing and supervising the carrying out of building or other construction contracts should be returned as builders or contractors. Craftsmen who usually work with their tools should be returned as carpenters, plasterers, etc., and not as contractors.”
For the 1850 census there’s a specific instruction for men of the cloth, “When the individual is a clergyman, insert the initials of the denomination to which he belongs before his profession - as Meth. for Methodist, R.C. for Roman Catholic, O.S.P. for Old School Presbyterian, or other appropriate initials, as the fact may be.” That little notation may help you find a church record when you research the name of the clergyman on your ancestor’s marriage record.
The enumerators were given detailed instructions as to just what sorts of responses were acceptable. If you want to understand what they wrote, you need to understand what they were allowed to write as a suitable answer. A wonderful website, IPUMS, the Integrated Public Use Microdata Series, holds lists of all the census questions and instructions for the US Federal Census from 1850 through 2000 and beyond. You can find it at https://usa.ipums.org/usa/voliii/tEnumForm.shtml. It will provide answers to questions you never knew you had.
Before you look at any census, be sure to read the instructions!
I recently presented “Censational Census Strategies” for Legacy Family Tree Webinars. In it, I mentioned the second enumeration to the 1870 census.
The 1870 census is purported to be the worst US census ever taken. There were enough people missed and enough errors that a second enumeration was ordered for a few large cities, including New York City. This second enumeration was taken in January of 1871. How can you find this second enumeration?
If you have an Ancestry.com subscription, you can do a search for the 1870 census. Once you get there, on the right side of the screen you will see "Browse this collection" and you can specify your state (NY) county (NY) and then use the dropdown for the town and you will see something like: “New York Ward 1 District 1,” then ”New York Ward 1 District 1 (2nd Enum).” You can then browse through the pages. However, you may not know the Enumeration District (ED.)
If you don’t have an Ancestry.com subscription, you may have access to HeritageQuest databases from home using your library card. This is one of the databases many libraries provide to their patrons, for free, from home. Look on your library’s website for something like “Research“ or “Databases” and then for a Genealogy or History category. Again, if you don’t know your ancestor’s ED, this might not be so useful.
I would suggest you just do a straight up name search for your ancestor, and try to find them on both enumerations. If you can only find them on one, pick 3 or 4 neighbors on that enumeration, and then look for them on the other enumeration, and see if you can't find your ancestor. Hope that helps!
When you’ve found your family on the census, do you look at the last page in their Enumeration District (ED)? Maybe you should.
When the census enumerator completed his rounds and had a list of every name in the district, often he had to make a copy. But what if he missed a name when rewriting the list? He might have listed all those missing names at the end of the ED.
You can get to these final pages of an ED on Ancestry by looking at image numbers. Here’s an image from an ED in San Bruno, San Mateo, California in 1940.
You can navigate to any image within this ED simply by typing the image number in the box at the bottom. You can see I’m on Image 54 or 55, so right near the end. Look carefully at this page, and you will see that the third and fourth columns, “House No.” and “Visited No.” are quite out of order. Almost everyone on this page “belonged” in a household which was enumerated on a previous page. Perhaps the enumerator forgot to write them down on his original list and had to “catch up” at the end.
If you are using FamilySearch for your census images, you also have an option to select a particular image in the set.
Some enumerators even used the last page of their counts to write some notes about what they encountered while performing their census duties.
Make sure to check the last pages for all the enumeration districts you look at. You just never know what you might see there!
For more census tips, check out my "Censational Census Strategies" webinar on Legacy Family Tree webinars, or look for the category "Census" here on my blog.
I’ve recently been searching for a family with the surname “Thomas” and discovered a quirk with Ancestry’s search filters. Ancestry does not appear to be using a Soundex system for name searches.
Soundex is a code based on the first letter of the surname and the next three consonants. Consonants are divided up into six groups of letters that sound similar to each other. Vowels and the letters “H,” “W,” and “Y” are not considered in the Soundex system unless they fall at the beginning of a name. So two names with the same consonants in the same order should be found on a search.
I was searching the 1940 census on Ancestry for Cordelia THOMAS born in Nebraska. I could not come up with her. I finally had to resort to a first-name only search and use some additional first names of other people I expected to see in the household. With that grouping of names, I eventually hit upon Roy THOAMS and family.
When I looked at the census image for the family, the enumerator wrote THOMAS – however the indexer for Ancestry transposed the “M” and “A” and indexed it as THOAMS.
THOMAS and THOAMS have the same consonants in the same order. In a true Soundex system, they would be indexed in the same group of names. But Ancestry does not always put them together. I have found dozens and dozens of THOMAS families indexed as THOAMS. And in my spot check of people listed with the surname THOAMS in Ancestry, every single one I looked at on the census was a THOMAS.
A couple of takeaways –
If you know other family members in the household, try searching just by first name. Unfortunately, I don’t always know other household members.
Remember that Ancestry doesn’t use a straight-up Soundex. You might have to think of alternate ways to spell even simple surname. And be sure to consider transposition errors.
if you are interested in more strategies for finding people on the census, check out my "Censational Census Strategies" talk. You can see when I'll be giving it presentation schedule on the "Lectures" tab of my website.
When you can’t find your ancestor on a census, you might need to be a little creative. Think of how your ancestor might have pronounced his name, and with those sounds in your head, think of what letter combinations might be used to spell that word.
At a recent presentation I gave, one of my attendees related that he looked for his ancestor “Oscar” and finally found him under the name “Auskar.” Totally makes sense – Aukland, New Zealand begins with the exact same sound as Oscar. “Aw” makes the same sound as well.
When your ancestor is an immigrant, their pronunciation of a word may look far different from the way it looks on paper. I’ve found myself channeling The Terminator, Arnold “Ah-nuld” Schwarzenegger recently as I research some of my German immigrant ancestors.
My great-great grandmother had a brother named Herman. His baptismal record shows Johann Hermann,[i] but his obituary[ii] and gravestone[iii] show him as Herman so I think that must be what he was “called.” Herman. HER-man. I mean how hard can that name be to pronounce?
But when I first found the family on a census in the US, I thought there was another son I didn’t know about. I even went back and looked for a baptismal record for this mysterious son. No luck. And then I channeled The Terminator. How might he have said “Herman”? Er-mun? Maybe Ahr-mun?
And I realized that mysterious “nutty” son “Almond” on the 1850 census, was indeed Herman.
"United States Census, 1850," database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:M85Q-HVT : 9 November 2014), Castian Frethoff, Tazewell county, part of, Tazewell, Illinois, United States; citing family 176, NARA microfilm publication M432 (Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.)
Next time you can’t find your ancestor on the census, say their name aloud, as they might have spoken it. Maybe you’ll “Terminate” your own census struggles.
[i] "Deutschland Geburten und Taufen, 1558-1898," database, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:N6F5-H3G : 28 November 2014), Johann Hermann Fruehauf, 02 Jan 1831; citing ; FHL microfilm 70,015, 70,016, 70,017, 70,018, 70,019, 70,020.
[ii] “Suddenly Called,” The Pantagraph, Bloomington, IL, 30 May 1891, page 3
[iii] Herman Fruhauf, Find A Grave Memorial# 112171351, www.findagrave.com : accessed 11 April 2017
Sometimes when you look at a census you get lucky. The census enumerator wrote the street names down the left side of the census page and filled in the house numbers so 100 years later, you can see exactly where your ancestor lived. But other times you get pages like the ones W. G. Campbell wrote for the Gardenspot Precinct of Stevens County, Washington in 1910 – no street names and no numbers to pinpoint the position of any of the 30-some households he enumerated. With no street names or numbers, is there any way to zero in on the location?
Yes! Land records may be the key. Look at the census to find which households owned property. Track down the locations of the property using the grantee index to find when those owners bought their properties and the book and page where the deed can be found. Using the property descriptions, map the property location. Though some people may have rented and not owned, if you have enough owners, you can probably determine the enumerator’s route and extrapolate where the renters’ homes were located.
Start by looking in the FamilySearch catalog for your county and state of interest and selecting land records. If you’re lucky, FamilySearch will have digitized images of the indexes and deed. If not, you may need to either request the microfilms of the indexes and deeds be sent to your local Family History Center or contact the county in question to get copies of the deeds.
For some locations and time frames, you may find information on the Bureau of Land Management General Land Office Records website (https://glorecords.blm.gov/search/). Search for your ancestor and his neighbors. If they received their land directly from the federal government, perhaps by a homestead application or a cash sale, they will be listed on this site. Look for all the neighbors, and find their Township, Range and Section numbers. People near one another on the census are likely to be in the same Township and Range, and if they are not in the same section, they will be in adjacent sections. There are 36 sections in each Township and Range combination, in a six-by-six grid. (Jacksonville State University has a webpage illustrating and explaining the Township and Range system at http://www.jsu.edu/dept/geography/mhill/phygeogone/trprac.html).
A researcher recently posted a query on a facebook group about one of W. G. Campbell’s Stevens County no-address-listed 1910 census pages. She wanted to know how to find where her ancestor lived. I couldn’t find Stevens county deeds on FamilySearch, but I looked at the BLM-GLO site and started searching for names. On the 1910 census I found household visitation numbers for various households, including neighbors Abbott (151), Tinnell (153), Fowell (154), and Belton (155)..[i]
The table below identifies a property location for each household:
Visit # Surname Township Range Sect Description
151 Abbott 030N 042E 32 NW ¼ NE ¼[ii]
153 Tinnell 030N 042E 32 NW ¼ SE ¼ and S ½ SE ¼[iii]
154 Fowell (Bailey) 030N 042E 34 NW ¼[iv]
155 Belton 030N 042E 28 SE ¼[v]
The facebook researcher’s family of interest was Neafus, visitation number 157. Though Neafus is shown on the 1910 census as owning property, he is not listed on the BLM site. It is likely that Neafus purchased the property from the original government grantee. In order to find Neafus’ deed, one would need to look in the deed books for Stevens County to get the exact property description, but it is likely to be in Section 28 or an adjacent section.
A couple of map sites will help. The BLM-GLO website has maps of the properties. Once you identify the property you are researching, you can click on the Map box in the center of the page, and a map will appear showing the township and range, the various sections, highlighting the location of the property of interest. You can continue to zoom in and see the roads. This will enable you to map the properties and look at the roads to see the path the enumerator took to reach his or her assigned households.
In the case of the facebook question, I’ve mapped out that the enumerator traveled southeast on Garden Spot Road to interview Abbott and Tinnell and then took a left on Keenan Road, heading north, first meeting Fowell and then Belton. Neafus is two households after Belton, and is likely in an adjacent parcel. Securing of copy of Neafus’ deed will identify exactly which parcel is his, but even with what I’ve researched here, I’ve identified pretty good idea of where Neafus lived, even without an address listed on the census.
Try using maps along with the census. They can be helpful to learn more about your ancestors and their world. And they might even pinpoint just where your ancestor lived.
[i] "United States Census, 1910," database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:MGVH-9JQ : accessed 14 March 2017), Arvilla Fowell in household of James Fowell, Gardensport, Stevens, Washington, United States; citing enumeration district (ED) ED 230, sheet 9A, family 154, NARA microfilm publication T624 (Washington D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, 1982), roll 1672; FHL microfilm 1,375,685.
[ii] Bureau of Land Management, “Land Patent Search,” digital images, General Land Office Records (http://www.glorecords.blm.gov/PatentSearch : accessed 14 March 2017), Abbott, Andrew P. (Stevens County, Washington), document number WASP 0003009.
[iii] Bureau of Land Management, “Land Patent Search,” digital images, General Land Office Records (http://www.glorecords.blm.gov/PatentSearch : accessed 14 March 2017), Tinnell, James G (Stevens County, Washington), document number WASP 0001270.
[iv] Bureau of Land Management, “Land Patent Search,” digital images, General Land Office Records (http://www.glorecords.blm.gov/PatentSearch : accessed 14 March 2017), Fowell, Arvilla – Bailey, Arvilla (Stevens County, Washington), document number WASPAA 009268. Arvilla Bailey, a widow, married James Fowell. The property on which they are enumerated in the census is recorded under Arvilla's name. James Fowell does appear to own property elsewhere in Stevens County acording to the land records.
[v] Bureau of Land Management, “Land Patent Search,” digital images, General Land Office Records (http://www.glorecords.blm.gov/PatentSearch : accessed 14 March 2017), Belton, James (Stevens County, Washington), document number WASPAA 009324.
A continuation from last week, as I begin to research the mysterious Mrs. J. A. Achard/Mrs. Shiland of 415A Third Street, San Francisco, who may have had something to do with the death of Sarah Ahern, wife of my great-great uncle, Jimmy Ahern.
The easiest place to begin looking for Julia was the 1900 US Federal census for San Francisco. I found her right away, living on Castro Street. She was 58, divorced, born in Michigan, had given birth to 6 children, all of whom were still alive, and she resided with her 27-year-old son, David Monroe and his wife, Nellie. Although no occupation is listed for Julia, David is a bartender. The city directory for San Francisco was able to shed a little more light on Julia, however. In the 1901 San Francisco city directory, Mrs. Julia A Achard, residing at 415A 3d is a midwife.
But now that I had her son’s name, David Monroe, born about 1873 in California, I thought I’d backtrack a bit on Julia and see what more I could find. The 1880 census gave me a few more names in Julia’s life. In Elkhorn Township, San Joaquin County, Julia Monroe lives with her husband, Percival Monroe and their four children, David, twin daughters Ida and Ada, aged 4, and a son Lewis, aged 1. Also in the house are three farm laborers – Fred Wermuth, the 20-year-old step-son of Percival Monroe, and Harrison and Charles Branack, ages 27 and 21, brothers of Julia Monroe. Looks like I’ve found Julia’s maiden name, Branack, and perhaps another married name for her, Wermuth, as well as five of the six children counted on the 1900 census.
Ten years earlier, Julia and P Monroe live in Elliot Township in San Joaquin, with a 10-year-old boy, Fred Monroe, likely to be the same Fred Wermuth as in 1880. Three presumably unrelated males, perhaps farm laborers, live in the house at the same time. Elsewhere in San Joaquin, in O’Neal Township, resides L.H. Brannock, a 52-year-old male farmer, L.M. Brannock, a 26 year old female, born in Ohio, Sarah Brannock, age 19, H. Brannock, a 17-year-old male, (could be Harrison from the 1880 census), Chas Brannock, age 12 and Estella Brannock, age 9, the last two born in California, plus three farm laborers.
The Wermuth part of the equation gets a little foggy – a Wermuth family seems to appear twice in the census. On a census taken 10 June 1870 in Elkhorn Township appear 44-year-old J.A. Wormeth, born in New York, 46-year-old Eliza Wormeth born in Arkansas and 12-year-old Willard Wormeth born in California. On a census taken 5 August 1870 in Stockton, appear J.V. Wormuth, age 46, Eliza Wormuth, age 46 and Millard Wormuth age 12, all with the same birthplaces as in the Elkhorn Township listing. No other Wermuths (or variants) appear in San Joaquin in 1870.
Rolling back another decade, the 1860 census for Elkhorn Township taken on the 18th of July gives a household full of Brannacks – Lyman H, Hester A, both 42, born in New York and Maine, respectively (the same parental birthplaces listed for Julia Achard in 1900), Julia A, age 18, Emily, 13, Sarah, 9, Harrison 7, Charles 2, as well as Frederick M. Wermuth, age 10/12, and four farm laborers. Alex, Elizabeth and Millard Wermuth are also living in Elkhorn Township.
The census provided some dry facts – names, ages, birthplaces, occupations. Now I had my “cast of characters.” It was when I got into the newspapers that my fascination with Julia took shape…
More next week…
 US Census of 1900, Year: 1900; Census Place: San Francisco, San Francisco, California; Roll: 103; Page: 8A; Enumeration District: 0134; FHL microfilm: 1240103, lines 34-36, accessed through Ancestry.com 30 January 2013
 Crocker-Langley Directory for San Francisco, 1901, page 164
 US Census of 1880, Year: 1880; Census Place: , San Joaquin, California; Roll: 80; Family History Film: 1254080; Page: 195C; Enumeration District: 104; household of Percival Monroe, lines 19-27, accessed through Ancestry.com 30 January 2013
 US Census of 1870, Year: 1870; Census Place: Elliot, San Joaquin, California; Roll: M593_86; Page: 79B; Image: 162; Family History Library Film: 545585, lines 12-17 accessed through Ancestry.com 30 January 2013
 US Census of 1870, Year: 1870; Census Place: Oneal, San Joaquin, California; Roll: M593_86; Page: 102B; Image: 208; Family History Library Film: 545585, lines 23-31 accessed through Ancestry.com 30 January 2013
 US Census of 1870, Year: 1870; Census Place: Elkhorn, San Joaquin, California; Roll: M593_86; Page: 56A; Image: 115; Family History Library Film: 545585, lines 38-40, accessed through Ancestry.com 30 January 2013
 US Census of 1870, Year: 1870; Census Place: Stockton, San Joaquin, California; Roll: M593_86; Page: 177A; Image: 357; Family History Library Film: 545585, lines 13-15, accessed through Ancestry.com 30 January 2013
 US Census of 1860, Year: 1860; Census Place: Elkhorn, San Joaquin, California; Roll: M653_64; Page: 100 (penned); Image: 354; Family History Library Film: 803064, lines 15-26, accessed through Ancestry.com 30 January 2013
 US Census of 1860, Year: 1860; Census Place: Elkhorn, San Joaquin, California; Roll: M653_64; Page: 973; Image: 359; Family History Library Film: 803064, lines 37-39, accessed through Ancestry.com 30 January 2013
This morning, genealogist Lisa Talbot Lisson presented a Facebook Live talk about using timelines. She had some great points about this helpful tool and inspired me to blog about timelines today.
Timelines have been helpful in my research over the years. For instance I could not find my great-great grandparents, James and Jane Ahern on the 1870 census. I had an idea that they were either in San Francisco or Sonoma County, but no amount of searching would turn them up. But then I created a timeline and noticed that they had daughters baptized at St. Vincent’s Catholic Church in Petaluma, Sonoma County in 1869 and 1871. The timeline showed me quite clearly I should definitely be looking for them in the Petaluma area in 1870.
Armed with this new insight, I did a search for every man named James who was born in Ireland sometime between 1825 and 1835 and lived in Sonoma County. I probably had 50 men or so who fit this broad description, and as I scrolled through the list, I could easily eliminate some just by the surname – Biggins and Craddock were not likely misrepresentations of the surname I sought. But once I got down to the H’s, there I found James Hern, exactly the man I was looking for! His naturalization records, voter registrations and other documents refer to him as “Ahern” but I suppose the census enumerator just misheard the name and called him Hern. And Jane? She’s Mary J on the census.
Timelines can help with research in so many ways. James and Jane Ahern didn’t were hiding from me in 1870, but once I narrowed down their hiding places with a timeline, I didn’t have to look too long to find them. Try making a timeline of your ancestor’s life. It might help you to find some missing records.
I’ll be presenting “Using Timelines to Understand Your Ancestors” at the Kelowna and District’s Harvest Your Family Tree Conference, September 23-25, 2016. If you’d like to learn more about timelines and how they can help in your research, come join me!
 Ahern, Sarah A, baptismal record, 22 May 1869, St. Vincent de Paul Church, Petaluma, Sonoma, California. Photocopy of page from unidentified register.
Ahern, J.I,, baptismal record 20 Oct 1871, St. Vincent de Paul Church, Petaluma, Sonoma, California. Photocopy of page 128 from unidentified register. Note: Additional writing in margin which appear to have been written later in a different pen and by a different person indicates “John” but John Cornelius Ahern was born in 1873, and Jane Isabella/Isabel “Belle” Ahern was born in 1871. It is my opinion the notation of "John" in the register is incorrect.
 Hern, James, 1870 U.S. Census population schedule, Year: 1870; Census Place: Vallejo, Sonoma, California; Roll: M593_91; Page: 456A; Image: 87186; Family History Library Film: 545590
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.