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!
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.