Sometimes finding someone on the census is easy, but often you need to strategize, be open, and hope for a little luck.
The census images we look at today are not the original working copy of the enumerator. After a day in the field, knocking on doors and collecting information, the enumerator sat down and copied the data onto the final forms to be turned in. Perhaps it had been a long day, and the enumerator was a bit tired when he copied the names and details for the household of Douglas and Margaret Church onto page 31 for Sonoma Township, Sonoma, California of the 1870 census. He certainly appears to have been off a bit when he entered the information for lines 15 and 16 for James Church and Mary Laughlin.
Could it really be true that Douglas Church was born in Pennsylvania and his wife Margaret and their four-year-old daughter, Anna, were both born in California, but their son, one-year-old James Church, was born in England, and had a father and mother of foreign birth? Oh, and how about the tick mark in column 15 - that he attended school within the year? Little James must have been some Einstein! Either that or our census taker made a little booboo when he made his final copy.
That error, mixing up a few tick marks and a birthplace, is what made it particularly troublesome for me to find Mary Lockren, already a difficult surname to search for. Poor penmanship aside, common spelling variants include Lockren, Lockran, Lochren, Lochran, Loughren, Loughran, Laughran as well as Locklin and Laughlin. Basically it starts with an L, has a hard C in the middle and ends in an N. After that it’s anybody’s guess. I knew from later census records that she was born about 1856 in England. As you can see from the census, using England as a birthplace, was most decidedly unhelpful in this case, so I did a simple search using just a name - “Mary L*N” - and an approximate age – 14. No birthplace. As a genealogist, it seems hard not to put in the information that I “know” is right. But sometimes less is more. And without that birthplace, Mary popped right up.
A few pages away I found her mother, Anna “Locklin”, living in the household of James and Maria Kennedy. Digging a bit further, I discovered Margaret Douglas was the daughter of Maria Kennedy. Connection! And the Kennedys and Churches lived just over the hill from Anna Lockren’s sister, my great-great grandmother, Jane (Mary J) Ahern, in whose household lived one more “enumerator mistake” - Anna’s son, Charles “Lucking.” Yep, sometimes the census taker was wrong, and it takes a little more than “luck” to connect the dots – try a less is more strategy.
 Ancestry.com. 1870 United States Federal Census [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2009. Images reproduced by FamilySearch. Year: 1870; Census Place: Sonoma, Sonoma, California; Roll: M593_91; Page: 446A; Image: 459; Family History Library Film: 545590
 Ancestry.com. 1870 United States Federal Census [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2009. Images reproduced by FamilySearch Year: 1870; Census Place: Sonoma, Sonoma, California; Roll: M593_91; Page: 443A; Image: 453; Family History Library Film: 545590
 Ancestry.com. 1870 United States Federal Census [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2009. Images reproduced by FamilySearch. 1870; Census Place: Vallejo, Sonoma, California; Roll: M593_91; Page: 456A; Image: 479; 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.