Maximizing Your Genealogy Research – Using Census Records Online
The census contains many clues to locating your ancestor. Names, ages, and family relationships are reported, and you can also find information from “Special Schedules” completed during specific census years.
Be sure to explore all your genealogy websites’ collections of census records. Try different search strategies—soundex, truncated searches, variant spellings, and more.
Search by Name
An excellent place to start is by searching by name. This is especially useful if you need help finding the exact spelling of your ancestor’s last name or if they went by a nickname. Try different variations of words and think about how they may have sounded when spoken to the census taker.
If you still can’t find your ancestor, consider other relatives with similar names. It’s not uncommon for families to cluster together, and you can find leads by researching neighbors and other extended family members. Also, remember that the early censuses only listed heads of household; later, they began recording all persons living in the home, including children and spouses.
Exploring 1940 census records becomes a vital resource when tracing family history, offering a snapshot of ancestors’ lives and household details during that significant historical period.
Enumerators often needed to become more familiar with the people in their district and may have been led to believe that an ancestor was living elsewhere. Additionally, they only sometimes had the best penmanship, and it’s important to remember that even a slight error in the recording could make a name difficult to locate.
If you have exhausted all possible searches and come up empty-handed, try browsing the census instead of searching. You can do this by clicking Search>Records>United States and selecting a census year from the list. You can also browse the collection by clicking Browse This Collection and choosing a state, county, and locality from the list.
Search by Place
It’s easy to get overwhelmed by the sheer number of online genealogy resources. But if you break down your tasks into manageable parts and use a research log, you can maximize the benefits of each database.
Start with the most recent census record you have of an ancestor. This will help you determine whether or not the name matches and will also give you an approximate year of death if that information is missing.
Next, try searching by place to see if any records are available for that area. If there isn’t a specific record for the location, check with nearby communities and nearby states for any documents that may be available. Be aware that records can be misindexed and that you may have to search for multiple variants of an ancestor’s name.
Finally, consider that when a record is created, it can drastically affect the reliability of the information it contains. If the date of birth is wrong, or if a parent was listed as dead when their child was born, it can have severe implications for your family tree.
So, how can you overcome these obstacles? Try these genealogy time-saving tips to keep momentum: optimize your workspace, track progress, and set SMART goals. With these tools in your arsenal, your brick wall won’t stand a chance.
Search by Occupation
The information collected on census records varies yearly but can give us valuable clues about our family history. In addition to location, age, gender, race, and other essential personal details, a census can tell us more about what an individual did for a living. It can also tell us about other members of the household, their occupations, and the type of home they lived in.
It has volunteers who transcribe census records and make them available to genealogists online. They do this very labor-intensive work, and genealogists must thank them when they locate a census record or other genealogy information that helps them in their research.
In addition to federal census records, there are also state and city census records. It has digitized some of these, and they are available to anyone with a free account on the site. Others are still available at the National Archives or other repositories.
Be sure to search all available census years when doing a census-related search. Census data often varies yearly, so you need to explore all the possibilities. This is why it’s a good idea to have a list of ancestor names, including alternate spellings and birth years, to start your Search.
Search by Date
Before beginning your search, decide what you want to accomplish. Whether you are solving a family mystery or learning more about relatives on one side of your family, focusing on your goals and keeping them in mind as you search is essential. This will help you avoid wasting time searching for irrelevant information.
Using an online census database, narrowing your Search by first name, last name, and date of birth is usually possible. This will help you find your ancestor quickly and easily. However, it is essential to remember that census enumerators may have misunderstood a given name or listed the family members in a different order than you are accustomed to.
Additionally, many ancestors were known by nicknames and even had middle names that were only sometimes recorded. Another way to narrow your search is by location. If you know where your ancestors lived on the census, try searching for them by state, county, and town (or city). This will limit your results to those most likely to match your ancestor’s information. Also, remember that census enumeration districts can vary from state to state, and towns and counties often change boundaries over time. Alternatively, you can also browse the census by year, but be aware that this will require much scrolling to view all the results.