Monday, September 5, 2011

Finding your ancestors in the U.S. Census

The census can be one of the best places to find your ancestors. In the 1790 - 1840 the census only included the heads of household. But, from 1850 - 1930 the census included all members of the household and a variety of other useful information.

Most of the 1890 census was destroyed by fire, so most people will not be able to locate ancestors. The 1940 census will be available in mid April 2012, but will not include an index at first.

Always look for the latest census available for your ancestor, then work backwards. Looking in the census will provide you with a location for your ancestor so you can then search for other records in that location.

Be aware that census enumerators did not always get the information correct. Sometimes they were told wrong information and sometimes they wrote down the information incorrectly or how they thought a name should be spelled. So when you look in the indexes and don't find your ancestors don't give up. Try different surname spellings and keep an open mind about how your ancestor may be listed. Also, try different indexes from different companies.

Here is an example, my Great-Great-Grandfather Curtis Alexander Galttana is found in the 1870 census indexed with the name Goltahne. But, another company indexed it as Goltatine, which is the way I read it.
I was able to find Curtis Galttana because he was listed directly below his brother-in-law on the census. Which is another tip you should always do, when you find an ancestor on the census always look at the whole page and a few pages before and after to see if other family was living nearby. Many times families lived near each other.

This census also shows his occupation, which was a salt maker. He was working for his brother-in-law who owned the salt mine.

Searching the census is a great way to learn about your ancestors. Such as, name, age, spouse, children, occupation, home value, immigration dates, other marriages and much more. has recently announced the addition "of the complete U.S. Census to its already billion-record-strong database." Remember the census started in 1790 and currently  runs through 1930.

Thanks to geneabloggers for having a contest to win a year membership with

No comments:

Post a Comment