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Genealogy HowTo
Issue: Aug 16, 2016

Surprising Genealogical Gems in the 1850-1940 U.S. Censuses

by Cynthia Carman

There are many genealogical clues to dates, relationships, and places in the U.S. censuses that researchers often miss. I know I have missed some gems. That meant I had to once again look up the same census page to find an important piece of data I had missed the first time. I finally developed two census checklists to help keep myself organized or should I say less forgetful.

I believe the censuses are the keys to unlocking some of our greatest research mysteries. Since each census asked different questions, we can gain greater information by searching every census in which our ancestor might appear. The additional gems of information about your ancestor could provide answers that can't be found anywhere else.

Census Checklist U.S. 1850-1940
The first census checklist I developed helps me keep track of the censuses I have searched for each of my ancestors. It's handy because I know, if a box is marked for a census year, I can look in that ancestor's image directory for a screen shot of that census page.

Making a screen shot image of the census page saves me research time. Here is how you can make an image of the census page on which your ancestor appears.

  1. Display the census page which has your ancestor on it.
  2. Make the display full screen so that the census information for your ancestor is in the middle of the screen.
  3. Using the image sizing slider of the website at which you are viewing the image, size the image so that the image is readily readable and the whole line for your ancestor and the family in which he resides fits tidily on the display.

    The display will frequently include the neighbors living adjacent to your ancestor's family. It is handy to have this reference to neighbors because if there are problems finding your ancestor in the next census, you can search for the neighbors, then look to see if your ancestor is next door. Also, it may happen that the neighbors are related in some way to your ancestor.

  4. If you are using a PC, press the "Print Screen" key on your keyboard. This will save a screen shot image of what is displaying on your screen to the clipboard in your computer. MAC keyboards do not have a "print screen" key. To create a screen shot of the census image using a MAC, hold the Command key and type Control and Shift and 3, and the captured screen shot will be saved to the MAC clipboard.

  5. On a PC open the Paint program; click the paste button from the top menu. The screen shot that you saved will appear in the Paint program. Scroll down so you can see all of the census image that you captured and click select.

    The MAC application for image editing would be either "Preview" or iPhoto. Paste into this application. It is necessary to save a copy first before editing, because changes to the original using "Preview" sometimes cannot be reversed.

  6. At this point you could go ahead and save the image as a screen shot or you could "crop" the image to get rid of the irrelevant parts of the image like the browser frame, etc. To crop the image: Using your mouse select the part of the image that includes the header of the census image, your ancestor and their family, and neighboring families if possible. Then click the crop command.

  7. Save the image as a jpg, naming it in a meaningful way so you will know what the image is just by reading its title.

Where do I find census images?
In recent years there have been several websites that have boasted census images as part of their offerings. Many include an every name index to help users locate the census image that contains their ancestor. Most people think of Ancestry.com as the "go to" site for census images and indexes, but I find using a combination of sites gives the best research results. I like that Ancestry.com allows free searching of the census, but the viewing of the images is only for paid members. The 1880 census and the 1940 census images at Ancestry.com can be viewed without a paid membership.

FamilySearch.org has created tables of the websites both free and fee-based that include the display of the US census images. After clicking the link above, scroll down, find the state for which you would like to search the census, and click it.


The list at FamilySearch.org does not contain all of the census images and indexes available on the web, and listing them here is beyond the scope of this article. This article is about the gems you can glean from researching the 1850-1940 U.S. Censuses. Other censuses, including the 1790-1840 censuses, the mortality schedules, veteran schedules, state censuses, slave schedules, Indian Censuses, Agricultural Censuses, and censuses from other countries and time periods will be featured in future newsletters.

Genealogical Gems Research Checklist
The second census research checklist that I created provides a list of the most helpful information in each of the censuses. There are more census items that I could have included in my checklist, but the census gems I have listed on my table have helped my research again and again.

What are the Genealogical Gems from the U.S. Censuses 1850-1940?

  1. Names of every member of the household and relationships to the head of the house. You have really found a gem when you find a person identified as a mother-in-law, brother-in-law, or sister-in-law living with a family. The surname of the in-law would be a good clue as to the maiden name of the wife. Though the 1850-1870 censuses do not state relationships implicitly many relationships can be implied by how they are listed. Enumerators were instructed to list first the father, then the mother, then the children beginning with oldest first, then any other person living in the house, like laborers, boarders, servants, etc.
  2. Ages listed on the census are not always accurate, but they are gems you can use to calculate an approximate birth year, and they can help you identify your ancestor from census year to census year. if a male ancestor's age in the 1920 census is between 20 and 48 it would mean they could be found in the World War I Draft registration cards. These cards may contain many genealogical gems about your ancestor. If your ancestor is born between April 1877 and February 1897, they would have been required to register for the WWII selective service registration in 1942, if they were still living at that time. This listing is sometimes called the "old man's registration". This targeted men in 1942 who were between the ages of 18 and 65 and who were not already in the military.
  3. Place of birth gem includes the places of birth of the respondent's mother and father. This gem has often helped me find the respondent in previous census years. I look especially to see if the mother's or father's birthplace are unique in some way or perhaps is a foreign country. A gem like that can enhance the chance that a researcher can identify the respondent with their parents in a previous or future census year.
  4. Marital Status is a gem especially in the 1900 and 1910 census which gives the "number of years married". This gem can help you to calculate an estimated marriage year so you can narrow the time frame of a possible marriage record. Also if the marital status says the respondent was widowed, it is a good clue to search for a death, obituary, or cemetery record for the spouse of the respondent. Another marriage date gem is found particularly in the 1850-1880 census. It is the "if married that year" box. If checked, this gem would perfectly pinpoint the marriage date to that census year. In the 1910 census the respondent was also to indicate how many times they had been married. If the M in this field was followed by a 2, it would compel a researcher to search for a previous marriage. Along the same lines of thinking, the 1930 census had a column labeled "age at first marriage". This is a gem because if the marriage year calculation is different between the husband and wife, it implies there is another marriage record to find.
  5. Number of children born and number still living was only asked in the 1900 and 1910 census. Hopefully the number matches the number of children you have listed for this couple; if not, you will need to dig deeper to find the missing children.
  6. Naturalization and Immigration dates can put the researcher in a great spot for that giant overseas research hurdle.
  7. Occupation listings point a researcher to occupational societies records with more data about their ancestor. Also, a unique occupation can help you identify ancestors in other census years. Even the occupation "farmer" can be a hint that the ancestor may have owned land and therefore a search of land records would be a high priority.
  8. Value of Real Estate is another clue to look at land records, probate records, homestead records, and tax records. Many times land and probate records will contain the wife's name, and there are numerous occasions where a close relative was a participant in the land transaction either as a witness to the transaction or as a purchaser or seller of the real estate.
  9. Military Service questions on the census should lead a researcher to search for the military service record of the respondent or better yet a pension file. Even the destroyed 1890 census can provide valuable gems of information about military service in the 1890 veteran schedules which survived.

For a more detailed discussion about the census I suggest reading this pdf put out by the U.S. Census Bureau called "Measuring America: The Decennial Censuses From 1790 to 2000". This Census Bureau article includes the instructions that were given to the census takers (enumerators) for each census.

Download MyTrees.com's newest census checklists and research guides for the U.S. Census. Download census schedules headings for reference under the "Resources/Free Forms" menu item at MyTrees.com's

Copyright © 2016 Cindy Carman. All rights reserved.
No printed reproduction of this article may be used without the express written permission of the author.
Links to this article are encouraged.

Newsletters

Select Newsletter by Issue or Topic:

Genealogy HowTo
Issue: Aug 16, 2016

Surprising Genealogical Gems in the 1850-1940 U.S. Censuses

by Cynthia Carman

There are many genealogical clues to dates, relationships, and places in the U.S. censuses that researchers often miss. I know I have missed some gems. That meant I had to once again look up the same census page to find an important piece of data I had missed the first time. I finally developed two census checklists to help keep myself organized or should I say less forgetful.

I believe the censuses are the keys to unlocking some of our greatest research mysteries. Since each census asked different questions, we can gain greater information by searching every census in which our ancestor might appear. The additional gems of information about your ancestor could provide answers that can't be found anywhere else.

Census Checklist U.S. 1850-1940
The first census checklist I developed helps me keep track of the censuses I have searched for each of my ancestors. It's handy because I know, if a box is marked for a census year, I can look in that ancestor's image directory for a screen shot of that census page.

Making a screen shot image of the census page saves me research time. Here is how you can make an image of the census page on which your ancestor appears.

  1. Display the census page which has your ancestor on it.
  2. Make the display full screen so that the census information for your ancestor is in the middle of the screen.
  3. Using the image sizing slider of the website at which you are viewing the image, size the image so that the image is readily readable and the whole line for your ancestor and the family in which he resides fits tidily on the display.

    The display will frequently include the neighbors living adjacent to your ancestor's family. It is handy to have this reference to neighbors because if there are problems finding your ancestor in the next census, you can search for the neighbors, then look to see if your ancestor is next door. Also, it may happen that the neighbors are related in some way to your ancestor.

  4. If you are using a PC, press the "Print Screen" key on your keyboard. This will save a screen shot image of what is displaying on your screen to the clipboard in your computer. MAC keyboards do not have a "print screen" key. To create a screen shot of the census image using a MAC, hold the Command key and type Control and Shift and 3, and the captured screen shot will be saved to the MAC clipboard.

  5. On a PC open the Paint program; click the paste button from the top menu. The screen shot that you saved will appear in the Paint program. Scroll down so you can see all of the census image that you captured and click select.

    The MAC application for image editing would be either "Preview" or iPhoto. Paste into this application. It is necessary to save a copy first before editing, because changes to the original using "Preview" sometimes cannot be reversed.

  6. At this point you could go ahead and save the image as a screen shot or you could "crop" the image to get rid of the irrelevant parts of the image like the browser frame, etc. To crop the image: Using your mouse select the part of the image that includes the header of the census image, your ancestor and their family, and neighboring families if possible. Then click the crop command.

  7. Save the image as a jpg, naming it in a meaningful way so you will know what the image is just by reading its title.

Where do I find census images?
In recent years there have been several websites that have boasted census images as part of their offerings. Many include an every name index to help users locate the census image that contains their ancestor. Most people think of Ancestry.com as the "go to" site for census images and indexes, but I find using a combination of sites gives the best research results. I like that Ancestry.com allows free searching of the census, but the viewing of the images is only for paid members. The 1880 census and the 1940 census images at Ancestry.com can be viewed without a paid membership.

FamilySearch.org has created tables of the websites both free and fee-based that include the display of the US census images. After clicking the link above, scroll down, find the state for which you would like to search the census, and click it.


The list at FamilySearch.org does not contain all of the census images and indexes available on the web, and listing them here is beyond the scope of this article. This article is about the gems you can glean from researching the 1850-1940 U.S. Censuses. Other censuses, including the 1790-1840 censuses, the mortality schedules, veteran schedules, state censuses, slave schedules, Indian Censuses, Agricultural Censuses, and censuses from other countries and time periods will be featured in future newsletters.

Genealogical Gems Research Checklist
The second census research checklist that I created provides a list of the most helpful information in each of the censuses. There are more census items that I could have included in my checklist, but the census gems I have listed on my table have helped my research again and again.

What are the Genealogical Gems from the U.S. Censuses 1850-1940?

  1. Names of every member of the household and relationships to the head of the house. You have really found a gem when you find a person identified as a mother-in-law, brother-in-law, or sister-in-law living with a family. The surname of the in-law would be a good clue as to the maiden name of the wife. Though the 1850-1870 censuses do not state relationships implicitly many relationships can be implied by how they are listed. Enumerators were instructed to list first the father, then the mother, then the children beginning with oldest first, then any other person living in the house, like laborers, boarders, servants, etc.
  2. Ages listed on the census are not always accurate, but they are gems you can use to calculate an approximate birth year, and they can help you identify your ancestor from census year to census year. if a male ancestor's age in the 1920 census is between 20 and 48 it would mean they could be found in the World War I Draft registration cards. These cards may contain many genealogical gems about your ancestor. If your ancestor is born between April 1877 and February 1897, they would have been required to register for the WWII selective service registration in 1942, if they were still living at that time. This listing is sometimes called the "old man's registration". This targeted men in 1942 who were between the ages of 18 and 65 and who were not already in the military.
  3. Place of birth gem includes the places of birth of the respondent's mother and father. This gem has often helped me find the respondent in previous census years. I look especially to see if the mother's or father's birthplace are unique in some way or perhaps is a foreign country. A gem like that can enhance the chance that a researcher can identify the respondent with their parents in a previous or future census year.
  4. Marital Status is a gem especially in the 1900 and 1910 census which gives the "number of years married". This gem can help you to calculate an estimated marriage year so you can narrow the time frame of a possible marriage record. Also if the marital status says the respondent was widowed, it is a good clue to search for a death, obituary, or cemetery record for the spouse of the respondent. Another marriage date gem is found particularly in the 1850-1880 census. It is the "if married that year" box. If checked, this gem would perfectly pinpoint the marriage date to that census year. In the 1910 census the respondent was also to indicate how many times they had been married. If the M in this field was followed by a 2, it would compel a researcher to search for a previous marriage. Along the same lines of thinking, the 1930 census had a column labeled "age at first marriage". This is a gem because if the marriage year calculation is different between the husband and wife, it implies there is another marriage record to find.
  5. Number of children born and number still living was only asked in the 1900 and 1910 census. Hopefully the number matches the number of children you have listed for this couple; if not, you will need to dig deeper to find the missing children.
  6. Naturalization and Immigration dates can put the researcher in a great spot for that giant overseas research hurdle.
  7. Occupation listings point a researcher to occupational societies records with more data about their ancestor. Also, a unique occupation can help you identify ancestors in other census years. Even the occupation "farmer" can be a hint that the ancestor may have owned land and therefore a search of land records would be a high priority.
  8. Value of Real Estate is another clue to look at land records, probate records, homestead records, and tax records. Many times land and probate records will contain the wife's name, and there are numerous occasions where a close relative was a participant in the land transaction either as a witness to the transaction or as a purchaser or seller of the real estate.
  9. Military Service questions on the census should lead a researcher to search for the military service record of the respondent or better yet a pension file. Even the destroyed 1890 census can provide valuable gems of information about military service in the 1890 veteran schedules which survived.

For a more detailed discussion about the census I suggest reading this pdf put out by the U.S. Census Bureau called "Measuring America: The Decennial Censuses From 1790 to 2000". This Census Bureau article includes the instructions that were given to the census takers (enumerators) for each census.

Download MyTrees.com's newest census checklists and research guides for the U.S. Census. Download census schedules headings for reference under the "Resources/Free Forms" menu item at MyTrees.com's

Copyright © 2016 Cindy Carman. All rights reserved.
No printed reproduction of this article may be used without the express written permission of the author.
Links to this article are encouraged.

Newsletters

Select Newsletter by Issue or Topic:

Genealogy HowTo
Issue: Aug 16, 2016

Surprising Genealogical Gems in the 1850-1940 U.S. Censuses

by Cynthia Carman

There are many genealogical clues to dates, relationships, and places in the U.S. censuses that researchers often miss. I know I have missed some gems. That meant I had to once again look up the same census page to find an important piece of data I had missed the first time. I finally developed two census checklists to help keep myself organized or should I say less forgetful.

I believe the censuses are the keys to unlocking some of our greatest research mysteries. Since each census asked different questions, we can gain greater information by searching every census in which our ancestor might appear. The additional gems of information about your ancestor could provide answers that can't be found anywhere else.

Census Checklist U.S. 1850-1940
The first census checklist I developed helps me keep track of the censuses I have searched for each of my ancestors. It's handy because I know, if a box is marked for a census year, I can look in that ancestor's image directory for a screen shot of that census page.

Making a screen shot image of the census page saves me research time. Here is how you can make an image of the census page on which your ancestor appears.

  1. Display the census page which has your ancestor on it.
  2. Make the display full screen so that the census information for your ancestor is in the middle of the screen.
  3. Using the image sizing slider of the website at which you are viewing the image, size the image so that the image is readily readable and the whole line for your ancestor and the family in which he resides fits tidily on the display.

    The display will frequently include the neighbors living adjacent to your ancestor's family. It is handy to have this reference to neighbors because if there are problems finding your ancestor in the next census, you can search for the neighbors, then look to see if your ancestor is next door. Also, it may happen that the neighbors are related in some way to your ancestor.

  4. If you are using a PC, press the "Print Screen" key on your keyboard. This will save a screen shot image of what is displaying on your screen to the clipboard in your computer. MAC keyboards do not have a "print screen" key. To create a screen shot of the census image using a MAC, hold the Command key and type Control and Shift and 3, and the captured screen shot will be saved to the MAC clipboard.

  5. On a PC open the Paint program; click the paste button from the top menu. The screen shot that you saved will appear in the Paint program. Scroll down so you can see all of the census image that you captured and click select.

    The MAC application for image editing would be either "Preview" or iPhoto. Paste into this application. It is necessary to save a copy first before editing, because changes to the original using "Preview" sometimes cannot be reversed.

  6. At this point you could go ahead and save the image as a screen shot or you could "crop" the image to get rid of the irrelevant parts of the image like the browser frame, etc. To crop the image: Using your mouse select the part of the image that includes the header of the census image, your ancestor and their family, and neighboring families if possible. Then click the crop command.

  7. Save the image as a jpg, naming it in a meaningful way so you will know what the image is just by reading its title.

Where do I find census images?
In recent years there have been several websites that have boasted census images as part of their offerings. Many include an every name index to help users locate the census image that contains their ancestor. Most people think of Ancestry.com as the "go to" site for census images and indexes, but I find using a combination of sites gives the best research results. I like that Ancestry.com allows free searching of the census, but the viewing of the images is only for paid members. The 1880 census and the 1940 census images at Ancestry.com can be viewed without a paid membership.

FamilySearch.org has created tables of the websites both free and fee-based that include the display of the US census images. After clicking the link above, scroll down, find the state for which you would like to search the census, and click it.


The list at FamilySearch.org does not contain all of the census images and indexes available on the web, and listing them here is beyond the scope of this article. This article is about the gems you can glean from researching the 1850-1940 U.S. Censuses. Other censuses, including the 1790-1840 censuses, the mortality schedules, veteran schedules, state censuses, slave schedules, Indian Censuses, Agricultural Censuses, and censuses from other countries and time periods will be featured in future newsletters.

Genealogical Gems Research Checklist
The second census research checklist that I created provides a list of the most helpful information in each of the censuses. There are more census items that I could have included in my checklist, but the census gems I have listed on my table have helped my research again and again.

What are the Genealogical Gems from the U.S. Censuses 1850-1940?

  1. Names of every member of the household and relationships to the head of the house. You have really found a gem when you find a person identified as a mother-in-law, brother-in-law, or sister-in-law living with a family. The surname of the in-law would be a good clue as to the maiden name of the wife. Though the 1850-1870 censuses do not state relationships implicitly many relationships can be implied by how they are listed. Enumerators were instructed to list first the father, then the mother, then the children beginning with oldest first, then any other person living in the house, like laborers, boarders, servants, etc.
  2. Ages listed on the census are not always accurate, but they are gems you can use to calculate an approximate birth year, and they can help you identify your ancestor from census year to census year. if a male ancestor's age in the 1920 census is between 20 and 48 it would mean they could be found in the World War I Draft registration cards. These cards may contain many genealogical gems about your ancestor. If your ancestor is born between April 1877 and February 1897, they would have been required to register for the WWII selective service registration in 1942, if they were still living at that time. This listing is sometimes called the "old man's registration". This targeted men in 1942 who were between the ages of 18 and 65 and who were not already in the military.
  3. Place of birth gem includes the places of birth of the respondent's mother and father. This gem has often helped me find the respondent in previous census years. I look especially to see if the mother's or father's birthplace are unique in some way or perhaps is a foreign country. A gem like that can enhance the chance that a researcher can identify the respondent with their parents in a previous or future census year.
  4. Marital Status is a gem especially in the 1900 and 1910 census which gives the "number of years married". This gem can help you to calculate an estimated marriage year so you can narrow the time frame of a possible marriage record. Also if the marital status says the respondent was widowed, it is a good clue to search for a death, obituary, or cemetery record for the spouse of the respondent. Another marriage date gem is found particularly in the 1850-1880 census. It is the "if married that year" box. If checked, this gem would perfectly pinpoint the marriage date to that census year. In the 1910 census the respondent was also to indicate how many times they had been married. If the M in this field was followed by a 2, it would compel a researcher to search for a previous marriage. Along the same lines of thinking, the 1930 census had a column labeled "age at first marriage". This is a gem because if the marriage year calculation is different between the husband and wife, it implies there is another marriage record to find.
  5. Number of children born and number still living was only asked in the 1900 and 1910 census. Hopefully the number matches the number of children you have listed for this couple; if not, you will need to dig deeper to find the missing children.
  6. Naturalization and Immigration dates can put the researcher in a great spot for that giant overseas research hurdle.
  7. Occupation listings point a researcher to occupational societies records with more data about their ancestor. Also, a unique occupation can help you identify ancestors in other census years. Even the occupation "farmer" can be a hint that the ancestor may have owned land and therefore a search of land records would be a high priority.
  8. Value of Real Estate is another clue to look at land records, probate records, homestead records, and tax records. Many times land and probate records will contain the wife's name, and there are numerous occasions where a close relative was a participant in the land transaction either as a witness to the transaction or as a purchaser or seller of the real estate.
  9. Military Service questions on the census should lead a researcher to search for the military service record of the respondent or better yet a pension file. Even the destroyed 1890 census can provide valuable gems of information about military service in the 1890 veteran schedules which survived.

For a more detailed discussion about the census I suggest reading this pdf put out by the U.S. Census Bureau called "Measuring America: The Decennial Censuses From 1790 to 2000". This Census Bureau article includes the instructions that were given to the census takers (enumerators) for each census.

Download MyTrees.com's newest census checklists and research guides for the U.S. Census. Download census schedules headings for reference under the "Resources/Free Forms" menu item at MyTrees.com's

Copyright © 2016 Cindy Carman. All rights reserved.
No printed reproduction of this article may be used without the express written permission of the author.
Links to this article are encouraged.

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