Genealogy census tip: Focus on location

Map pin 3By Barry J. Ewell
In the census we are provided information such as the city, village, town, and borough and county where the family resides. This can help in defining geographic areas to search for family and records.

  • When you search location, try to find a map that shows the county/state boundaries at the time your ancestor lived there so you can make sure you research all possible record repositories.  For example, my ancestor Permitt Lee lived in Stanton County, Virginia in the late 1700’s part of which later becomes West Virginia.  When I expanded my research to West Virginia, I was able find new records never before known to the family.
  • Search for historical/genealogical society in the county to learn about community, records developed at the time you family lived in the area, connect with other genealogists who are researching the same surname, groups (i.e., church) to which your family belonged.
  • Use the location to look for resources such as churches, cemeteries, courthouses.
  • Use the location to identify locations of modern-day record repositories that are near the place you family lived (e.g., historical societies, genealogical societies, libraries, archives, court houses.)
  • If you can’t find your ancestor by name,try searching on the location with information you know about the person.  For example you know the wife was 45 living in Calvert County, Maryland in the 1850 census. Search the database for Female, age 35 (or age range 32-37) in Calvert county, Maryland.  Try using first name, marriage status, and/or age combinations with the location.  Search variations might include:
    • First name, sex (i.e. female), age, and location
    • First name, age range and location
    • First  name, age, marriage status (e.g., married) and location
    • Sex (i.e., female), age and location
    • Age and location
    • First name and location
  • See the article, “Changing boundaries affect where you find ancestor records.”

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