By Barry J. Ewell
Usually the census enumerators were given a map the districts they were to cover and the households included in census are mostly in the order they were visited which gives us a very good understanding of who the neighbors were.
Because the census is organized in order of households visited, you can begin to build the circle of influence for your ancestors. Make it practice to always record at least six to ten families before and after the listing of your family. Are they the same family? Members of the same congregation? Friends?
Are the given names similar among the neighbors and your family? Similar names run in families. This might be a clue that they are more than just neighbors.
It has been my experience that neighbors, even when they don’t share the same name are related. Look for the neighbors being the wife’s parents, sister of the husband, siblings of the wife, aunts and uncles and so forth.
Often neighbors move with neighbors. If you can’t follow family or find the family in the census, see if you can follow neighbors. When I couldn’t find my ancestors in location, I have searched on the names of know neighbors to find my family. Make sure you include the names of neighbors in your family profile.
See the article, “Learn about the neighbors in census research.”
- Search and extract information on persons with the same surname
- Keep a research log and cite your sources
- Misspelled names are ok
- Finding missing ancestors