Genealogy census tip: Searching census with online/database search engines

Database searchBy Barry J. Ewell
When you are searching family in online census databases such as Ancestry.com, FamliySeach, and MyHeritage, I have found it valuable to use a variety of search strategies to make sure I have thoroughly searched the census record.

  • Geographically limit your search area
  • Search on last name only if rare (or with geographical limitations if more common)
  • Search on last name with identifiers (age range, sex, race, place of birth, occupation, etc.)
  • Search on given name only with geographical limitations
  • Search on given name only with identifiers and geographical limitations
  • Search on another name in that household
  • Search on another name that should be listed nearby in that census year
  • Search on names with wildcards (rules for wildcard use and results returned vary)
  • Search phonetically (via Soundex)
  • If your family lived in a rural area, read the census pages line by line
  • Check the census pagination. Sometimes pages are missing or out of order
  • Search the state census, families may have been missed when the federal census but be in the state census

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