By Barry J. Ewell
When things are not clear and you are having difficulty finding your family in a census, expand the search by creating a picture of the community. Ask yourself the following questions:
- Who were the neighbors?
- Were there others with the same surname in the community?
- Compare family naming practices. Are there unique middle names that are actually related surnames?
- Who was named in whose will?
- If the court house burned, maybe the newspaper didn’t
- Check the records of the county institutions, poor farm, orphanage, jail, prison and hospital
- Finding and reading local histories are always helpful
- Not all of these histories are academically correct but they can provide clues about a community’s problems, its churches and politics
- Build a checklist for each generation by looking for records that include
- Military pension
- Vital records
- All forms of court records
- Land records
- First and middle names
- Use the census to calculate the birth year of your ancestor
- Be careful with age in the census
- Focus on location