Genealogy: Search strategies for finding names in the census and other resources

Search strategiesBy Barry J. Ewell
When I began my genealogy research, I would only search indexes of books, online databases, and related records for my surname Ewell exactly was it was spelled with no other variation.  Since then I have found my name spelled in over a hundred different ways.  Resources that I had discounted as not having any record of my family, I have gone back and found information that was there but just under a different spelling.  Searching your ancestors name in indexes and records is a skill.  Searching your ancestors name in the census, indexes and records is a skill.  I would like to share with a few of the lessons I have learned to create a search strategy for finding your ancestors names. Continue reading

Genealogy: When you can’t find your ancestor in the census

Find Your AncestorsBy Barry J. Ewell
Is there a chance the census taker missed you family in the census?  Possibly, but not likely. There could be a number of reasons why you are not finding your family in the census.  For example, your ancestor

  • May not have given the right answers to questions because they just didn’t know the answer
  • Wasn’t home and the census taker asked a neighbor for the information
  • Gave intentionally gave the wrong answer

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Genealogy: Searching ancestors in census substitutes

Census SubstitutesBy Barry J. Ewell
If you are having a challenging time finding individuals on actual census schedules (federal, state, or local), remember that there other record groups (census substitutes) that could prove to be quite useful.  These records tend to systematically list individuals for particular geographic areas during specific time periods.

The more challenging U.S. censuses are the 1790 to 1840 where the head of household is the only name that is listed with members of the household in the home the day of the census (e.g., family, relatives, boarders, friends, neighbors, servants, slaves) under age and other categories.

Even if you find your ancestor in the census, it could still be a good idea to look for these types of records to help expand your knowledge about your ancestor in the geographic area where they lived.

The types of records you can search for include:

Church records
Collection listsLists of paupersMembership listsPew rents
Rate rollsSubscription lists
Legislative records
Court records
Appointments of Justices of the peaceCommissions of officialsFreemen admissionsJury attendance lists
Jury pay listsLists of attorneysLists of constablesLists of freeholders
Lists of gamekeepersLists of jurorsLists of rejected votersLoyalty oaths
Oaths of allegianceOaths of officePoll booksRegister of freemen
Register of intended votersVoters’ listsVoters’ register
Land records
Debt booksEntries platsGround rentsHeadright claims
Heir listsImmigrant land allowancesInquisitions Devises’ listsLand grant lists
Lists of indentured servantsLotteriesPerambulationsPermits to settle
Plat mapsProcessioning listsQuitrentsSuspended land grants
Militia records
Casualty listsEnlistmentsEnrollmentsLists of males over age 16
Lists of recruitsSubstitutesLists of rejected menMilitia lists
Muster rollsMuster-in rollsMuster-out rollsPayrolls
Troop returnsWagoners’ rolls
Miscellaneous records
Lists of midwivesLists of physiciansLists of strangersManumission lists
Orphans’ registerPrisoners of warRegister of free NegroesRegister of prisoners
Register of slavesRegister of unmarried persons
School Lists
Attendance listsExamination listsMatriculation listsPupil lists
Subscription ListsTeacher listsTuition lists
Tax rolls
Assessors’ listsPersonal propertyPoll taxReal estate


Genealogy: Understanding the use of Jr. and Sr. in 1800’s naming practices

yes no mayabeBy Barry J. Ewell
I was searching the census and came across a two family listings where there was a John Jones Sr. and John Jones Jr. The Sr. was 15 years older than the Jr.  My first assumption was that John Jr. was the son of John Sr. even though their ages were only 15 years apart so I combined the families. Ouch!! I was wrong.  Yes they had the same name, but that was close as the relationship got.

I have seen many situations where genealogists have made the same mistakes I made in misidentifying relationships and combining data of different persons.  During the 1800’s “Junior” (abbreviated as Junr. Jun, Jr) and “Senior” (abbreviated as Senr. Sen., Sr.) were used as nicknames when two men in the community had the same name.  Yes, John Jones Jr. could have been the son of John Jones Sr. or a John Jones, but I have learned it takes a little more confirmation with additional records before I make the link.  Consider this, the older John Jones could have been a sibling, half-brother, cousin, uncle or not even related.

Consider this situation; there are three John Jones in the community that are not related.  John Jones 1882 referred to as Sr., John Jones 1897 referred to as Jr. and John Jones 1907. John Jones 1882 dies leaving John Jones 1897 and John Jones 1907.  To elevate the confusion between the two John Jones 1897 is now Sr. and John Jones 1907 is now Jr.   The point I am making is simple, before you rush to connect family with Sr./Jr. next to their names, do your very best to confirm relationships with multiple records such as wills, church, and vital records.