ANCESTRY'S GUIDE TO TEN CENSUS QUESTIONS
April 15, 2012
On Ancestry.com’s Learning Center, they have taken ten census questions and given explanations to possible leads you may have found already or could find. I have written their ten hints succinctly here, but you should study the Ancestry website for more on each question and search where it leads. Remember these points when you are hunting.
1. Free white males, free white females, other free persons and slaves: question appeared 1790-1840. Only heads of households were listed by names.
2. Street name and house number: appears on1880, 1900, 1930, 1940: Use these for searching directories to pinpoint the person. Add found information to a timeline to keep in front of you.
3. Age when person married and the length of marriage: This leads to earlier census records, other records and marriage records. A little math can determine a first or second marriage for either spouse. Compare children’s ages against the number of years the parents have been married and you might find a child from another marriage.
4. Mother of how many children and how many children living: Question asked in 1910. This leads to birth, death, church records and obituary records. This question led me to a mother who had given birth to two children. The surviving living children said there was only one and this surviving male said he was an only child. Catholic Church records revealed the mother had twins and one died on the second day after birth.
5. Place of birth 1850-1940, naturalization status (1900-1940) and immigration date (1920 census gives the day and year of immigration): These questions help in many ways. Passenger lists and immigration lists were not standardized until after September 1906. Be sure to check for each member of the family.
6. Owned or rented house, 1900-1930: This leads to land, tax and homestead records.
7. The age and gender of subject: This could lead to a search of military records because males 20-48 had to register because of World War I. Men 45-64 had to register in the fourth registration.
8. Military veteran or veteran of which war: This question appeared on the 1840, 1910, 1930, 1940 census. This naturally leads you to military and pension records plus the 1890 Veteran’s Schedules. These records were not ruined in the fire that destroyed the 1890 census. I have found some Revolutionary War soldiers on the 1840 census. It went on to ask the health of the veteran in addition to other noteworthy things.
9. The 1850-1880 census asks whether deaf, blind, insane, pauper or convict among others. The 1840 census asks this but does not give the name. Of course, this leads you to another census schedule referred to as the defective, dependent or delinquent schedule. If you are not familiar with the other schedules, please study these to find how they can help with your research.
10. Number ten on the Ancestry.com tips is about the name: Communities were small and couples usually married from within the neighborhood. By checking for the name to appear on pages four or five pages back and forward, you may find relatives. In hunting for parents of females whose maiden name you know, checking pages before and after might give clues to her relatives.
The saying goes that “old age isn’t for sissies.” Well, neither is genealogy. Use clues given above to do the search. If you think about it, the information found and added to a timeline is a beneficial tool.
Brenda Kellow has a bachelor's degree in history, teaches, and lectures on genealogy. Before retiring to publish her family’s histories in 2007, Brenda held certification as a Certified Genealogist and as a Certified Genealogical Instructor. Send reunion announcements, books to review, and genealogy queries to: TracingOurRoots@gmail.com.