USING FEDERAL CENSUS RECORDS
This seems to be a fairly basic tool for
I myself, must confess that I don't use it as much as I should and I don't rely
completely on it either.
There are persons who rely mainly on it for their research.
I think I have just found too many errors or exclusions in the census for my taste.
I am a skeptical person which in most cases helps in research. If I find an error in
a piece, I am usually looking for another and it also casts doubt on the rest of the
file,piece or article. Throws it all into question.
Although the census was started in 1790 and continues every 10 years to measure the
density and geographic distributing of people, there are some things you should remember
about the census.
You must be very careful when using census records, however. They can be at once informative
and helpful, as well as misleading or downright incorrect. There are four things you should
always remember when working with census records:
<LI>1. Census records' content is only as good as the person who enumerated the people and recorded
the information. Your ancestral family may have been the victim of a lazy or uncommitted enumerator.
The enumerator may have been tired and may not have wanted to trudge down the road to your great-grandfather's
farm or up five flights of stairs in your urban great-grandfather's apartment building. Instead, he may have
asked a neighbor, "Hey, do you know the people who live there?" If the answer was yes, the enumerator might
have then asked this person (and not a member of your ancestor's family) all the questions required to complete
the schedule form.
2. Census records' contents are only as good as the person who provided the information. Even if the census
enumerator visited the family, he may have been greeted by a child or other family member, or even a servant,
who wasn't the best source for providing the information. As a result, the data may be incorrect.
3. People were seldom counted twice, but many were not counted at all. Enumerators sometimes missed homes,
people were sometimes away, some people avoided being counted, and some refused outright to participate.
4. Census enumerators recopied their work onto fresh forms and, in some censuses, made copies for state, county,
and/or local governments too. During the transcription process, errors may have been made. A birth date or an age
miscopied, a ditto mark (or the abbreviation "do" or "dto") used in the wrong place, an incorrect state of birth,
all these errors can conspire to point you in the wrong direction.
I have found persons who are listed with nicknames instead of given names, persons who even though I know alot of
the spelling was phonetic I have no idea how they arrive at certain combinations.
People who aged 14-20 years in 10 years, and in certain counties in KY I have found notices on a web page stating
that during a certain time frame, the taking of the census was delegated to certain officials who felt it was just
too much work and they didn't do it. I couldn't believe this upon first reading it, but it is true. So those census
are just not there.
There is one tip though if you do use the census records alot. Also copy down the 6 households on either side of the
ancestor you are searching.
I know, Why? Don't you have enough to do?
Because families often lived adjacent to or near other family members, such as parents, brothers, sisters, uncles, aunts,
etc. This will save you a trip back to the library.If this is your main medium of research you should gain the most possible
from your efforts.
Alot of persons use the census for finding ancestors, and in many cases there not listed. For those persons who depend on
the census, then the lack of an ancestor says to them that they weren't there.
In this case, for my line anyway, this would confirm what I have thought all along....
I was dropped here from an alien universe, because if my ancestors weren't there, then I couldn't be here.