A 19th century ancestor outlived his first three wives. His fourth wife survived him and married another man after his death. I thought the ancestor was only married four times, and figured I’d found all his wives.
Turned out that three year gap was just enough time for him to squeeze in another one who also died.
There may be room for just one more–check that chronology.
Variations in how your ancestor’s name was spelled can be endlessly frustrating. However, it’s worth remembering that a variation of how your ancestor’s name appears in an index can arise from a variety of situations:
- Your ancestor did not know how to spell his name
- Your ancestor could not read
- Your ancestor did not speak clearly
- Your ancestor had an accent with which the writer of his name was unfamiliar
- The clerk didn’t care
- The clerk had bad writing
- The transcriber could not read the name
- The transcriber did not care
- The transcriber made a typographical error
- The document has faded over time and is difficult to read
- Or something else
Keep in mind that one of more of these could explain why James Rampley ends up indexed as Jarvis Pample.
Stopping because you have located one record is never a good idea. By keeping on going, I discovered that an ancestor was divorced from the same man not once, but twice. By keeping on going, I also discovered that another relative’s first marriage “didn’t happen” and they were actually married two years later. Combine these unusual circumstances with the occasional record that gets entered or indexed late and you have even more reason to look for entries or documents “after you think you should.”
Is there a family you have not worked on in a long time because it’s already been “done?”
Review it to look for:
- citations that are missing or incomplete
- records that were never used at all
- records that weren’t used because they were not easy to access
- individuals who were not completely researched
New ancestors may not be discovered, but this can be an excellent way to discover there was an omission, a mistake, or colorful stories that went undiscovered–all because you thought the research was “done.”
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For every census there is supposed to be an official census date. It does not always work out that way as census takers cannot be at every home on the precise date of the census. While respondents were told to answer questions as of the census date, there is no doubt that some got confused and answered questions as of the date the census taker was at their home.
Sometimes the extra month (or two or three) did not change the answers.
But sometimes it did.
Pay close attention to those non-relatives in your ancestor’s census enumeration. While they could be non-relatives renting a room or hired hands to help with field work, it’s also very possible they are relatives who needed a place to land until they got settled.
Don’t just write those “other people” in an enumeration off as someone not worth researching. You could be missing out on making a connection.
A few reminders for those who need them:
- Are you backing up your files?
- Are there photographs you don’t have identified?
- Are there any relatives of whom you need to ask questions?
- Are there personal family photographs, papers, etc. of which you havehte only copy and that copy has not been digitized?
Every database, index, finding aid, etc. has one “pitfall.” There may be a small portion of records that are missing. There may be a location whose name is spelled wrong in the database. The search screen may not work quite like other search screens you use. Every name listed on every record may not be in the index.
If all you can think of are the “pros” it may be the “cons” that get you.
Being aware of pitfalls does not mean you are focusing on the negative. It means you are aware of the limitations of the finding aid.
And that makes you better able to use it appropriately.
The 1890 census is essentially destroyed. Only fragments remain.
As a genealogy exercise, pretend you are the census enumerator for your family and “take their census.” It may just get you thinking about some things you’ve never thought before when you fill in each and every blank for those who probably were living in your ancestral household in 1890.
There’s a blank modernized 1890 US schedule here.
While census enumerators didn’t ask for sources, it might be good to try and locate them when compiling your ancestral census record.
Our tongue-in-cheek “Complete 1890 Census Released!” can be found on our Rootdig blog.