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Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Part 2: Why Should I Search the Census Every Ten Years?

The first article in this series concluded with explaining age discrepancies on the census. This article will continue proving the case for an extensive search of the census. As a reminder, the 1890 Census is only available in fragments.
Birth order
One of the most useful but less obvious benefits from the census is that it can help you understand the birth order of the siblings of your ancestor. Why is birth order so important? Suppose your female ancestor was born in 1881. She would not appear on a census until 1900. By then she could be married, and without a maiden name it is more difficult to locate parents.
So now how would you proceed to find her parents? Here are a two scenarios:
  • If you know the names of any older siblings, search the census for them in 1880 to hopefully find their parents.
  • Search the death certificates of each of the siblings to see if the parent’s names are mentioned.
Knowing the birth order of children is also important because as you research earlier census records, you may discover more children at home or children enumerated by a nickname. This can get confusing especially if you find children your family never mentioned. The birth order helps you to identify which children you have recorded and which children are new discoveries for you. Census records prior to 1850 only the name the head of household, so birth order becomes even more significant.
Opening up lines of research
Widen the search to include children and siblings. This stumps many family historians in their research: You are looking for your ancestor’s parents and you come to a dead end researching the child directly related to you. Spend more time researching the all the children in the previous generation. Stop and consider this: Your ancestor’s brother or sister may be easier to document. Switch over to researching them. A death certificate or marriage record could possibly lead to your ancestor assuming they had the same parents.
As you search the census, look to open up more avenues of research by paying close attention to each member in the family group. Also, search the descendants in each generation coming forward to see if any are also compiling a history of your family. Be quick to share when they express interest in your work. This will keep your well from running dry as you research. See How to Find Descendants in the United States


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