The following article is from the Ancestry Daily News and is (c) MyFamily.Com. It is re-published here with the permission of the author. Information about the Ancestry Daily News is available at Ancestry
Locating individuals in census indexes is fairly easy when their names are spelled correctly. Generally, all that is necessary is the knowledge of the alphabet (if using a print index) or the ability to type the name correctly into a search box. The difficulty comes when the name is spelled incorrectly, either in the index or on the actual record itself. Additional problems come into play when it is not known exactly where the ancestor lived. In reality, genealogists are constantly confronted with names that are misspelled or that have been misinterpreted. I knew that my Enoch Tinsley lived in Rush County, Indiana from the 1830s until his death after 1860. I wanted to locate him in the AIS census indexes so I could obtain the actual census image to learn more about him and his family. I had ready access to the indexes via the Internet and did not have ready access to the census images. I wanted to use the AIS census indexes to make the best use of my time with the census when I did get to view the census records. I typed Enoch Tinsley in the search box for the AIS census indexes, hoping to find entries for 1840 through 1860. Genealogy is so easy—type, click, and, viola, instant ancestors. Not. The search located Enoch Tinsley in the Rush County, Indiana census for 1860. There were no entries for any other year. Enoch should be listed in 1840 and 1850 as well. Could I find him in the indexes? Try Soundex Options I performed the search for Enoch Tinsley in Indiana again, this time using the Soundex option. No results. Enochs in Rush County? Enoch is not the most common first name. Why not just search for men with that first name in Rush County, Indiana in 1850? That's what I did. One of the matches was an Enoch Linsley in the 97th District. I decided not to spend any more time on the 1850 indexes until I had checked this entry—maybe when I see the image I will think the name looks like Tinsley instead of Linsley. Two out of the three, and I haven't broken a sweat. This census stuff is really easy. I'll try the same "trick" (err . . . technique) for Enoch in 1840. I searched the AIS database again, this time putting in the first name of Enoch for Rush County, Indiana in 1840. No results. Maybe it's not as easy as I thought. Did They Move Around? One option would be to actually view the 1840 census record itself. But while viewing the census records is next on my list of research goals, I wanted to try one more technique in my attempt to locate Enoch in the 1840 census index. I "knew" Enoch was in Rush County in 1840, and while he might have moved around the county, I hoped he had stayed close to some of his neighbors during any possible move. There was a reasonable chance that some of Enoch's neighbors in 1850 were his neighbors in 1840 as well. I decided to search the 1840 census index for those individuals who were listed on the same page as Enoch in the 1850 census. Getting Enoch's Neighbors in 1850? A great idea, but how am I going to get a list of Enoch's neighbors in 1850 without viewing the actual census itself? This is where the searchable database is preferable to the printed version (although the printed version also has its benefits). I went back to the search page for the AIS databases and entered in the following search terms: County: Rush State: IN Page: 381 Year: 1850 I received 16 matches and had the names of all the heads of household that appeared on page 381 of the Rush County, Indiana census. Enoch Linsley was listed (as he should have been), as was a William Linsley. William was a possible relative, not to mention an example of why I should have viewed the entire page even if I wasn't trying to use it to locate Enoch in 1840. I then searched for the names from page 381 of the 1850 Rush County, Indiana census in the 1840 census index for Indiana. Of the sixteen names from the 1850 census page, I located four living in Richland or Anderson townships in Rush County. Two of the individuals were listed on page 157 of Richland Township. This seemed like the page I should try first. So I conducted a search of the AIS databases using the following search terms: County: Rush Year: 1840 State: IN Page: 157 There were thirty names on that page, one of which was E. B. Teresley—a possibility. I still need to read the actual census record in order to view the ages of the children to determine if this individual could be my Enoch. Another Interesting Note One of the individuals listed on the same page as Enoch in the 1850 census was an Eliza Anderson. She could not be located in the 1840 census index. However, when I viewed all the entries on page 157 in 1840 (the page on which a likely Enoch and two others from page 381 in 1850 are listed), I noted a Nathan Anderson. I wondered if Nathan was potentially Eliza's husband and if he was deceased in 1850. I'm not certain, but based upon the fact that three of Eliza Anderson's 1850 neighbors were Nathan Anderson's 1840 neighbors, it seems like a reasonable hypothesis. Indexes Replace the Records? Absolutely not! After all, there is additional information on the actual census records itself. My research is far from complete just because I located potential matches in the indexes. In fact, I'm only getting started when I've finished with the index. I need to view the actual census records, analyze that information, and compare it with other information that has already been located. If I had not "located" Enoch by creatively using the indexes, I could have read the entire 1840 census for Rush County, Indiana and manually viewed every name. It is still an option (just not the faster one). It has long been suggested that researchers should try searching for their ancestors' neighbors. This technique is still very appropriate. In some cases, technology has made it easier for genealogists to do that. I've most likely found my Enoch in the census. Now I just need to find his marriage record. If only I knew whose door he "knocked" on to get his marriage license!
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