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Census Uses – How to look up an ancestor

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    Last Updated: July 22nd, 2008

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    Census Uses, How to look up an ancestor:

    There are now some wonderful tools for use in finding your ancestors, that can mean the difference in many cases between learning and not learning who came before you in your family, but they are sometimes difficult to sort your way through? Whats the best way to go about finding your ancestors using the census reports? There are basically three ways that will help you to find what you’re looking for, each of those involving a knid of index to elp you sort out which microfilms will offer the right records for your purposes, those being, soundex, book index and electronic index.

    Soundex classifies the names based, not on spellings of those names, but on the sounds in the name instead. Assigning a number to each consonant that takes place in the alphabet, it then assigns a code to the name based on the first letter of that name and the numbers that are assigned to the first three consonants that are in the name. What that means is that names that you pronounce in the same way, such as Smith, Smyth and Smythe are all going to be lumped together in the same areas.

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    There are soundexes for the 1880, 1900 and 1920 census’ those being grouped by state, and sorted using the soundex code but they are also additionally alphabetica by the last name and first name. Some of them however are only partially complete. They will offer yousome very basic information, which is a place to start, but they will also give you a place to find the full records, so that you know where to find the right roll of microfilm for your purposes.

    The other types of census information, such as book indexes are more straightforward and will offer you information on where a particular person was living, but not just that, also what the relationship in the family was.

    From year to year, the questions that the census asked changed greatly but there are many of them that genealogists are interested in, such as since 1850 all census’ will give the name of each member of the household, what their relationship is, what their age, gender and race was, as well as their place of birth which is often a wonderful clue to finding other family members. In some cases the census also asked questions such as which family members were ill, had polio, were “mad” or “insane” which while not always overly helpful, is interesting to note. The census went house to house, and as such, also helps you to find other family members that you may not have known existed. It will often help you to be able to backtrack for instance to find a certificate of birth anmd sometimes, to find other family members.

    Since very often families lived close to each other, finding other records on a particular street in the census may help you to find lost brothers or sisters of your ancestors and in many cases living relatives of those who may have information to help you.

    One of the most positive aspects of the ability to search online has been the advent of many of the census being placed online for your perusal. Searching the online indexes can vastly speed the process of finding relatives, particulary when you live in an area that is far removed from the place you are trying to search, making it difficult to do in person but easily accomplished from your home computer.

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    1 Comment

    1. #1
      Joseph P. McCarthy
      October 12th, 2010 at 1:39 pm

      I want to see the census of 1920 Lackawana County Pennsylvania
      How do I do that as a member.

      Post ReplyPost Reply

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