Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Census Search Trick - Drop The Last Name

As I described in yesterday's Madness Monday post, I've been focusing my efforts on my Lehive line, namely John Lehive b. 1833 in Ireland who was my 3rd great-grandfather.

While I had searched about all I could for John and his son John Jr., I decided to start looking to the other children of John Lehive for clues. Although some may think this is a waste of time, very often an elderly parent can be found living with one of the children or there may be other valuable clues in reading census records for those who were your great aunts and uncles.

While looking for Dennis Lehive who was last noted in the 1900 census living in Rosendale, Ulster County, New York, I seemed to hit a wall. There were no records past 1900 - or so Ancestry's census database would lead me to believe.

So I tried using surname variations as well as wildcard searches (with Lee* and Leh* for the surname) but to no avail. So, I tried dropping the last name - and it worked!

I need to qualify that further. I felt I had enough information (first name, residence state and county, birthplace and year of birth) that I could find my Denis without the last name. So using the criteria below:

I was able to find my Dennis list in the 1930 census as Dennis Lechrie:

Using my wildcard search of Leh* and Lee* would not have found this record while my "no surname" search did. Of course, the culprit here is the person who indexed the record. Perhaps it is just me - and because I've been so immersed in the research of the Lehive/Leehive surname - but it doesn't look like Lechrie on the original:


For the 1920 census, the record appeared as Lehigh which is a common error with the Lehive surname:

And sure enough, in checking the original, the offender this time is the census enumerator who perhaps "heard" Lehigh:


And finally, for the 1910 census, the record appears indexed as Shive:

And in looking at the original, since it is blurry and the handwriting is obscured, I can't blame the indexer for reading it as Shive and not Lehive:


For each of the above records I did submit additional/corrective information. I do this not so much to improve Ancestry's product but more as a RAOGK so that others researching the Lehive line won't have to struggle the way I did.

So try this search trick out the next time you are stuck and feel one of your ancestors is hiding in the census forest. Of course, this trick won't work every time. I was lucky in my assumption that Dennis Lehive stayed in Ulster County, New York and did not move down to New Jersey like his father, his siblings and even his oldest son. I had enough information for me to find these records rather quickly by disregarding the surname and using what I already knew about Dennis Lehive.


[1] 1930 US Census, NARA, (http://www.ancestry.com), accessed March 30, 2009, citing Census Place: Kingston, Ulster, New York; Roll: 1655; Page: 8A; Enumeration District: 26; Image: 432.0.

[2] 1920 US Census, NARA, (http://www.ancestry.com), accessed March 30, 2009, citing Census Place: Kingston, Ulster, New York; Roll: T625_1271; Page: 7A; Enumeration District: 156; Image: 57.

[3] 1910 US Census, NARA, (http://www.ancestry.com), accessed March 30, 2009, citing Census Place: Rosendale, Ulster, New York; Roll: T624_1085; Page: 16B; Enumeration District: 160; Image: 931.

(Note: source citations have been withheld for purposes of readability. They are available upon request.) I am including endnotes for this post - please see To Cite or Not To Cite for a discussion on source citation and blog post readability.


Jewelgirl said...

I agree the first name trick does
work well if you know about where you might find a certain branch of your family. Especially if you have surnames like Johnson or Smith.

wendy said...

I have been doing this while searcing out my GOUL ancestors. Variations on spelling worked to a point but then I was finding "Govil", "Gvil", "Gonl" - mostly because of the transcriber because to me it looks like Goul! Great tip for everyone!

Elizabeth said...

I've used this trick for my DELANEY ancestors and others. I've also had success (sometimes) using the wife's or kids' names. These people are well-hidden.