Using the Census to find other records about ancestors

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Census Data Use census information to search other records
(Determines approximate birth year)
  • Find the family in the census closest to the birth year to learn where to search for the birth and other records.
  • Gaps in ages of children? 1) Could one have died? Search death, church, and cemetery records. 2) Could there be a second marriage and blended family? Search marriage records in the place the family lived in that time period.
Alien or Naturalized:
  • "NA" indicates the individual is naturalized. Look for Declaration or Intention and petition.
  • "Al" tells you the person has not started the process. Don't bother looking for the Declaration or other naturalization papers.
  • "P" or "PA" indicates that the first papers have been filed, but the process is not completed. Check for a Declaration or Intention.
Birthplace: Usually this is just a state or nation.
  • Find the family in the first census with the individual listed as a child, then search records in the area where they lived.
  • Used with ages of children,
    • Get an idea of when the family moved from one state to another. Search census, land, and other records of both areas.
    • If a second marriage is suspected, search marriages of both areas.
Birthplace of Father: This helps locate the father, and possibly the marriage record. It also determines a starting place to look for military or tax records for the father.
Birthplace of Mother: This helps locate the mother, and possibly the marriage record. It, along with the father\'s birthplace helps locate migration patterns for the family. If the family was homesteading, the mother may have moved home to live with her family to have a child.
Color: Racial indicators and skin color descriptors may be useful to locate families of various races.
Education, literacy: If the individual couldn't read or write, this may account for frequent misspellings of the name. Check for various spellings in documents.
Farm or house: This may lead to checking the agricultural census.
Home ownership: If the individual owned a home, search for land records, a will, a probate record, and tax records. Search these records even if the home was rented.
House, family, and dwelling number: This helps to determine if the family was living in an apartment or in a home with other friends or family members.
Languages: Languages of the individual or parents may specify a region in the country where the person lived.
Marital Status:

Check for "D"for divorce and "W" for widowed to check for probate, death, or divorce/court records.

Mother of how many children: This helps clarify the number of children born by a specific date.
Name: City Directories may be used to track the family's longevity in a specific area. Modern searches may be done on rare names to determine if family still lives there.
No. of these children living: Check deaths for children no longer living in all areas where the family lived. They may have also died as adults.
Number of years married: This may give an approximate marriage date.
Occupation: If this is a skilled occupation, such as tailoring or shoemaking, know that the individual likely had an apprenticeship where this skill was learned. This may have been learned from a parent or relative, or a close friend, usually around age 12-14. Also use the occupation to determine if you have the correct family when searching for common names. This may also lead to searching non-population schedules.
Year of Immigration: This is important for locating the Declaration of Intent. Locate the individual in the census following the year of Immigration to locate a possible place where first papers or a declaration was filed. Look at the county or state level prior to 1906. Look at the federal level after this date. After 1850s or later, the declaration lists the specific place of origin or birth.
Year of Naturalization: Naturalization papers seldom list the specific location where an ancestor came from. Often it is just an oath of allegience and lists only the country. It may list the location of declaration, or the year the declaration was filed.