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Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Finding Female Ancestors through the censuses

As you know, finding female ancestors after the age at which they might marry is difficult.  I've found a couple of techniques that sometimes bring results.


I'm a paying members of Ancestry.com and do a lot of census research there.  One of the things I do is to following an ancestor from birth to death through the censuses; or try to.  Even in the case of male ancestors, it isn't always straightforward.  People move.  People get missed on the censuses.  Pages can be missing from some censuses.  Men join the military.


In the case of female ancestors, it's more difficult because, when they marry, they lose their birth identity.  But, it's not impossible.


Because so much of my ancestry is in New York state, this process works better than it might elsewhere.  New York research has the advantage of having the US censuses and the NY state censuses occurring every 10 years on alternate fifth years; the US census is taken every decade on the tenth year, the NY state census was taken every decade 5 years between (05, 15, 25, 35, etc.).  So, in New  York, it's possible to find ancestors every 5 years.  Unhappily only a vary few fragments of New York state censuses have been transcribed online.  It's necessary to go where they are, on microfilm, in a library or archive.


Don't forget that from 1840 backward, only heads of households are named on the US censuses, the rest of the family members are only identified by gender and age range.  So, this process will work on the US censuses only from 1850 forward.


So, here's something to try:


 - Find your female ancestor as early as you can find her on a US census.  Before she's 10 is best; the earlier the better.


 - If she's older than 10 on the 1st census you find her, calculate her age at 10 years younger and go to the next older census.  Example, Sarah Whatever is 12 on the 1860 census.  Make a note of that, fill in a blank 1860 census sheet.


 - Search the next older census, 1850, for her.  12 in 1860, 2 in 1850, give or take a couple of years.  (ancestors are notorious for confusing ages and birth dates affect the actual age recorded.)  Find her?  Make a note of the information on that census, fill in a blank 1850 census form.  


Now you have found Sarah on 2 census, 1850, 2 years old, 1860, 12 years.  How old will she be in 1870?  22, give or take a couple of years.  Is it likely that she's still home, unmarried?  Take a look.


 - Search the 1870 census for Sarah Whatever?  Did you find her?  Sometimes, yes, they are there, still unmarried, still at home with their parents.  Not as likely as today, but still possible.  Sometimes you'll find a Sarah NewName in the household.  Is she the correct age?  Does she have a child born after the 1860 census?  Then this is probably Sarah Whatever married, visiting her parents home.  Sometimes her husband will be with her, same surname and you will have identified him and any existing children at the time.  Make a note, fill in a blank 1870 census form.  You should also fill in a blank Family Group form for her new family.  Didn't find her in her parent's home?


 - First, find Sarah's parents on the 1870 census.  Make notes, fill in forms.  Make a note of the page that you find them on.


 - Look at each household on that page, from top to bottom.  Do you see any wives named Sarah?  Is she the correct age?  Does she have any young children born after the previous, 1860, census?  Could that be the former Sarah Whatever?  If so, make notes and fill in blank forms.  If not:


Both sons and daughters often married but lived very near their parents or their spouses parents.  Sometimes even in the same house but in separate quarters.  On the census this means that the pages directly before the page on which the parents can be found, or directly after the parents are good possibilities for finding married children - next door or down the road.


 - In Ancestry, at the top of the census viewing window, on the right, are arrows to go to the previous or the next page.  Click on the left arrow to go to the previous page in the census.  Look for a Sarah there.  Did you find a possibility?  If not:


 - Click on the right arrow on the page you're viewing to return to the original page where Sarah's parents are found.  Now, click on the right arrow again to visit the next page after Sarah's parents.  Do you find a Sarah there, possibly with a young child or children?  Could that be your Sarah?  Make a note, fill in forms.  Didn't find her?


 - Here's my next attempt.  You know her given name, Sarah.  You have a good idea of her probable age on the 1870 census.  Search the 1870 census, same state, same county, for a Sarah, surname blank, fill in an age range of 5 years.  You'll find a list of many Sarahs.  This works best for less common names.  If you have a middle initial or middle name, it helps.  Scan through the list of Sarahs, for those closest in age and those in the same town.  Click on those that look promising.  Remember I said to make a note of the page where you found Sarah's parents?  How near to that page are any of the Sarah you've found in that town?  Make a note of any that are possible, with the names of their husbands and any children and the page on which you found them.  You may or may not have found her.  You can then try the following:


 - If you've identified a few Sarahs that might be the one you're looking for, and, if you've identified a husband, you can try this.  Go to your favorite search engine (I prefer Yahoo) and type in Sarah's married name and her husbands name in the search window.  What comes up?  Sometimes, a marriage record will surface, on a historical society's web site, on a personal family history web site.  You never know.  If that doesn't work type Sarah's maiden name and her possible husband's name in the search window.  See what shows up in that search.


Those are a couple of things I try, at first, to find married female ancestors.


Have a good day.  More later.

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