Saturday, July 16, 2016

Success! Finding Wrongly Transcribed Names on Census Records, Part 2

A few months ago, I shared how I had some success finding wrongly transcribed names in census records by searching for neighbors instead of the people I was actually researching. I am also having success finding people by using "exact" searches without a last name. Here's an example:

The family of John M. and Matilda Boyers was located in Sumner County, Tennessee in 1830. In 1840 and 1850, they were found in Tishomingo County, Mississippi. The 1850 household included the parents, who were listed as ages 49 and 44, and eight of their younger children with ages ranging from 3 to 17.  Although it is possible the parents died before 1860, it is unlikely all of the children had also passed away. So, why couldn't I find them after 1850?

1850 U.S. Census, Tishomingo County, Mississippi, Southern Division, population schedule, page 93B & 94A, dwelling #117, family #117, John Boyres [sic] household; image, ( : accessed 9 July 2016), citing National Archives microfilm M432, roll 382.

Here's how I ran the search for an 1860 census record without using a last name:

  • On Ancestry, click "SEARCH" then "Census and Voters Lists"
  • In the right column, click on "1800s censuses"
  • In the right column, click on "U.S. Federal Census Collection"
  • Near the bottom of the page, click on "1860 United States Federal Census"
  • Then, fill in the search terms

I first tried one of the daughters, Lucinda, since her name is fairly uncommon:

  • First name: Lucinda and set to "exact"
  • Last name: [leave blank]
  • Birth Year: 1840 then click on "exact" and change to "+/- 5 years"
  • Birth Location: Mississippi, USA and set to "exact" for "this place"
  • Lived In: Tishomingo County, Mississippi, USA and set to "exact to this place"

Screen shot of Ancestry and the information I filled in

After clicking "SEARCH," only 11 results showed up. The 10th hit was for a "Lucinda Rogers," who was, in fact, my Lucinda Boyers!

1860 U.S. Census, Tishomingo County, Mississippi, Corinth Township, population schedule, page 469 & 470, dwelling #3168, family #3168, John N [sic] Rogers [sic] household; image, ( : accessed 11 July 2016), citing National Archives microfilm M654, roll 593.
The same steps worked using her brother, "David E," with changing the birth year to 1844. Even using the mothers name, Matilda, and choosing "lived in Mississippi" (not Tishomingo County) only got 8 hits and one of those was for Matilda Boyers/Rogers!

It really helps if you have rather unusual first names. And, though searching for the son, David, resulted in over 400 results when searching for "lived in Mississippi," by changing it to "David E" as it appears on the 1850 census, you decrease the number of hits to only 8.

Let me know if you try this technique and it helps you find one of your missing families!


  1. I sure do love it when the first names aren't the run of the mill John, Mary, James, etc. I've used this technique as well and it really works!

    1. It really helps to have not-so-common names. I should try it sometime with a more common name. It might work as long as long as you can put enough criteria to 'exact' & the census you are looking for was filled out similarly!


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