Monday, September 19, 2016

Census "Trick" Works Again

Matthew Boyers, who was probably born in the 1750s, was living in York District, South Carolina in 1810, and in Sumner County, Tennessee in 1830. Although quite a few people have Matthew Boyers on their Ancestry family tree, no one had located him in 1820. So, I used one of my "tricks" and searched for Matthew without his last name.

I specifically searched the 1820 U.S. federal censuses for the following:
  • First name: "Matthew" with "sounds like," "similar," and "initials" checked
  • Lived in (1st search): "York County, South Carolina" in the field and marked as "exact to this place"
  • Lived in (2nd search): "Sumner County, Tennessee" in the field and marked as "exact to this place"

For South Carolina, only 22 results were found. I looked at a Matthew Biggers to make sure it wasn't transcribed incorrectly, but it looks like "Biggers" to me. None of the others looked like good candidates.

For Tennessee, there were 36 results. Several looked promising: Mathew Bayne, Mathew Boyne, and Mathew Rogers. Both Mathew Bayne, listed as 16 to 25 years old, and Mathew Rogers, listed as 26 to 44 years old, were too young. Mathew Boyne, however, was marked as "45 and over" which would be the correct age for Matthew Boyers.

1820 U.S. census, Sumner County, Tennessee, population schedule, Gallatin Township,  p.140 [printed], 10th family, Mathew Boyers household; image, Ancestry ( : accessed 18 September 2016), citing National Archives microfilm M33, roll 124.
After comparing the handwriting of the census enumerator to other entries, and comparing the household members to other years, I believe that the 1820 record transcribed on Ancestry as "Boyne" is actually "Boyers."


I do not know if Matthew Boyers is related to me or not. I am working on the hypothesis that he is the father of two of my direct ancestors:

  • John M. Boyers (~1801 in SC - ~1875 in TN) who married Matilda Dickson (~1805 - ~1875) 
  • Rachel Boyers (~1795 in SC - 1867 in Perry Co, TN) who married Joseph Dickson (1795 - 1898)
Both John and Rachel lived in Perry County, Tennessee for part of their lives. Perry County is where my Dickson ancestors lived.

Are you related to the Boyers family? Or do you have more information? I'd love to talk! Please leave a comment or email me at


  1. Thank you for sharing this. It's always good to learn a new method for finding ancestors hidden in the census records.

    1. Thanks, Linda. I still have people I cannot find in censuses, but I'm uncovering a lot more of them using some of these "tricks!"

  2. Great trick and it works even better with unusual first names such as those in my hubby's family (Zula is one example). Thanks for the reminder!

    1. Very true, Marian! I had originally added that to my post, but I guess I deleted it. It also helps if you are looking for more than one family member! But, in this case, it worked for just one, common name: Matthew.

      Best wishes as you search for your ancestors!

  3. So glad your tricked worked. Sometimes it works for me but other times it doesn't. It pays to have the trick up our sleeves for when it does work.

    1. Devon, it works for me sometimes and doesn't others, too. But, it sure can be useful for finding those elusive ancestors!

  4. I've found many 'missing' people (whose name was either recorded incorrectly in the census, or indexed incorrectly) when I researched the extended family. Often the 'missing' person was staying with grandparents, grandchildren, cousins, in-laws etc. And if I can't find someone in census indexes on FindMyPast (my preferred site) I try Ancestry.

    1. Judy, great points! If it is a single person that is missing, they are often with extended family. But, if it is an entire family you can't find, like this 1820 example, you might need to try some other research methods. By the way, in this 1820 example, Mathew Boyers was found where I expected him, so he should have been found doing a page by page search. I actually tried this, and must have skipped right over him! I think it would have helped if I'd been concentrating on his first name, Mathew, instead of his surname, Boyers.

      Also, I use for my primary searches. However, I have found success using Family Search when I can't find a family or person on Ancestry & it sometimes works! The transcriptions can be different and, therefore, help find these people and families. I haven't tried FindMyPast for censuses. I'll have to try that. Thanks!

    2. Yes, Dana, we need multiple tricks to overcome all the problems! Thanks for sharing yours. For British censuses I find that FindMyPast's indexes are usually better than Ancestry's, but there is an occasional exception. And if you report an error in the transcription, FindMyPast actually does something about it!

    3. Judy, that's good to know! You can also make changes to Ancestry's records and they show up. I'm not sure if you can make changes or suggestions to FamilySearch - I've never tried!


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