Monthly Archives: July 2014

Old School Census Records Can Sometimes Answer Questions

I was reminded last week that just because a person isn’t found in the census indexes on Ancestry, doesn’t mean they can’t be found in a census index; and ultimately found on the census.

Recently; I have been doing research for a client to find his ancestor’s father; whom we knew to be a man by the name of Terrance Smith.  His ancestor; Jacob Smith had been born in Woodford Co., KY in 1795.  An article published in a newspaper in 1891; while Jacob was still alive; gave his father’s name as “Tarrance” Smith.  The article even referred to Tarrance as having served during the War of 1812.  However; we knew nothing else about Terrance; and had no records of him.

Since we knew Jacob was born in Woodford County; that was the obvious place to begin the search.  I found the marriage of Terrance Smith and “Teny” Liter/Lyter in Woodford County.  We would later learn that her name was actually Christina”.  They had married in 1790.  Further research showed Terrance on the tax lists there through 1799.  However; he disappeared from Woodford County after the 1799 tax list.

Since we knew Terrance had served during the War of 1812; I knew he should appear on the 1810 census.  Jacob remained in Kentucky for many years before moving out of state when he was older.  This told me that I should find Terrance in Kentucky at the time of the 1810 Federal Census.  The 1810 census is the first census available for Kentucky.  I searched and searched; but could not find a Terrance Smith in Kentucky in 1810.  I tried every trick I know on Ancestry’s search engines; but could not find him.  Of course I knew to use the wildcard when searching; searching “Ter*” and “Tar*” for his first name.  I also tried the last name as “Smith”, “Smyth” and Smythe”.  Nothing turned up!  This was getting pretty aggravating!  I pride myself on finding the “hard to find” people in those records.  And; it was important to find Terrance on that census.  I needed to know where he had gone in order to try to learn more about him.

Finally; I decided I should check the old census index books at the library.  That turned out to be a very wise thing to do.  In the 1810 Kentucky census index book I found Terrance Smith.  He was in Washington County, Kentucky.  Since I now had the county and page number of the census; I was then able to view Terrance on that 1810 census.  I was also curious as to how his name was indexed in the ancestry census index.  So…. I searched for all Smith’s in Washington County in 1810.  Ancestry had someone listed as “Tananel” Smith.  Figuring this was Terrance; I clicked the link to view the image.  Sure enough; this was actually Terrance.

We must keep in mind that those people transcribing for Ancestry are not genealogists (although a few might research their history).  These are simply employees of Ancestry who are doing a job.  Many cannot read the old writing; and mistakes are often made.

Next time you have trouble locating an ancestor in the census records on Ancestry; be sure to check other census indexes before you give up!


Posted by on July 8, 2014 in Census, General Genealogy