Are you having a challenge with researching one of your ancestors? Have you widened your search to include siblings and children? Sometimes this can lead you straight back to discovering more about your ancestor. One way to begin a sketch of ancestors’ lives is to follow them and their entire family group each census year. The clues that you find can link you to additional records.
Use the US Census Tracker to record the names of each family group beginning in 1940 or with the most recent census where they first appear. Trace each family member back every census year until they no longer appear. Mark the age recorded on the census each year that you locate them. Using this tool will ensure that you do not miss searching for all of the extended family members each year that they would have been enumerated.
This will give you a feel for who is living where and with whom. Pay close attention to neighbors, property owners, and places of birth for starters as these details become useful later as you work to glean more information from different record types.
Stay focused on the research question you are trying to answer, and record the places (city, county/parish, state) where your family lived. The eventual quest will be for records that hold the answers that you seek, but you must understand that records are tied to the location where they were generated. This is why tracing your family on the census every ten years is helpful.
Searching the census in this manner may bring attention to members of the family that were never discussed. Sometimes there were children who died before maturity, but were enumerated on the census.
On the 1900 US Census a child, Mamie Vance, appears, however, neither of the Vance descendants remember her. This is also the only census where Lafayette appears with his wife, Nunia. She died this same year after their daughter, Laura, was born.
Ancestors can also show up married to different spouses that you had no knowledge of beforehand. You will come to understand the birth order of children and any naming patterns that may have existed.
Using the census tracker will help you to understand that of all the details provided on the census ages are among the least accurate (names and spellings of names vary too). Ages can vary for many reasons. Some are:
ages were changed to qualify for work or military service