November 26, 2015

“Help! Why Is My Ancestor Listed TWICE in the Census?”

It’s a common problem to not find your family history in the census AT ALL. But what happens when you find them listed TWICE?

Ancestors Listed Twice in the Census

Donna recently wrote in with this head-scratching question: “Lisa, I love your podcast, and have been to several of your presentations, and lots of your webinars. You make everything seem like it is all within my reach. So when I came across this issue, I thought you’d be the perfect one to ask advice from.

“Like most of us…citing my sources has not always been the best.  So I decided to go back and redo my files, making sure that I have all the sources cited.  In looking at my husband’s family, I have found something weird.  Usually, I find that family is not included in the census, but have you ever found it where they are listed twice?”

She transcribed both 1910 census listings for Fred Dierks’ family with me, both in Whitman County, Washington (one in Harper Precinct and one in Colfax City). Then she wrote, “Not all the kids are in both households, but the younger ones are in both.  And both censuses are enumerated by different people. What do you make of this? What was the protocol for counting the same families in different locations? My family is from the South and I usually find them missing from censuses, not having them show up twice! How would you cite this?  Would you choose one and forget the other?  Or cite them both?  Or…?”

Really? An ancestor listed TWICE in the census?

Yes, this is very possible, and I have a case in my own family. Just this weekend a gentleman came up to me at a seminar and told me about a case in his family, and that his grandmother had birth certificates in not one, or two, but THREE different locations!

In the case of the census, there are a variety of reasons why you might find an ancestor listed twice in the census: owning more than one piece of property, living in one location and working as a domestic in another, or moving during the census-taking period, for example.

Without seeing the documents I can’t speak to Donna’s case specifically, but here are some suggestions for anyone who finds an ancestor listed twice in the census:

census informant 1940 census1. Look at the date each enumeration was taken.

2. For later censuses, look at who provided the information. In the 1940 census the informant is indicated by a plus sign with a circle around it. If there are two entries, each with a different informant, that might explain why the family didn’t realize they were counted twice. Unfortunately, in earlier census records it typically isn’t indicated who provided the information. (Click here for the census enumeration instructions for 1910, the year in question here.)

Ancestors listed twice in the census Meadow St

The street name (Meadow) shows up on one of this family’s listings in the census. Image from the 1910 census at

3. Compare the neighbors’ names and the street name in each listing: are they the same (evidence that both were taken at the same physical location) or different (evidence of different physical locations–or different routes taken in the same neighborhood that only overlapped by that household). This census image shows that the family lived on Meadow Street; the other listing doesn’t say (page backward to find the street name). But the next-door neighbors in both listings are different.

4. Look for an address for the family from that time period from another source, like a WWII draft registration card or city directory. Which census listing address matches up with it?

5. Look at local maps from the time period and census enumeration district maps (FamilySearch has many in this browsable collection). Did your ancestor live on the boundary of a census district and inadvertently get counted twice by different enumerators?

Google may be able to help map this last problem. I searched “1910 map Colfax WA” and found the 1910 plat map shown below on the left. Meadow Street is marked, but Almota Street (the next cross-street listed further down the census page) isn’t marked. A modern Google Maps image shows the intersection clearly, and I can compare them using the bend in the creek and the intersection of Lake St and Thorn St. Comparing this neighborhood to census enumeration district maps may help determine whether in fact these were overlapping census enumeration districts.

Colfax Washington map

1910 plat map from Washington State University Digital Collections. Click to view.

For Donna and others of you out there finding multiple census entries for your ancestors: you’re not alone! Here’s an interesting conversation on Ancestry about other genealogists who have experienced duplicate census entries. And here’s a fun page about famous people enumerated twice in the census.

By the way, be sure to cite both sources. Thanks for the question, Donna! You’re a Gem!

More Resources for Mapping Your Family History at Genealogy Gems

How to Find Enumeration District Maps

1940 Enumeration District Maps

The Genealogist’s Google Toolbox (all-new 2nd edition newly revised in 2015!) teaches skills like the ones used above for searching for modern and historical maps in Google, Google Maps and Google Earth.

5 Ways to Enhance Your Genealogy Research with Old Maps. A Genealogy Gems Premium website membership required–but you can watch a clip from it for free below:

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The Bombing of London in WWII: Check Out this Interactive Map of The Blitz

A new interactive map now lets you explore The Blitz: the intensive Bombing of London by the Germans in 1940-1941.

bombing of London the blitz 4

View from St. Paul’s cathedral after the Blitz. Wikimedia Commons image; click to view.

We see the images often in WWII-era movies. Londoners hunched in tube station tunnels during air raids. Children evacuating the city by the thousand. The Blitz was a period of intensive bombing of London by the Germans that began in September 1940 and continued through the following June. Now we can explore exactly where and when all those bombs fell at a new interactive website, Bomb Sight.

bomb sight screen capture“With Bomb Sight you can discover what it was like in London, during WW2 Luftwaffe Blitz bombing raids, exploring maps, images and memories,” explains the site. “The Bomb Sight web map and mobile app reveal WW2 bomb census maps between 7/10/1940 and 06/06/1941, previously available only by viewing them in the Reading Room of The National Archives.”

As you can see from this screenshot, the site is map-based. All those red dots you see are bombings. (Can you imagine bombs falling that thickly in your own neighborhood?) Different icons reveal the type of bomb. Click on them to learn more about that event. You can even view historical images of that neighborhood and read stories and memories relating to that area. You can ask to map to show you only the first night of the blitz, a weekly look or an aggregate (all-inclusive) view, like the one shown here.

Though you can search visually, you can also enter a street or postcode to look at a specific area. Zoom in or out; explore different map layers for different types of information.

These maps were created from 559 map sheet originals that were declassified in 1971 but are very fragile today. So this site represents a fantastic new free resource that hasn’t been widely accessible to the public. It’s stunning to look closely at a neighborhood and see how densely the bombs fell. It’s also stunning to pan out to the widest view and see SO many dots. So many bombs. So much destruction. What a powerful tool for understanding the scale of The Blitz.

More Great Map Resources

Was This My Ancestor’s Neighborhood? Using Google Earth for Genealogy

Best Websites for Finding Historical Maps video (available to Premium website members)

5 Ways to Enhance Your Genealogy Research with Old Maps (available to Premium website members). Below you can watch a free clip from this video on using Sanborn fire insurance maps (and yes, there are fire insurance maps for London: they date to 1792).

Genealogy Gems Premium MembershipAbout Genealogy Gems Premium Website Membership
The video class you just caught a peek of is one of the perks of Genealogy Gems Premium membership. For one low annual fee, members can watch more than 2 dozen Premium member-only videos on genealogy research strategies, organization, technology tools (like Google, Google Earth, Evernote, Dropbox and cloud computing) and more. And we keep adding new videos regularly! Premium website members also have access to our monthly Premium podcast and all archived episodes. Click here to learn more!

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We Dig These Gems! New Genealogy Records Online

We dig these gemsEvery Friday, we blog about new genealogy records online. Do any collections below relate to your family history? Please share with your genealogy buddies or with societies that might be interested!

ALABAMA MARRIAGES. Over 700,000 indexed records and accompanying images were added to FamilySearch’s free collection of Alabama county marriage records, 1809-1950. Click here for coverage and a description of the records.

DENMARK PROPERTY RECORDS. Nearly 1.4 million digitized images of deeds and mortgages for South Jutland, Denmark (1572-1928) are newly browsable for free at FamilySearch. Property owner and resident, land transfer dates, and other details of land transactions may be noted. The records are in Danish; the collection description links to tips on reading them.

ENGLAND (STAFFORDSHIRE) PARISH RECORDS. Over 1.2 million records were added to Findmypast’s collection of Staffordshire, England parish registers, an ongoing project to put 6 million records online. Among these records are baptismsmarriagesmarriage banns (announcements of intentions to marry) and burials.

OKLAHOMA MAPS AND NEWSPAPERS. The Oklahoma Historical Society has scanned and placed online nearly 2000 maps from among its collection of more than 15,000 maps dating since 1820. Search their full catalog of maps (including Sanborn and other genealogically-helpful maps) here. Additionally, the Gateway to Oklahoma History provides free browsable access to a growing number of digitized newspaper pages from the 1840s to the 1920s.

sign up newsletterKeep up on new genealogy records available online by subscribing to our free weekly e-newsletter! You’ll receive a free e-book on Google search strategies for genealogy when you subscribe. Just enter your email address in the box on the upper right hand corner of this page. Thank you for sharing this page with anyone who will want to know about these records!

Was This My Ancestor’s Neighborhood? Using Google Earth for Genealogy

Google Earth Jones St neighborhood

Jones Street, Olyphant, PA, 1910. Image courtesy of Michael Grayson.

When Lisa blogged recently about Google Earth’s 10th birthday, it reminded me of something on my family history “to do” list. A few years ago I found a postcard of what I thought was an ancestor’s neighborhood. Could Google Earth confirm it?

Lisa uses Google Earth’s powerful 3D renderings of the world’s streets to identify where old pictures were taken. I knew from deeds, a plat map, and addresses on censuses and draft registrations that the O’Hotnicky lived on a certain block of Jones St. (now named Grant St.), around the corner from and behind Holy Ghost church.

This postcard of “Jones Street, Olyphant” looks like its viewpoint is from the end of the block behind the church. This would mean the tall tree shown here was shading–and blocking our view of–the O’Hotnicky home.

Olyphant view Google EarthI opened Google Earth and flew to “117 Grant St, Olyphant, PA.” The initial view, hovering from above, was promising. The camera icon shows where I thought the photo was taken. The left arrow points to the former line of trees, in front of the ancestral address. The right arrow points to the church tower behind.

Unfortunately, when I enter Street View at that exact spot, the new church on the corner and a tall apartment building block the view that would have been seen a century ago. There is no Street View available on Grant Street itself so I couldn’t move up the street toward the church. So I moved into Street View along the side street (parallel to the bottom of the photo).

In the opening between two buildings, Google Earth gave me a glimpse of the church tower. I compared the postcard view with Google Earth’s photo. The church towers look so similar: a simple cross on top, pointed copper roof, arched tower and the building roof line. Even more striking to me is the white frame house. Was this the same white house shown in the postcard view?Olyphant detail view Google Earth

These two visuals taken together–the church tower profile and the position of the white house–seem consistent with my theory of where the photo was taken. Which means that yes, indeed, this 1910 postcard shows the trees in front of an ancestor’s home as they appeared 105 years ago.

Google Earth can fly you to an ancestor’s neighborhood–and whatever clues its current landscape gives you into the landscape of the past. Click here to watch Lisa’s free video about using Google Earth for genealogy!


Can You Believe Google Earth is 10 Years Old?? Are You Using Google Earth for Genealogy Yet?

Google Earth 10 years old invitationTen years ago in June, Google Earth was born. The world put it right to work. Within months, recalls a Google Earth employee, “Hurricane Katrina showed us how useful mapping tools like Earth could be for crisis response efforts. Rescue workers compared before and after Satellite imagery in Google Earth to better locate where people were stranded.”

“In the years after,” the blog post continues, “with more than 2 billion downloads by people in nearly every country in the world, Earth has enabled people to discover new coral reefs, journey to the Moon and into deep space, find long-lost parents, clear landmines and much more.”

What about YOU? How have you harnessed the power of Google Earth for good?

What about using Google Earth for genealogy?

Google Earth for Genealogy classIn honor of Google Earth’s birthday, we invite you to watch a free video recording of a special presentation of Google Earth for Genealogy! Check out these blog posts, too:

Google Earth for Genealogy and Toolbox bundleReady to take Google Earth to the next level? Pick up your copies of the video CD series Google Earth for Genealogy at the Genealogy Gems Store.

Find Old Maps and More: Genealogy Gems Premium Podcast Episode 122

Genealogy Gems Premium PodcastGenealogy Gems Premium members can now listen to Genealogy Gems Premium podcast episode 122! This episode brings to your ears the newest Premium video: Best Websites for Finding Historical Maps.

My favorite take-away from this Premium episode? The shownotes! There’s a FULL-PAGE table on Lisa’s favorite websites for free historical maps. Below is a “teaser” of the table with just the categories shown: the name of the website, how many maps it offers, the geographic coverage, what time frame, whether the maps are available for re-use by you and valuable search tips for each.

Historic maps shownotes teaser

This table can be YOUR key to unlocking the old map treasures you want to pluck from the hundreds of thousands of maps available online.

Newspaper inventionAlso in this Genealogy Gems Premium podcast episode, Lisa  is joined by Your DNA Guide, Diahan Southard, who talks about fascinating developments in genetic genealogy in the U.K. The episode wraps with some fun trivia: a landmark invention in history that catapulted us into the modern Newspaper Age in the late 1800s. Here’s a patent drawing of that invention: can you tell what it is?? Tune in to the episode to find out.

free_pc_400_wht_2095Not a Genealogy Gems Premium member yet? Take us for a test drive! Click here to listen to a FREE episode of our flagship Genealogy Gems podcast. Click here to watch a FREE excerpt from the Premium historical maps video on using Sanborn maps for genealogy. If you love what you see and hear, consider becoming a Genealogy Gems Premium member so you have access to hours and hours of Genealogy Gems programs!

3 Sources for Historic Maps that May Surprise You

Old maps are an essential tool for discovering more about your family’s history. If you have exhausted more traditional sources, here are three places to find maps that may surprise you.

#1 Surprising Finds within the David Rumsey Map Collection

You’re probably aware that the David Rumsey map collection website is a terrific source for old maps. But you may be surprised by the variety of maps, some which you likely don’t come across every day. Here’s a fun little tactic I took today to see what it may hold in store beyond typical maps. A search of the word neighborhood reveals that their holdings go well beyond traditional maps. Here’s an example from San Francisco showing a neighborhood in its infancy:
google earth maps for genealogy

And the image below depicts the Country Club district of Kansas City in the 1930s. If your family lived there at that time, this is a real gem.

Google earth for genealogy maps

#2 Google Books

If you think Google Books is just books, think again. Historic maps, often unique and very specific, can often be found within those digitized pages. Try running a Google search such as: neighborhood map baltimore. 

Click the MORE menu and select BOOKS. Then click the SEARCH TOOLS button at the top of the results list, and from the drop down menu select ANY BOOKS and then click FREE GOOGLE BOOKS:

baltimore search

Select a book that looks promising. Then rather than reading through the pages or scanning the index, save loads of time by clicking the thumbnail view button at the top of the book. This way you can do a quick visual scan for pages featuring maps!

baltimore history

When you find a page featuring a map, click it display it on a single page. You can now use the clipper tool built right in to Google Books to clip an image of the map. Other options include using Evernote (free) or Snagit ($).

Google Image search for maps google books

#3 Old Newspapers at Chronicling America

Like Google Books, the digitized pages housed at the Chronicling America website contain much more than just text. Old newspapers printed maps to help readers understand current events like the progress of war or the effect of a natural disaster. This map from The Tacoma Times in 1914 shows a map of Europe and several quick facts about the “Great War,” World War I:

The Tacoma Times, August 22, 1914. Image from Chronicling America. Click on image to visit webpage.

The Tacoma Times, August 22, 1914. Image from Chronicling America. Click on image to visit webpage.

Here’s one more example below. A search for “San Francisco earthquake” at Chronicling America brought up this bird’s eye view of San Francisco at the time of the major 1906 earthquake. Articles below the map explain what you’re seeing:

The Minneapolis Journal, April 19, 1906. Image at Chronicling America; click on image to see it there.

The Minneapolis Journal, April 19, 1906. Image at Chronicling America; click on image to see it there.

Learn more about using newspapers to understand your ancestors’ lives in my book, How to Find Your Family History in Newspapers. 

Want more inspiring ideas for finding historic maps? Below is my FREE 8-minute video on using Sanborn maps. This is an excerpt from my Genealogy Gems Premium video, “5 Ways to Enhance Your Genealogy Research with Old Maps.” (Premium membership required to watch that full video along with others like “Best Websites for Finding Historical Maps.”)

New Pictorial Maps on David Rumsey Map Collection

Map of Hollywood, 1928. Online at David Rumsey Historical Map Collection. Click on the map for full citation information.

Map of Hollywood, 1928. Online at David Rumsey Historical Map Collection. Click on the map for full citation information.

Pictorial maps are both fun and useful for finding our family history. These use illustrations in addition to regular cartographic images to communicate their messages.

For example, this 1928 map of Hollywood, California, inserts faces of the famous and illustrations of local attractions. But maps like those don’t just exist for popular tourist destinations. And now there are even more pictorial maps online and FREE to use at the David Rumsey Map Collection.

According to a press release, “Over 2,000 pictorial maps and related images have been added…in the form of separate maps, pocket maps, case maps, atlases, manuscript maps, and wall maps.”  These include “certain panoramic and birds-eye maps, diagrammatic maps, and timelines.” Pictorial maps were especially popular during the 1920s-1940s, but David Rumsey includes many from the 19th century and before. The collection continues to grow; check back often to look for the maps you want most.

Genealogy Gems Premium Membership and PodcastDid you know that I teach an entire video class on using historical maps in genealogy research? I’ve put a free excerpt on the Genealogy Gems YouTube Channel: Using Sanborn Fire Maps for Genealogy and Family History. Watch it below! Genealogy Gems Premium members can watch the full class, which goes in-depth on four MORE types of helpful historical maps, and download the companion handout! (Click here to learn more about Premium membership.)

Best Websites for Historical Maps: A New Premium Video!

Best websites for finding historical maps Genealogy Gems premium videoLooking for a pre-1700 map of the Americas as the Europeans found it? Yearning to survey the plot of land your ancestors tilled in Cobb County, Georgia? Historic maps can point you in the direction of your ancestors. But navigating your way to an original map can be a costly and time-consuming trek. Before you venture down that road, navigate your way to the treasury of digitized maps available online!

A new video class can help Genealogy Gems Premium members do just that: Best Websites for Finding Historical Maps. Literally hundreds of thousands of historical maps are available for free online in high-resolution digital format that you can download right to your computer without ever leaving home. The websites I show you offer some of the largest map collections available on the Internet today. I demonstrate strategies for searching the best websites for historical maps that will help YOUR research. You’ll see what’s out there, how to find the right maps and how to download and use them.

Historic_Maps_VideoGenealogy Gems Premium members also have access to my popular online video class, 5 Ways to Enhance Your Genealogy Research with Old Maps. Not a Premium member? Get a taste of these classes for free on the Genealogy Gems YouTube channel! Check out this free excerpt: “Using Sanborn Fire Maps for Family History and Genealogy.” 

10 Maps for Family History at David Rumsey Map Collection

Imperial Airways Map of Empire & European Air by Laszlo Moholy-Nagy, 1937. Online at Click on the image to see full citation information. Maps for family history.

Imperial Airways Map of Empire & European Air by Laszlo Moholy-Nagy, 1937. Online at Click on the image to see full citation information.

Among more than 15,000 maps and images newly posted at the David Rumsey Map Collection, these caught my eye as particularly useful for family history. Do any of them look relevant to YOUR genealogy?

1. A massive group of German Invasion plans for England, Wales, and Ireland in WWII;

2. A 1682 map of the areas around Mexico City;

3, Two important early atlases of Swiss Topography;

4. An 1886 Imperial Federation Map of the British Empire;

5. A 1912 wall map of rebuilt San Francisco, The Exposition City;

6. An extraordinary mining map of West Kootenay, [British Columbia], 1893;

7. Harry Beck’s groundbreaking London Underground map 1933;

A 1937 Imperial Airways Map showing air travel routes internationally.

Historic_Maps_Video maps for family historyGenealogy Gems Premium members can learn more about using maps for family history in our full-length video class, 5 Ways to Enhance  Your Genealogy Research with Old Maps. Here’s an excerpt from the video below about finding and using old Sanborn Fire Maps: