Missing Census or Missing Family: Legacy Tree Genealogists Answer

So, you think there might be a missing census page? Whether it’s a missing census or a missing family, my special guest, professional genealogist Kate Eakman from Legacy Tree Genealogists has strategies to help you figure it out. She has just the answers you need to find your ‘missing’ family.

missing census

A Genealogy Gems reader doing genealogy research in New Jersey has lost her family! Well not literally, but she can’t find them in the 1940 U.S. Census. Here’s the email I recently received from her:

I am having a problem finding my mother and grandparents in the 1940 census. My grandfather, William Charles Opfer, was born on October 15 1900. I can find him in the 1930 census living in  Glouescter Township, (Unincorporated Grenloch) Camden County, New Jersey. He is living with his wife Kathryn (Katharine) Opfer and three children: William C Jr, Robert, and Nancy (my mother).

When I search the 1940 census on Ancestry nothing shows up. So I went to the government web site and converted the 1930 Enumeration District to the 1940 Enumeration District. The 1940 Enumeration Districts were 4-57, 4-58, and 4-61. I then went through all of the pages for each of the districts looking for William C. Opfer. I did this on Ancestry, Family Search, and NARA.  No William C. Opfer.

I then went back to the 1930 census and looked at his neighbors. I searched for each of the 13 heads-of-household neighbors from the 1930 census. Two had moved 1940 and I found them. I could not find the other neighbors in the 1940 census. I am wondering if a page from the 1940 census did not get scanned? Is there somewhere else I could look?

Missing Census Answers from Kate Eakman, Legacy Tree Genealogists

First, let me say how impressed I am with this Gem’s research and her dedication to finding this census report. She has made some very thorough searches and performed a number of advanced genealogical techniques in her quest for the 1940 U.S. Census page. It hardly seems fair that all that work didn’t yield the success she surely earned.

The government website she referenced is the National Archives 1940 Census page. The use of the page “1930 Records Search” allowed her to simply locate her grandfather in the 1930 U.S. Census. Then, by clicking a few buttons, discover the corresponding enumeration districts (ED) for the 1930 ED in which he and his family lived: 4-57, 4-58, and 4-61.

I, too, have scrolled through page after page searching for that one elusive name and we know how tedious that task can be! Using three different sites was a good strategy and one that we employ ourselves here at Legacy Tree Genealogists. Different images might be easier or more difficult to read, although in the case of these three EDs, the copies seemed to be uniformly easy to read.

The first two EDs were for Blackwood, an unincorporated part of Camden County, New Jersey. The third one was for the Lakeland Tuberculosis Hospital, unlikely to have housed the entire family, but certainly worth looking through in case one Opfer was a patient there.

ED 4-58 had an interesting variation at the end of the report. The last two pages were not 15A and 15B, as would be expected, but were 61A and 61B. This indicates these households were enumerated at a later date than were their neighbors. Because federal law requires every household to be counted, and because not everyone was at home when the enumerator arrived, the enumerator had to return on a different day and attempt to gather the necessary information for those families. They were recorded separately, beginning with page 61A.

People living in hotels, trailer camps, and other places normally designed for single-night stays were enumerated a week after the initial enumeration and those pages are numbered beginning with 81A. Not every ED has a 61 or an 81 page, but if you see one, now you know why the page numbers suddenly changed so dramatically.

The writer’s use of Elizabeth Shown Mills’ FAN Club was an excellent idea, too. FAN, an acronym for Friends, Associates, and Neighbors, takes advantage of the fact that people, in general, tend to remain geographically close to the people they know. [Read more about this in our post, “The Genealogy FAN Club Principle Overcomes Genealogy Brick Walls“] If a portion of a community moves, they tend to move together and relocate in the same general area of their new location. Her instincts to use this tool were excellent, even if they did not produce the desired results. This falls under the heading of “reasonably exhaustive research” and should always be included when someone, or in this case something, can’t be found, but should be there.

The fact that the researcher was able to locate only two of those neighbors could be explained, in part, by the fact that so many were in their 60s, 70s, and even 90s in 1930. They simply may have passed away in the intervening ten years. Another explanation, particularly for the working families, is that the Great Depression caused many families to move in order to find employment.

This may have been true for the Opfers. We noticed in 1930, William was employed as a supervisor for Reading Transportation. While supervisors were important to the operation of any transportation company, it is possible William found himself unemployed, as was true for millions of other Americans. If that happened, he and his family could have moved anywhere in the United States in an effort to find work. Alternatively, William may have left to find work while Kathryn and the children lived by themselves in reduced circumstances, or with family or friends.

To this end, I searched for William and Kathryn, and then each of the three children individually, in the hope of locating one or more family members. Using the “less is more” strategy which is often an important part of genealogical research, I searched with and without the family members’ ages, places of birth, and other family member’s names. Because the surname “Opfer” might have been misheard by the enumerator or grossly misspelled, I even searched for the various members of the family with no surname. Since we did not know where the family may have lived between 1930 and 1944, we included all of New Jersey, Delaware (the home state of Kathryn), as well as neighboring Pennsylvania and New York in our searches. The lack of positive results meant we needed to expand our search to the Eastern seaboard, and then the entire United States.

We also identified the names of William’s and Kathryn’s parents, William and Sallie Opfer and Raymond and Corrine Mason, and searched their households and neighborhoods for William and Kathryn. They were not there. Walter, William’s younger brother, was not hosting the family, either.

The writer had asked if it was possible that a page from the 1940 U.S. Census did not get scanned. Since the 1940 census has only been available for four years, it is still possible, although not probable, that there are one or more pages missing unbeknownst to anyone. Our research revealed only a few pages from a couple EDs in Ohio and South Dakota that were missing from the FamilySearch collection. There is no indication anywhere that there are missing pages from New Jersey. In addition, the pages in the three possible EDs for the Opfers were all included and in the correct numerical order, with no indication of any missing pages at the end. Therefore, I think we must conclude that missing pages do not explain the Opfer family’s disappearance.

Other Databases to Help

There are two other databases which might provide some insight into the location of the Opfer family. The first is the set of 1942 World War II draft registration cards. All men between the ages of 18 and 65 were required to register for this draft. The draft registration cards would have included the address at which William lived in 1942; however, there was no card for a man named William Opfer (or with only the surname “Opfer”) born between 1895 and 1905.

The final search was the database of city directories. A poorly-indexed city directory reported the Opfers lived in Haddonfield, New Jersey in 1943, but there are two directories contained in the same book, and the listing was actually for 1947. It reported William and Katherine lived at 209 Washington Avenue with their children William and his wife, Robert, and Nancy. William’s brother, Walter, and his wife Edith lived nearby. Unfortunately, the search for them in 1940 revealed that 79-year-old widower William Pape lived at that address with his household servants who were not the Opfer’s.

missing census alternative

The William Opfer family in Haddonfield, New Jersey in 1947.Photo courtesy Ancestry.

Although the turmoil and upheaval of the Great Depression meant families were scattered, and it would have been easy to miss enumerating many households in the mid-1930s, by 1940 the U.S. was recovering from the effects of the Depression. Some agencies, such as the Works Progress Administration (WPA) and the CCC (Civilian Conservation Corps), were in place to provide work for men. Many war-related industries on both coasts were revived by the Allies’ efforts to stop Hitler.

In other words, there should have been work and stability for the Opfer family by 1940, and they ought to have appeared in a census report. The evidence of the 1930 census and the 1947 city directory strongly suggest they remained in or close to New Jersey, but all of the efforts to locate them have failed to yield positive results.

One Last Scenario

One possible scenario which would explain the Opfers apparent absence from the 1940 census is a simple one: perhaps the family was in the process of moving from one location to another in the month of April when the census was enumerated. Although the census was supposed to be enumerated on 1 April, the reality is that it was simply impossible to knock on every door and obtain the necessary information in one day. Some enumeration districts were fully counted by the 4th of the month. Other places were not completed until the 30th. This was true even in the same town.

If the Opfers had moved across the street from 206 Washington Avenue to 209 Washington Avenue in Haddonfield, for instance, between the 5th and the 14th of April, they would have moved from one enumeration district to another. Because the 209 Washington Avenue address had been enumerated on 4 April, they would not have been counted in that new location. And, because the 206 Washington Avenue address was not enumerated until the 15th of the month, they would not have been included in that EDs census report. We have seen this happen in the reverse and a family was enumerated twice because they moved during the enumeration, so it certainly could have happened the other way around. This is the only explanation we can find to explain the absence of the Opfers from the 1940 U.S. Census.

More About Kate Eakman at Legacy Tree Genealogists and SAVE $100!

Kate Eakman grew up hearing Civil War stories at her father’s knee and fell in love with history and genealogy at an early age. With a master’s degree in history and over 20 years experience as a genealogist, Kate has worked her magic on hundreds of family trees and narratives.

Areas of expertise:

-Native American Genealogy

-U.S. Civil War & Victorian America

-Narrative Biographies

-Irish Genealogy

The team of expert genealogists at Legacy Tree Genealogists can help bust through your brick walls. They do the research and you enjoy the discoveries!

Episode 69 Alice the Genealogist Parts 3 & 4 Online Productivity

Video and Show Notes

This week we’re going to revisit two more early episodes of Elevenses with Lisa that will help you be more productive and organized no matter what device you using for your genealogy research. I’m bringing these episodes out from behind the Premium Membership paywall and making them available for free this week. These will be presented back-to-back as Live Video Premieres on my Genealogy Gems YouTube channel. Part 1 and part 2 of this short series can be found in episode 68. In part 1 we covered what makes us vulnerable to getting distracted, and how a research plan can help. In part 2 we talked about how to deal with BSOs (bright shiny objects!) In this episode 69 we will cover parts 3 (Mobile Organization) and 4 (Online Productivity Strategies).

How Alice the Genealogist Avoids the Rabbit Hole Continued…

Part 1 and part 2 of this short series can be found in episode 68. In part 1 we covered what makes us vulnerable to getting distracted, and how a research plan can help. In part 2 we talked about how to deal with BSOs (bright shiny objects!)

Part 3

In episode 68 we covered:

1. Use a Cloud-Notetaking Service

  • Get a free Cloud note-taking tool and use it consistently. (Examples include Evernote, OneNote, and Google Keep.)
  • Use the website, software, and/or app to capture unexpected finds while researching. Both Evernote and OneNote work on all platforms.
  • Your notes in your account will synchronize between your devices (depending on the program and plan you choose.) You can add to your notes or work with them anytime, anywhere.

2. Schedule BSO Time

I use Google Calendar to stay organized and schedule my BSO time. Create a BSO calendar, and then schedule BSO time on your calendar. These will help you remember to follow up. Knowing you have set aside time in the future to explore the BSO helps you mentally let them go and stay on track with your research plan.

In this episode:

3. Mobile BSO Organization

Success comes from pairing your research plan and process with a great supportive research environment. We have a variety of “environments” we work within such as:

  • On paper at our desk
  • On our mobile devices
  • On our computer
Mobile Genealogy Organization (Alice

Mobile Genealogy Organization

Let’s look at how we can set up a workflow for BSOs while mobile computing. My two favorite methods for capturing BSOs on a smartphone or tablet are 1) Cloud Notetaking, and 2) Home Screen “Bookmark Apps”.

Option 1: Cloud Notetaking

I’ll be using Evernote on an iPhone as an example. (You may see slight variations in the instructions depending on the service you use and your device.)

Evernote is a great choice if you want to easily sync and use your notes on all devices including your desktop computer and / or laptop computer.

Before you begin, you’ll need a free Evernote account at evernote.com. You’ll also need to download the free Evernote app from your device’s app store, and log into your account.

When you come across a BSO while researching online in a web browser (such as the Chrome or Safari app), here’s how to capture it:

  1. Tap the Share icon on the web page.
  2. Select Evernote from the menu. If you don’t see it tap More for the complete menu of available apps. If you still don’t see it, make sure you have downloaded the app.
    Tap More to find the Evernote app

    Tap More to find the Evernote app

  3. The app will open and should open a new note. Edit the note as desired.
    Edit the BSO note

    Edit the BSO note

  4. Tag the note with the “BSO” tag, as well as any other tags you find helpful.
    Tag with the BSO tag

    Tag with the BSO tag

  5. Tap Save.
  6. The note is now saved to Evernote. If you are on WiFi, Evernote will synchronize so that the note will be available from any device signed into your Evernote account.
    The BSO tagged note

    The BSO tagged note

Option 2: Home Screen “Bookmark Apps”

Keep in mind that these aren’t the same as “Bookmarks” found in your web browser apps. I call them “Bookmark Apps” because they do save a particular web page, and they look just like apps. In the menu this feature is called “add to home screen.” (see image)

Bookmark Apps are best for when you plan to do your BSO follow up on the same mobile device.

How to capture a BSO as a Bookmark App:

  • In your browser app, when you come across a BSO web page, tap the share icon.
  • Tap Add to Home Screen.
    Tap Add to Home Screen

    Tap Add to Home Screen

  • Edit the title so it will be easy to remember why you wanted to follow up on it.
  • Tap Add (iOS – this may be different on Android, or different browsers)
  • The web page “bookmark app” is now on your home screen.

Once you have created at least two BSO bookmark apps, you can then create a folder.

How to create a folder:

  • Move the bookmark app by pressing and holding it until it shakes.
  • Keep your finger on it and drag it onto the other BSO bookmark. This will create a folder.
  • Name the folder “BSO”.
  • Press the home button to save.
    Bookmark apps in the BSO folder

    Bookmark apps in the BSO folder

     

Now whenever you have some spare time you can tap the BSO folder and get back to one of those items that previously caught your eye.

How Alice the Genealogist Avoids Falling Down the Rabbit Hole Part 4

Creating a Supportive Computing Environment

The following tools are available for your computer desktop or laptop.

Restore Tabs

In addition to using Ctrl+Shift+T (Win) or Cmd+Shift+T (Mac) to restore a closed browser tab, you can also right-click on the new tab plus sign and select Reopen closed tab from the pop-up menu. You can do this multiple times and web pages will continue to open in the reverse-order that they were closed.

Turn Multiple Tabs into One and Save Memory with OneTab

Online genealogy research can leave you with a lot of open web browser tabs. While using multiple tabs allows you to jump back and forth between web pages and records, they can take up valuable computer memory.

You can dramatically reduce your memory usage with the OneTab extension available for both the Chrome and Firefox browsers. With one click, OneTab will combine your open tabs into a clickable list in one browser tab. You can even export the list for future reference.

Get OneTab in the Chrome Web Store here
Get OneTab in the Firefox Web Store here

Reduce Email Distractions

  • Gmail now has a Snooze feature which allows you to temporarily file an email until the date and time you select.
  • Snoozed emails will reappear in your Inbox at the scheduled time.
  • Retrieve snoozed emails at any time by clicking “Snoozed” in the menu on the left.

Get Back on Track with MyActivity

When you are signed into your Google account, MyActivity tracks the searches you conduct and the websites you visit. By visiting your MyActivity, you can search for and return to any previous activity. You can also turn it off. Go to MyActivity and click Activity Controls from the menu. Switch the slider to the off position. Visit MyActivity at https://myactivity.google.com/myactivity

Save Time by Previewing Your Google Search Results

Rather than clicking on each search result and loading the page (which also takes you away from the rest of your search results), use  the Google Results Previewer web extension for Chrome. Once installed you can simply hover your mouse over a result link to reveal a preview of the page. Then you can decide whether to click through or preview additional results.

Click here to get the Google Results Previewer web extension for Chrome.

Resources for Further Learning

Premium Members: download this exclusive ad-free show notes cheat sheet PDF.  Not a member yet? Learn more and join the Genealogy Gems and Elevenses with Lisa family here

Genealogy Gems Premium Videos:

  • Organize Your Online Life
  • Using Evernote to Create a Research Plan

Evernote Quick Reference Guide, by Lisa Louise Cooke. Available at Genealogy Gems Store

Genealogy Gems Premium Membership

Click to learn more about Genealogy Gems Premium Member

 

Episode 72 – Fabulous Photo Collection: Frith at Findmypast

In Elevenses with Lisa episode 72 Alex Cox of Findmypast joins Lisa Louise Cooke to discuss the exciting new Francis Firth Photographic Collection.

Francis Frith Photos

Watch episode 72

Discover the scope of the collection and the best strategies for finding photos that will enrich your family history. 

 Watch Live: Thursday, September 23, 2021 at 11:00 am CT 
(calculate your time zone

Three ways to watch:
1. Video Player (Live) – Watch live at the appointed time in the video player above.
2. On YouTube (Live) – Click the Watch on YouTube button to watch live at the appointed time at the Genealogy Gems YouTube channel. Log into YouTube with your free Google account to participate in the live chat. 
3. Video Player above (Replay) – Available immediately after the live premiere and chat. 

Episode 71 Show Notes 

Family History really comes alive when you can see actual faces and places, and that’s why the new photographic collection at Findmypast is so exciting. They’ve just added over 300,000 historical photographs chronicling more than a century of British life to their website. And these photos don’t just cover the UK – you can find images from other locations around the world as well.

Findmypast published these photos in partnership with Francis Frith, the UK’s leading publisher of local photographs since 1860, and they’re available to search online at Findmypast for the first time.

I’ve invited Alex Cox from Findmypast to join us today to tell us about the collection, the history, the scope and most importantly the best strategies for finding just the image you’re looking for.

About Francis Frith

From the folks at Findmypast: “Born into a Quaker family in 1822 in Chesterfield, Derbyshire, Francis Frith was a complex and multi-talented man who had a formidable instinct for business. After becoming a founding member of the Liverpool Photographic Society in 1853 – only 14 years after the invention of photography – he founded his own photographic publishing company in 1860 with the aim of creating accurate and truthful depictions of as many cities, towns and villages as possible.

Francis Frith portrait

Francis Frith, 1854 (public domain)

Copies of Frith’s photographs proved immensely popular with the general public. Thanks to the rapid expansion of the Victorian railway system, Britons were now travelling in greater numbers than ever before, fueling a huge demand for photographic souvenirs.

To help meet this demand, Frith employed a team of company photographers who were trained to capture images of the highest quality according to his strict specifications.

Manchester Saint Anns Square,1876 

By the 1870s, the market for Frith & Co’s products was huge, especially after Bank Holidays and half-day Saturdays were made obligatory by Act of Parliament in 1871. By 1890 Frith had succeeded in creating the first and greatest specialist photographic publishing company in the world, with over 2,000 retail stockists.”

The Scope of The Francis Frith Collection

Quantity:

  • 300,000 historical photographs

Coverage:

  • UK, Ireland and beyond
  • covering more than 9,000 cities, towns and villages across the UK and Ireland
  • wide variety of images captured overseas. Egypt, Canada, France, Germany Gibraltar, Hawaii, Holland, Italy, Switzerland, and the United States.

Timeframe:

  • 1860 to 1970

Depictions:

  • scenes of daily life – people, places, occupations, things
  • Victorian, Edwardian and 20thcentury Britain.
Francis Frith collection at Findmypast

Lowestoft Punch and Judy Childrens Corner, 1952 

Using the Photograph Transcriptions

Each photo comes with a transcription that is worth a look. You’ll find the transcription icon (it looks like a page) next to the image icon. The transcription provides information about the photo such as:

  • Year
  • Country and place
  • Latitude and longitude
  • Description
  • Link to the original photo on the source website (Francis Frith)

The Francis Frith photos are a great way to see how an area has changed over time. Copy latitude and longitude numbers found on the transcription page and then paste them into Google Earth to see the approximate location where the image was taken. Next, use Google Earth’s Street View to see the location up close today. You can save a high-resolution image of the location to your computer for comparison with the photo by clicking the Save Image button in Google Earth’s toolbar at the top of the screen. I love using Snagit to clip and annotate the image more precisely. (Learn more about it by watching episode 61. There you’ll also find out link and current discount code for Snagit.)

Learn more about using Google Earth for genealogy by watching my free class.

How to Browse the Photographs

Sometimes you just want to leisurely browse the photos for a given area. Here’s how to brows the Francis Frith Photo Collection at Findmypast:

  1. Start by searching on the general location.
  2. Click any image.
  3. Thumbnail images will appear at the bottom, all from the same series of photos.
  4. An “eye” icon will appear on the thumbnail of the image currently being viewed.
  5. Click the images on either side to scroll through and browse the series.
how to browse at findmypast

How to browse the Francis Frith photo collection at Findmypast

Frith Photos Search Strategies

Lisa’s Tip: If your ancestors sailed from a British port, search the collection to see what it looked like at that time.

“Be clever with your keywords.” Alex Cox, Findmypast

Alex recommends that before you start to search, look up the locations of your ancestors on a map. Have a look at the area. Doing so may provide additional ideas for your searches.

In addition to searching for locations, use the keyword search field to search for words describing elements of your ancestors’ lives. Try words like:

  • Store
  • Shop
  • Business
  • Docks
  • Factories
  • Mills
  • People
  • Pedestrians
  • Horse

Use the distance slider to expand and narrow your search geographically. Keep in mind that 10 miles on either side of your ancestors’ town really isn’t that far. By expanding your search with the distance slider, you might be able to find helpful representative images, even if they don’t include your ancestors’ exact village or business.

Usage of the Frith Photographs

We’re all mindful about copyright, so Alex and Lisa discussed the rules around the usage of these images in our family history work. Alex says you are welcome to use the Francis Frith images (which include small watermarks and a copyright statement) in a variety of ways for your family history.

Here are just a few ideas on how to use the photos:

  • Add them to your family tree
  • If you find a location in another genealogical record, look up the location in the Frith Collection
  • Download the image (with watermark)
how to download photo at findmypast

How to download a Frith photo at Findmypast

  • Print the image (with watermark)
  • Add images to Google Earth as image overlays (see Lisa’s book The Genealogist’s Google Toolbox.)
  • Share them on social media
  • Use them in your family history storytelling (videos, books, presentations, etc.)

How to purchase a high-resolution watermark-free version

In each image transcript you’ll find a link to the original source image on the Francis Frith Collection website. Click it, and it will take you to the Frith website. There you can purchase a clean (without watermarks), high-quality version suitable for printing.

Resources

Premium Members: download this exclusive ad-free show notes cheat sheet PDF
Not a member yet? Learn more and join the Genealogy Gems and Elevenses with Lisa family here.

Elevenses with Lisa Archive

You can find the Elevenses with Lisa Video Archive here or through the menu: Premium > Premium Videos > Elevenses with Lisa.

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