November 24, 2017

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.

missing census using ED

Photo courtesy of the National Archives.

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! Genealogy Gems offers you a big, big savings. Use our exclusive coupon code GEMS100 and get $100 off select research packages. (Hurry! Coupon expires 4/30/17.)

Census Research Tip: Why Look at the Same Thing Twice

census research tipWhen may it pay off to look at the same records or indexes twice? When you can compare them on different genealogy websites. Here’s an example for this census research tip.

You’ve probably noticed that some record sets are available online at multiple websites. At each site, the images and indexes you find may be a little different. Online tools for viewing and searching at each site may also be different.

For example, a digitized image may be faded, dark, blurry, blotchy, cut off, or otherwise unreadable on one website but clearer on another site. Here are two images from the first few lines of the 1880 U.S. Federal Census taken in Bay Minette, Baldwin, Alabama. The first image comes from HeritageQuest Online (available at public libraries) and the second is from Ancestry.com. See the difference?

Alabama census image HeritageQuest census research tip

alabama census image ancestry census research tip

As you can see, depending on which line you’re reading, one image may be clearer than another.

Here’s another census research tip: The online tools available at each site are different, too. At HeritageQuest Online, you can view the image at original size, 200% or 400%, and you can look at the image as a negative, which sometimes helps faded text stand out a little more. Ancestry.com lets you zoom in and out, magnify specific areas, and rotate the image or view it in mirror form (in case you’re trying to read backward text bleeding through from the other side).

HeritageQuest Online improvesMore Gems for Online Genealogy Research

HeritageQuest Online Gets Better with Ancestry’s Support

4 Tips for Getting the Most out of Ancestry.com

Genealogy Gems Premium podcast episode 125: HeritageQuest Online, Ancestry Library edition and other great genealogy resources at the public library (Available only to Genealogy Gems Premium website members)

 

See what this intriguing census taker had to say about the neighbors

funny Gypsum census

Click image to view larger image

Eagle eye Genealogy Gems reader and listener John Roberts ran across some very unique entries in a Kansas State Census. John writes: “I thought you might find the professions listed for the people on lines 13, 16 and 33, out of the ordinary, to say the least. It appears this census taker had a critical nature. I found this census page very amusing. Hope you enjoy it too.”

Indeed I did John!

In 1875 census enumerator Frank Wilkeson made his way through a Gypsum, Kansas neighborhood making usual note of the locals as sculptor, wagon maker, and carpenter. However, his attitude changed when he reached the Law household, where he listed 27 year old Job Law as…

census genealogy family history

 

 

 

“Loafer”

genealogy census family historyHe didn’t think much more of the next Head of Household 55 year old James Coleman who he labeled “Blow Hard.”

Appearing to have settled down after that visit he went on to list the blacksmith, farmers and miller…until he reached J. Lockwood’s house where he called it like he saw it:

census genealogy family history

So who exactly was the guy who used the role of census enumerator as a platform to share his personal opinions on this Gypsum, Kansas neighborhood? I couldn’t help myself and did a bit of digging.

signature

According to the Gypsum Hill Cemetery Historical Walk, published by the City of Saline, Parks & Recreation and the Saline Public Library (and posted to Franks’s listing on Find A Grave), Frank Wilkeson led an interesting life that took many twists and turns. He was born in Buffalo, New York, on March 8, 1848, the youngest son of journalist, Samuel Wilkeson, and Catherine Cady, sister to suffragette Elizabeth Cady Stanton.Wilkeson“Wilkeson was only 15 when he ran away from home to join the Union Army during the Civil War. When the war ended in 1865, he had been brevetted a captain. He later published Recollections of a Private Soldier in the Army of the Potomac, a starkly realistic view of war” (and early indicator of his brutally honest views.)

His exploits included working in Pennsylvania and Colorado as a mining engineer, working as a civil engineer for the Northern Pacific Railway and exploring the river valleys in Washington State, to which he returned many times. He then married and went to Saline County, Kansas in 1871, buying land in Gypsum Township where he established a cattle ranch and raised two sons.Frank Wilkeson

From 1887 to 1893, he wrote fishing and hunting pieces for the New York Times and the New York Sun. The last twenty years of his life, Wilkeson wandered between Kansas and Washington, writing promotional articles and dabbling in politics and various business ventures.

As a man who worked hard, was adventurous, and enjoyed putting pen to paper to share those experiences, I guess it’s no surprise that this page of the Kansas state census went down in history as it did.

Frank Wilkeson died in Chelan, Washington on April 22, 1913.

Learn US History through the Census

Game of Life

 

Remember the board game LIFE?  Archives.com has put its own spin on this family favorite that experienced a revival in the 1960s.

(Quick Quiz: 1. What  year was the game of LIFE created?
Bonus: 2. What was the original name?)

 

We recently discovered this cool, interactive webpage for learning more American Family Thru Timeabout U.S. history through census facts. It’s called The American Family Through Time and you can “play” it here free at Archives.com.

This clever page uses census data to show how American life has changed over the course of 220 years (and 23 censuses). You can click on decade-by-decade summaries on the “gameboard.” In addition to the census questions, you’ll find some fun now-and-then comparisons for housing, education and occupations. Great for kids of all ages!

Quick Quiz Answers:
1. 1860
2. The Checkered Game of Life

Family History Episode 11 – Census Wrap-Up: Decade-by-Decade to 1790

Family History PodcastOriginally published 2009

Republished December 17, 2013

Download the Show Notes for this Episode

Welcome to this step-by-step series for beginning genealogists—and more experienced ones who want to brush up or learn something new. I first ran this series in 2008-09. So many people have asked about it, I’m bringing it back in weekly segments.

Episode 11: Census Wrap-Up: Decade-by-Decade to 1790

In our first segment we welcome back genealogy researcher, author and lecturer Lisa Alzo. The author of Three Slovak Women, Baba’s Kitchen and Finding Your Slovak Ancestors talks about discovering family traits and putting them in perspective.

Then in our second segment we wrap up our three-episode coverage of U.S. census records with a decade-by-decade overview of censuses from 1880 back to 1790. We talk about special schedules taken during one or more censuses: mortality, slave, social statistics and supplemental, agricultural, manufacturing and the DDD (Defective, Dependent and Delinquent) schedules.

 Updates and Links

For a list of online resources for U.S. federal census data, check out the show notes for Episode 9 at http://tinyurl.com/ShowNotesEp9. More links you’ll want for this episode include:

Family History Episode 9 – Using Census Records

Family History: Genealogy Made Easy PodcastOriginally published Fall 2008

Republished Dec. 3, 2013

Download the Show Notes for this Episode

Welcome to this step-by-step series for beginning genealogists—and more experienced ones who want to brush up or learn something new. I first ran this series in 2008. So many people have asked about it, I’m bringing it back in weekly segments.

Episode 9: Using Census Records

In this episode we start off by talking about a group of records critical to family history research in my home country: U.S. Federal Census Records. You’ll learn not only what to find in the regular schedules, but about the enumerators, the instructions they followed, and special sections like the economic census.

Then in our second segment we go straight to the source: Bill Maury, Chief of History Staff at the U.S. Census Bureau. I’ll be talking to him about the History section of the Census Department’s website. Note the updated Genealogy tab on the site, as well as the Through the Decades tab, which is packed with historical information for each census.

Updates

Since the show first aired, the 1940 U.S. Census has become publicly available. This was the largest, most comprehensive census taken, with over 132 million names of those known as the “greatest generation.” Full indexes and images are available at several sites. Your first stop should be the National Archives’ official 1940 census website to learn about the census itself. Then search it at your favorite genealogy data site in one of the links below.

Finally, I gave you specific instructions in the podcast on searching the 1930 U.S. Census online at Ancestry.com. To specifically search any of the U.S. censuses (or any other record collection) at Ancestry.com, go to the Search tab and select Card Catalog. You’ll see several censuses among the options they give you, or you can enter keywords like “1940 census.”

Links

Search U.S. censuses online at:

Ancestry.com

Archives.com

FamilySearch.org

findmypast.com

worldvitalrecords.com

OR Learn more about researching from microfilm at the National Archives website.

FamilySearch Updates Include VA Pension Cards, South American Records

FamilySearch recently added another 192 million+ images and indexed records from North and South America and Europe to its growing FREE online collections. In the list at the bottom of this post you’ll find content from Brazil, Colombia, Peru, Spain, Switzerland, the United States, and Wales.

Notable collection updates include the 314,910 images from the Spain, Province of Barcelona, Municipal Records, 1387–1936,

Sample image from "United States Veterans Administration Pension Payment Cards, 1907-1933." Index and images. FamilySearch. https://familysearch.org : accessed 2013.

Sample image from “United States Veterans Administration Pension Payment Cards, 1907-1933.” Index and images. FamilySearch. https://familysearch.org : accessed 2013.

collection, the 576,176 indexed records from the United States Veterans Administration Pension Payment Cards, 1907–1933, collection, and the 189,395,454 indexed records from the United States Public Records Index.

Here’s an example of a V.A. pension card, created by the Bureau of Pensions and Veterans Administration to record payments to veterans, widows and other dependents. FamilySearch describes the cards this way: “On the front of the cards for invalid veterans are recorded the name of veteran, his certificate number, his unit or arm of Service, the disability for which pensioned, the law or laws under which pensioned, the class of pension or certificate, the rate of pension, the effective date of pension, the date of the certificate, any fees paid, the name of the pension agency or group transferred from (if applicable), the date of death, the date the Bureau was notified, the former roll number, and ‘home.’ On the reverse side of the form appears the name of the veteran, his certificate number, and the record of the individual payments. The army and navy widow’s cards are similar to the invalids’ cards with the addition of the widow’s name and occasionally information regarding payments made to minors, but they do not indicate if the veteran had a disability.”

Collection

Indexed Records

Digital Images

Comments

Brazil, Mato Grosso, Civil Registration, 1848-2013 0 126,870 Added images to an existing collection.
Brazil, Minas Gerais, Catholic Church Records, 1706-1999 0 827 Added images to an existing collection.
Brazil, Pernambuco, Civil Registration, 1804-2013 0 94,516 Added images to an existing collection.
Colombia, Catholic Church Records, 1600-2012 0 111,526 Added images to an existing collection.
Peru, Puno, Civil Registration, 1890-2005 0 176,918 Added images to an existing collection.
Spain, Province of Barcelona, Municipal Records, 1387-1936 0 314,910 Added images to an existing collection.
Switzerland, Fribourg, Census, 1839 0 2,552 New browsable image collection.
Switzerland, Fribourg, Census, 1842 0 2,851 New browsable image collection.
Switzerland, Fribourg, Census, 1845 0 3,062 New browsable image collection.
Switzerland, Fribourg, Census, 1850 0 2,968 New browsable image collection.
Switzerland, Fribourg, Census, 1860 0 20,530 New browsable image collection.
Switzerland, Fribourg, Census, 1870 0 22,554 New browsable image collection.
U.S., Alabama, County Marriages, 1809-1950 324,971 690,459 Added indexed records and images to an existing collection.
United States Public Records Index 189,395,454 0 Added indexed records to an existing collection.
United States Veterans Administration Pension Payment Cards, 1907-1933 576,176 0 Added indexed records to an existing collection.
United States World War I Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918 644,004 0 Added indexed records to an existing collection.
Wales, Court and Miscellaneous Records, 1542-1911 0 84,676 Added images to an existing collection.

 

Find Canadian Ancestors in Censuses from 1825 to 1921

canada_peg_figure_12111If you have Canadian kin, you’ll be pleased to hear that the 1825 census of Lower Canada is now searchable online, and the 1921 census will soon be available online, too!

The 1825 census of Lower Canada counted nearly half a million people. Heads of household were actually named, with other members of the household counted by category. You can search by household name or geographic location.

The 1921 census counted 8.8 million people in thousands of communities across Canada. According to the Library and Archives Canada Blog, the population questionnaire had 35 questions. The census also collected data on “agriculture; animals, animal products, fruits not on farms; manufacturing and trading establishments; and [a] supplemental questionnaire for persons who were blind and deaf. This represents a total of 565 questions.” The census was released this past June 1 from the national Statistics office to the Library and Archives. That office is processing and scanning the nearly 200,000 images for public use. It hopes to have them posted soon.

Here’s a sample page from the 1921 census population schedule:

Canada Census 1921 image

We think of Canada as a real melting pot today—or salad bowl, as they prefer. That wasn’t always the case. The 1825 census of Lower Canada counted mostly Europeans of French extraction. In 1901,  70% of Canadians claimed either British or French heritage. But in the first two decades of the 1900s, a huge immigration boom occurred that reached well beyond England and France. So the folks who show up on the 1921 census represented a newly multicultural Canada!

Start looking for your Canadian ancestors in the Library and Archives Canada’s popular Census Indexes, which include that 1825 census and a new version of the 1891 census, too. Watch the website for the 1921 census.

If your family arrived in Canada after the 1921 census, check out the website for The Canadian Museum of Immigration at Pier 21, where a million immigrants landed between 1928-1971.

1950 Census Locational Tool Project for Genealogy

line_woman_aha_9775Hands up, who wants to help prep the 1950 U.S. census for us all to explore?

The 1950 census won’t be released to the public for seven more years, but it took just longer than that to create the locational tools that millions of researchers have used to find their families on the 1940 census.

The dynamic duo of Steve Morse and Joel Weintraub, who produced the locational tools for the 1940 census on the Morse One-Step site, are recruiting 200+ volunteers to help transcribe enumeration district definitions and create urban area street indexes for the 1950 census.

Their “job description” for these volunteers sounds really meaty and hands-on: “These projects aren’t for everybody. Volunteers should have basic computer skills, typing skills, have access to the Internet, be detail people but not perfectionists, be independent workers and able to follow instructions, be patient enough to handle large amounts of information, and be comfortable with projects that may take weeks or months, not hours, to accomplish. You should be able to handle and manipulate images (jpgs) of maps and Enumeration District (ED) definition scans. A large computer monitor would be desirable but not essential. We will provide instructions for carrying out the work, and a place to ask questions. Volunteers may use some free programs to help speed up the entry process. We expect volunteers to make steady progress on their assignments, and we have the luxury of time right now to do it well.”

Learn more about the project here, and try the 1940 One-Step locational tools here.

 

 

How the Census Will Change in the Future

Genealogists in search of their family history have reaped great rewards from census records being digitized and made available online on websites like Ancestry.com.

In the future, Americans will have the option to respond to a ‘digital’ enumerator – the Internet.

According to CBS News “For the first time, the Census Bureau is giving U.S. households a chance to respond to government surveys over the Internet, part of a bid to save costs and boost sagging response rates in a digital age.”

Read the rest of the story here.