Finding individuals in subscription indexes

Currently, the largest United States Census population schedule index collections are found on the subscription-based Ancestry.com (available to individuals, libraries, and other institutions) and HeritageQuest Online (available only to libraries and other institutions). Ancestry.com (www.ancestry.com) has census indexes for the years 1790 through 1870, generated from print indexes. Ancestry.com also has re-indexed population schedules from 1790 to 1870 and from 1900 to 1930. They use the 1880 index produced by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and have indexed the census fragment for 1890. HeritageQuest Online has re-indexed census entries for the years 1790 through 1930.

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We should mention that you need to be careful about using these indexes. First of all, not all indexes include every person in the census. Some are merely head-of-household indexes. So, it's a good idea to read the description that comes with the index to see how complete it is. Also, the same quality control may not be there for every census year even within the same index-producing company. If you do not find your ancestor in one of these indexes, don't automatically assume that he or she is not in the census. Another point to remember is that a lot of these indexes were created outside of the United States by people who were not native English speakers and who were under time constraints. It is quite possible that the indexer was incorrect in indexing a particular entry — possibly the person you are searching for.

One of the benefits of using a subscription census index is the value-added features that are built into the search mechanism. For example, if we do a search for the same Samuel Abell as we did in the last section on Ancestry.com, we see some of the additional features of the search engine. Figure 5-3 shows the search results for Samuel Abell limiting the search to the 1790 Census. The first column is the Match Quality, which is a visual representation of how close the search result is to the search terms. In this case, Samuel Abell ranks first based upon his name and his location in St. Mary's county, Maryland. From this same search results page, you can view a textual record of the individual, as well as a link to see a digital image of the census record. In addition to presenting results based on your search criteria, this search mechanism also displays other results that are similar — such as individuals with the same last name or people who have a name that sounds similar to the search criteria.

If you widen the search criteria to more than 1790 (such as in Figure 5-4), you can not only see entries for Samuel in the 1790 Census, but you can also see entries for him in the 1800 and 1810 censuses along with some rent roll records.

Figure 5-3:

Index results for Samuel Abell from Ancestry. com.

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Samuel Abril

Unknown township, 'it Maris, MD

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Benjamín Abell

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Clark Abell

Unknown Township, Mini, MD

1790

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1790

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]uhn H Abell

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1790

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Unknown Tnwnïhip, St Marys, MD

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John, Ser Abell

Unknown township, it Marys, MD

1790

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Unknomi Township, St Mam, MD

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Philip Ahrll

Unknown Tnwnship, St Marys, MD

1790

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Figure 5-4:

Expanded search results for Samuel Abell from Ancestry. com.

Figure 5-4:

Expanded search results for Samuel Abell from Ancestry. com.

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