Searching for All Family Members Starting With the 1850 Census
This example involves my third great-grandparents George Cummins and Sarah Ann Hall. They married in 1838. 1850 was the first census available that listed the names of both George and Sarah along with the six children they had at the time. Here is the 1850 census records for Meigs County, Ohio.
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Difficulty Finding the Family in the 1860 Census
This research was done in the 1990s before many census records were online. I looked and looked through microfilm, but could not find this family in the 1860 census. So, I asked another researcher more familiar with this part of the country to help me. She found the family in Jackson County, Virginia (now West Virginia) across the Ohio River from Meigs County, Ohio. The head of household is now "S. A. Cummons." This is Sarah Ann Cummins. The oldest child is "Del Cummons." This is Delilah Cummins, who happens to be my second great-grandmother. Delilah is identified by the arrow in both censuses. Note the challenging handwriting in the 1860 census.
George Cummins, My Third Great Grandfather, Was Missing
Apparently, something happened to George between 1850 and 1860. Even though he was relatively young, the most likely explanation is that he died. This allowed me to search for a death record for George in Jackson County since I could specify that he died between 1850 and 1860. My guess was correct. He died in 1858. Also, it appears that Sarah Ann was pregnant at the time and that she named that daughter Georgia after her late husband. Georgia is the last child listed above in the 1860 census.
Searching Census Records Is Much Easier Now
This search example is from my genealogical research in the 1990s. The search capabilities have improved since then. To test the improvement, I recently tried searching for the 1860 census record for Sarah Ann Cummins and family without specifying Virginia (or West Virginia) on Ancestry.com. The 1860 census record shown above was the ninth suggestion. I also tried a similar search on FamilySearch.org and it listed the 1860 census record shown above as first in the search results. In both case, I searched for Sarah instead of her husband George. Other than that, today's online searching is so much easier than it was in the 1990s.
Additional Resources Related to Census Records
Not Sure, Try Our Free Online Genealogy Search Advisor
If you are not sure that searching for a census record is the next best option for your research, consider using the advice feature of this site. This will help you pick your next best steps in your research. Go to the Free Online Genealogy Search Advisor.
Census Records Search Guide Context
- Home » Genealogy Search Guides » Using Census Records for Researching Your Ancestry » Census Records Search Example for Ancestor Research
Other Genealogy Search Guides
- Using Birth Records for Researching Your Ancestry
- Using Marriage Records for Researching Your Ancestry
- Using Death Records for Researching Your Ancestry
- Using Ship Manifests for Researching Your Ancestry
- Using Obituaries for Researching Your Ancestry
- Using Naturalization Records for Researching Your Ancestry
- Using Historical Societies for Researching Your Ancestry
- Using Church Records for Researching Your Ancestry
- Using Family Trees for Researching Your Ancestry
- Record Keeping for Researching Your Ancestry