Family History Research

I can’t find my Chicago ancestor, now what?

Sunday I wrote about my Excel spreadsheet that helps me locate family members by street address. The spreadsheet is gorgeous and almost totally filled in for each person, but it took me several hours over a few days to locate some of those addresses. If you have come across the issue of “I can’t find my Chicago ancestor but I am pretty sure they stayed in the same house or area of the city, now what?” Here are a few resources to aid your search, which helped me immensely. First you need to roll up your sleeves, grab a pen and paper, cup of coffee, and get your data ready.

I know I spelled their name correctly but I cannot find them on Census in 1910. What can I do? I think it depends on how you are searching. Are you looking at Census records online through Ancestry.com or some other database? If you are, have you checked different spellings of the name? Have you changed the first letter of the name in case the transcriptionist saw it differently than you? My Dorothy Zajicek became Pajek in once census because the transcriptionist saw the Z as a P. If you are looking via Soundex on microfilm and cannot locate the name, it is possible it was misspelled on the Census so the Soundex may not help you. I had this issue in 1930 with my Holik. The Census taker wrote HAlik, not HOlik. Changes the Soundex Code. I was finally able to find it through Ancestry.com only after my grandmother and uncle had died and could no longer answer the questions that arose after I found this Census record.

I have a street address for my ancestors in 1900 but I cannot find them on Census in 1910. What can I do? If you are fairly certain your ancestor remained in the same house but you are unable to locate them by their name in a search or Soundex, there are a few resources to consult.

First, you can search the Chicago Street Address (re-numbering) Change 1909. This is a PDF file and shows the old street number by street name and the new number. In 1909 most city of Chicago street names changed. There was another change in 1911 for downtown addresses. Rand McNally has a great 1910 Map online as an additional resource.

Second, once you have checked for the changed address, you can consult a Ward Map.  There is a fantastic website called A Look at Cook, which has Census Ward Maps. Because the Wards changed slightly each census, it is helpful to use MapQuest or GoogleMaps to locate where the revised address is in the city today. That will give you an area in which to start searching the Ward Maps. When you find the Ward Map you believe is correct, you next must look at the Enumeration District. Sometimes a street is a boundary street between ED’s so you might have to search both.

When you have your ED for the Ward, you should look page by page of that section of the Census record. Find the street name on which your ancestors lived and search the names. Some Census Wards are many pages long and it may take forever. Others are shorter and will not take as long. If you are viewing the Wards through Ancestry.com, you can sort the census by State, Ward, Enumeration District. I have not tried this on microfilm yet so if you have suggestions to make it easiser for those researchers, please post your comments.

I have tried these suggestions and still cannot locate my ancestor. Now what?  I have found in my research, are a few possiblities. One, my ancestor was not added to the Census for reasons unknown. Two, they were not living where I thought they were for that Census year. If this could be the case, I would start searching their children’s Census records. I have found after a spouse dies, particularly the husband, many women in my family moved in with their children, or a child and his or her family moved in with the woman and they are listed before her on the Census. Three, did they die before the Census was taken? At the top of each Census page, the enumerator listed the date. And fourth, the name is so misspelled that it may take many hours of Ward searching to locate them.

I hope these suggestions, based on my personal research experience have helped you. Please post your own experiences. I’m sure you have run across issues I have not.

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Trace a family through addresses

I have found one thing extremely helpful for both my sanity and research during the last 14 years and that thing is a street address. Recording a street address for everyone in my tree has helped me at times to prove the person with the misspelled name on X document is my person; or helped me to search records, especially census, where I cannot find them using regular searching techniques.

Where do I find all of these addresses? Census records; birth, marriage and death records; voter registrations; Naturalization documents; Passport Applications; military records; the newspaper.

The newspaper has been a wonderful source of information to prove or disprove someone is actually the person I am looking for. In the Chicago area in the 1940’s in particular, where I have been researching, the newspaper articles typically include a street address with the name of the person they mention in the article. This is a terrific resource especially between Census years if you are trying to track a family.

My record keeping for addresses in my Family Tree Maker database is held in a field called RESIDENCE and for description I put SEE NOTES. Of course I have multiple fields of RESIDENCE that list CENSUS information. But this entry is specific to record multiple addresses.

I list the year of the record, the type of record, and the address. If an address is smudged or difficult to decipher, I put a question mark next to it with a note. This list of addresses is for my great, great grandfather Joseph Kokoska.

1882 – Birth of Frank – 412 W. 17th Street, Chicago, Cook, IL

1884 – Birth of Emilie- 84 Clayton Street, Chicago, Cook, IL

1886 – Birth of Charles – 691 May St, Chicago, Cook, IL

1891 – City Directory – lab 988 Van Horn St., Chicago, Cook Co., IL

1892 10/7 –Naturalized – 988 Van Horn St, Chicago, IL

1892 10/25 – voter reg – 832 W. 18th St, Chicago, IL

1900 – Census & city directory – 988 W. 18th Place, Chicago, IL

1910 – Census – 2122 W. 18th Place, Chicago, IL

In 1909 Chicago converted street names and numbers. The family lived in the same house, just converted address.

1930 – Census – 2122 W. 18th Place, Chicago, IL

Owned home for $3,000.

1943 – Died – 2122 W. 18th Pl, Chicago, IL

Another way I keep track of the family and their movements, including their children, is to create an Excel file of addresses. Below is one example of a file I created for my Kokoska family.

I initially created this after making a similar layout on some of those large white sticky pages used in meetings.  While the paper was nice to make notes and write down questions, I needed a nicer way to visually see all my information. The reason I started this file is because I had some trouble locating several 1920 Census records and needed to search by Chicago Ward based on address. Mapping this out in Excel helped me to visually understand the family movements and help keep me focused on what I was doing, and sometimes locate another family member in the process.

The Excel file also raised other questions such as why were so many of Majdalena and Joseph Kokoska’s grandchildren born in their home, when it appears the parents of those grandchildren lived elsewhere? Was it a Bohemian custom for the girls to come home to give birth so their mothers and the midwives could deliver the child? Did they just happen to be visiting when they went into labor? I need to delve into Bohemian birthing customs for the turn of the century to have that question answered.

The file also shows how close, both in proximity and relationship, families were at the turn of the century and a few decades after. By plotting on a Chicago street map, all these addresses for my Kokoska family, I would find that they lived within a few blocks of each other or “across the alley”.  Children grew up visiting their grandparents daily and fully experiencing that relationship, unlike today when so many families are spread out by cities, states and even other countries. The file shows a totally different lifestyle then than we experience today.

The last big thing the file shows, especially when plotted out on a map is the movement from the city to the suburbs. Visually on the Excel sheet you can see this both by address and date. Compare this data with data from that time period about Bohemian enclaves and you will see a similar pattern by date. The group began moving out of the city as they became more affluent. If I had the data to map out to present day I would see another mass “migration” from the close suburbs of Chicago to the far suburbs of Chicago by the 1970’s.

Recording one simple detail, a street address, can prove to be so useful, the more one researches. That simple detail can also lead to more questions. But isn’t that the fun of genealogy? The detective work one must do?

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