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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