What number does this look like to you?

In genealogy, we quickly come to learn that we must use wildcards and some pretty creative spelling when searching for our ancestors. But today’s guest blogger Janine Adams from Organize Your Family History (organizeyourfamilyhistory.com) shares an experience reminding us to widen our thinking about *all* of our search terms, not just names! Here’s her experience:


For about a year, I’d been trying to find my great grandfather’s half-brother, Wayne Horace Adams (1907-1976), on the 1920 census. His parents had divorced and I could not find Horace or his father, my 2nd great grandfather George Washington Adams, on that census. I knew that 74-year-old George had received custody of 12-year-old Horace in the 1919 divorce. And I knew that George would enter the Home for Disabled Soldiers in 1922. My curiosity about what happened to this teenager was strong.

I searched for him hither and yon, using everything I knew about him in my search terms. I thought I had searched for him with all his half siblings but in September I found him living in Oklahoma with his half brother John Quincy Adams, whom I apparently had missed checking on. That was an exciting find! (Because I was in a library when I found it, my cheers had to be silent, but that didn’t make them less exuberant.)

Once I found Horace on the 1920 census I wondered why he hadn’t come up in my searches on his name. I found the culprit: The enumerator had made a correction making Horace’s  age, which was 12, look like 42. (That’s a close up at the top of this post.) It was indexed as 42 and so he didn’t come up in my searches.

I realized that if I had left out his year of birth in my searches, I would have found him more easily. Lesson learned!



You can read Janine’s original post, with comments, at https://organizeyourfamilyhistory.com/broaden-search-terms/

If you have ideas or stories to share in our “How I Solved It” series, please let us know! We love showcasing a wide variety of voices and stories demonstrating sound methodology…and some creative thinking!

Janine Adams
Janine Adams is the owner and blog author for the website Organize Your Family History. She is a professional organizer and a genealogy enthusiast. In her blog, she shares her own discoveries and explorations, along with organizing challenges (and solutions). Visit Janine's Website
Janine Adams

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