Dana Leeds, blog author from the website The Enthusiastic Genealogist, shares with us how she solved a family mystery when the incorrect name was transcribed in census records.
The transcription of names on sites like Ancestry has greatly reduced the time it takes to locate individuals and families on census records. However, incorrectly transcribed names continue to make some people difficult to locate.
|1930 U.S. census, Wayne County, Michigan, population schedule, Detroit Ward 21, p. 258 (stamped), enumeration district 82-792, sheet 1-A, dwelling 13, Charles Kaechle; NARA microfilm publication T626, roll 1063.|
In 1930, Charles Kaechle lived with his wife, Amanda, and mother, Mary M. Sprenger, on Gladwin Avenue in Detroit. Although I believed Charles Kaechle was still living in Detroit in 1940, I could not find him.
I decided to try a “trick” that has sometimes worked in the past: search for a neighbor. In choosing a neighbor, it helps to look for the following:
- choose an unusual surname or first name
- choose someone who owns a house rather than rents
- choose a younger man with a family
|1940 U.S. census, Wayne County, Michigan, population schedule, Detroit Ward 21, p. 18786 (stamped), enumeration district 84-1417, sheet 1-A, household 14, A. Charles Kaechle; NARA microfilm publication T627, roll 1882.|
I quickly found Joseph Neigebauer’s living on Gladwin Avenue in Detroit in 1940. Scrolling down a few houses, I saw my Charles Kaechle! It even looked spelled correctly to me. But, when I looked at the index to see how the name had been transcribed on Ancestry, it listed him as Charles Jaeckle. The initial “K” had been transcribed as a “J,” and the “h” was misread as a “k.” So, the name was transcribed as Jaeckle instead of Kaechle.
This method will only work if your family didn’t move between the two census enumerations. Also, if you don’t find your family the first time, try a few more neighbor’s names.
If you’ve not tried this method, give it a try! Let me know if you find a family you hadn’t been able to find using the “usual” research methods.
BONUS TIP: Try a different website! If you usually search on Ancestry, like I do, try FamilySearch. In this case, I searched for “Charles Kaechle” and set the residence to “Detroit” from “1940” to “1940.” The 1940 census record for Charles Kaechle was the top hit – and it was transcribed correctly!
If you have a story idea or a blog that you’d like to share as part of this series, please let us know about it in the comments.
This is a great tip for people that you have already found on at least one census because you can easily search for their neighbors in rows above or below your desired person. If you can’t even find the first census record, how can you identify their neighbors?
Thanks for the comment! You have to find your subject on the census before or after, identify their neighbors on that census, and then search for their neighbors on the census you can’t find your subject on.
Hi, David. If you haven’t found a person on a census yet, have you found other records for that person or family? Are their other names on those records you might be able to search for? Hopefully, they lived nearby and you might be able to find them on the census record that way. Best wishes!
You asked for other blog posts for this series. I have a number of problem solving blog posts. Here’s one example https://unstmorag.wordpress.com/2015/07/30/tracking-martha-johnson/
Thank you so much! We will get in touch with you.
Incorrectly transcribed census records is definitely an issue and I take information that seems somewhat correct with a grain of salt until I can prove it using a second source.