1940 Census: Check Multiple Sources

When the 1940 Census was released in April, I spent a couple of days browsing through them by hand to find my ancestors and my wife’s ancestors. I knew where they all lived (generally speaking) and I was finally able to find everyone, except a few. My wife’s grandmother, Barbara COLLINS, and her parents, Albert and Anna, were nowhere to be found. I personally looked through every enumeration district in the area that they had lived in 1930 (and 1941, based on a newspaper article.) When we visited my wife’s parents, I sat with my father-in-law and did the same thing. We couldn’t find them. We were stumped.

I decided to wait until some of the indexed versions of the Wisconsin censuses were relased. Once Ancestry.com released their indexed version, I tried searching. No matches. I tried every possible search combination using names, dates, places, but nothing. I was starting to think they were missed, which is very rare.

FamilySearch had not released an indexed Wisconsin census at the time. They had indexed their version separately from Ancestry. Once the Wisconsin census index was released, I searched FamilySearch’s version. I found them on my first try in Scott Township, Crawford County, Wisconsin. I honestly don’t know how we missed them in our manual search, since I know we checked Scott Township.

The other big, important lesson to take from this is to always check multiple sources. A few of the major genealogy sites indexes the 1940 Census themselves, so different people indexed them. Once I found their entry on the Ancestry version of the 1940 Census, I could see why I missed it.

The individuals who transcribed this entry on Ancestry marked Barbara down as 19, instead of 16 (which to me is obvious) so when I searched based on her birth year, it didn’t help. They made the same mistake with her father, Albert, though it was further off. Ancestry had him indexed as 44, and not 64 (which, again, is obvious to me.) The other issue I had, which wasn’t the indexer’s fault, is that Anna is marked down as Emma. All three of these things made it almost impossible for me to search for this family based on the info I knew about them.

Always, always, always check multiple sources. Different people transcribe differently. Also, look again at the pages you’ve already looked at. You may have missed something the first time.

About Brian Zalewski

I started genealogy research about mid-1999. My grandfather had passed away in April of that year. Since then I’ve done a lot of research not only for myself, but for friends and other relatives. In 2006, I married the love of my life, Darcy, and welcomed the birth of our daughter, Aerissa Jean, in 2010 and our son, Xander Lee, in 2012. I can’t wait to tell them stories about all of their ancestors.

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