A census is an official list of the people in a particular area at a given time, while voter lists show those who were registered to vote in a certain area.
Census records can be rich with details about your ancestor. Be sure to look at each and every question that was asked and think about what the answer meant to your ancestor. Those answers tell your family’s story. They also provide clues that will help you to locate even more records.
Many countries took periodic censuses to keep track of various aspects of the population. Where available, these records often include helpful details about your ancestors and their families and allow you to pinpoint their location at a particular point in time. Voter lists serve as a confirmation of residence between the years a census was taken.
While the questions in census records vary from place to place, and year to year, you can find information like names of other household members, ages, birthplaces, residence, occupation, and marital status.
- Pinpoint your ancestor’s location from the census on a map, and then look for churches, cemeteries, and other places where your ancestor may have left records.
- Be sure to locate your ancestor’s adult siblings in census records. It was common for extended family to live in the same household or near other family members. You may find a parent, grandparent, or other family members living either with them or nearby.
- If you’re having a difficult time locating your ancestor, try searching using only given names and other details like birth year, residence, family members, place of birth, etc.
- Occasionally, census takers only recorded initials in place of the given name. Using only a first initial will bring up these records.
- Census takers didn’t always have the best penmanship, so if you’re having a hard time locating your ancestor, write out the name and try replacing some of the letters with letters that look similar.
- Once you find a matching census or voter record, save it to your family tree – that way you can provide evidence to back up the info in your family tree, easily share your discovery with your family, and quickly find the historical record again later.