Census Indexes Available
Census records are among the first original records (available on microfilm) that family historians learn to use. However, since one book of census returns might be 1400 pages long, it behooves us to look at census indexes as a wayof quickly finding WHICH page we must look at to find the entry for our ancestor.
While the use of indexes are certainly advisable, there are obvious limitations such as human error when indexing. For this reason you might not find an entry for your ancestor at all, or it might be listed under a slightly different spelling due to the indexer's interpretation of the census taker's handbook.
Also consider that some indexes, such as the 1880 Soundex didn't even consider anyone for the index UNLESS they had children in the household under the age of 10. Alas, that would eliminiate the possibility of a listing for my Ferd and Nance (Swanker) Goering in the 1880 census! If I knew them to be in the county, I would have to look scroll through the microfilm for the township, and then read every entry for them in the census book.
Unfortunately our ancestors did not have the forethought to stand in alphabetical order when then census taker came around!
Here are some of the census indexes available:
- AIS Accelerated Indexing System (on microfiche at every LDS FHCenter) Best for pre-1860 census records. Caution: 19% error rate.
- Precision Indexing - book format indexes by state. Available at local public libraries in the genealogy department.
- Soundex - A system for indexing surname by the way the name sounds. In this manner index cards for Stevenson, Stephenson, Stevensen and the like would all be found in the same section, then filed alphabetically by first name. The Soundex is available on microfilm at the National Archives and its field branches, the LDS Family History Library, and larger public libraries throughout the county. Once you locate an ancestor in the soundex cards, you be able to make note of the enumeration district, city, county, state and page number where your ancestor is listed. Then you can order the microfilm of the original census record, to photocopy for your family history records.
- Privately published indexes - including the works done by local historical or genealogical societies. Often these are typescripts and are available by contacting the local society, or perhaps through the LDS Family History Library if they have been given a copy.