Friday, March 26, 2010

Where in the world is Carmen Sandiego?...

Well, not exactly Carmen, unless I can prove we're related...

For much of my research, the census has been my go-to record to find out where people were living, who had been born, who had died, what people were doing for a living, where they had come from. But there are some people who *should* be in a census who are just not there. They're like ghosts. Or super-awesome, top secret CIA agents, living off the grid. Somehow, I have a feeling that's not the case.

Here are some examplee of what I'm talking about:

The Gorrys - James and Mary and their kids Mary, Michael, Hannah, and James - are in the 1860 and 1870 censuses and then again in the 1900, but I can't find them anywhere, at all, in the 1880 census.

John Horgan - my third great grandfather, died in 1908 in Manhattan, but is he in the 1900 census? Not at the address where he died, and not anywhere else so far as I can tell.

Hiram Horatio Raynor - I may have to come back to my 3rd great-grandfather at another time because I have a nagging suspicion he's going by a different last name in 1850, and there's a long story behind that, but that would explain why I can't find him, even though he's alive and well in 1860, 1870, and 1880.

The Meinbergs - my third great grandmother Eva is alive and well into the 20th century as is her mother, Catherine, as I just discovered, but I can't find either in the 1870 census.

Sometimes the problem is spelling. I do various spellings of last names. I do soundex searches. I do first and last name. I do no first name.

Sometimes dates are wrong and birth places are wrong. Or, if someone is born in, say, Bavaria, they might be listed under Deustchland or Germany or Bavaria. Or something completely wrong.

Sometimes you think you know where someone lived. Most of my ancestors stayed in New York, but if you start to look outside that area, you find them there, like the Haases and Reinhardts in New Jersey.

If your ancestor has an unusual last name, like Gorry, they might be easier to find than if your ancestor has a common one, like Smith. However, Smith is easier to spell than Gorry, so the Smith search might actually be easier.

Sometimes you want to put more information to narrow down the search, because if you put James born in 1869, you're going to get more than a ton of hits. But if you narrow it down too much, you might miss something. You can't assume that since all your family lives in New York that everyone else lived in New York. That's how I almost missed out on my Civil War veteran ancestor Charles Haase, who fought for the 33rd infantry, *New Jersey*.

I have a suspicion that maybe some of these people went back to the motherland for some time before returning to the States. I've started looking at passenger lists covering the missing years, after their initial immigration if I know it. Because there comes a point when you've looked for someone in a census record under every permutation possible with no luck that you think, well, maybe it's simply because they weren't there.

Maybe the answers aren't that complicated. Maybe they're very, very simple.

It gets frustrating. But I'm not giving up. Did Nancy Drew ever give up? No, she did not. Yes, she had George and Bess and Ned to help her, but I have the internet. And we both have determination and a desire to find the truth. I'm going to solve these cases yet, you just wait and see!

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