Birth Places in the Census
Experienced researchers have seen that foreign birth towns seldom appear
in U.S. or Canadian census records. However, it makes a pleasant surprise
to find that sometimes they do indeed appear.
One case in particular is the 1860 census of St. Louis: most of the immigrants
in the second ward of that city have specific birth places listed on the census!
There were many Irish in that ward, and the minimal information entered by
the enumerator was the Irish birth county. Additionally, specific towns appear
for many of these immigrants.
Of course, this is an exception that occurs only seldom. Other researchers
have also reported finding specific birth towns in census records, sometimes
for a whole area, and sometimes only for a specific individual or family.
As rare as these circumstances may be, it does point out that a researcher
should never assume they will learn nothing new from a record they have
not yet searched.
In this way, this example re-enforces a concept shown in the early lessons
of the introductory course: Search every source. They all provide clues,
and sometimes even answers! It is also important to remember that, since the
place names in these census records usually refer to states or provinces,
German places such as Hannover or Baden will refer to the states having
those names, not the cities which also share those names.