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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.

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