To use census information at it's VERY BEST, to locate people, you have to start at one of two places.
1.The first census AFTER they were born.If it is any one of the ones that has a FULL index, meaning they have all the names of the people who are on the census listed, then you start searching for them by their SOUNDEX name and state of birth.
Take advantage of the "*" when you have ANY DOUBT.The "*" is a wonderful tool, but it too has it's limitations.Suppose I was looking for a William Culp.I would first type in Wil*and then the fur/family name of Culp.The "Wil*" get me ANY name starting with Wil, i.e. William, Willie, Will, Wilbur, Wilson and the like.(You never really know what name that they were enumerated under, and you also have to remember one of the rules I sent you.The enumerator didn't have to know HOW to spell, so even the name of William is messed up at times.You have to remember though, that to use the *, you have to first put in at least three letters.
If you still have no hits, then try spelling the Culp as a Kulp.Ancestry.com will show up any soundex of the Culp, starting with a C, but not with a K, until you ask it to do so.
Remember to be willing to give or take at least three years of age deviation.
2.Use the last census that you find them in, and then work backwards, using the same criteria as in no. 1.
If you find them in the first census after they were born, you have the names of their parents and siblings. Then you can do the same method for locating, at least the father, going back each census year.
Unless you are fortunate enough to find a marriage for the parents in the marriage part of Ancestry.com, then your only hope of finding the maiden names of the women, is HOPING that there is census information the states a person living in the household that is listed as an 'in-law', for the ladies name.There are some exceptions to this also.In the EARLY census, until 1880, no relationship was mentioned.I have still been able to use the elder people living in the household as a PROBABLE maiden name for the wife.Suppose that the name was born in OH, and his wife in NY.IF the elderly person was also listed as being born in NY, then it is relatively safe to assume that that person is related to the wife.If the elderly person is listed as being a widow/widower, it usually means that he/she has gone to live with his/her child.
In the early census, people really stayed close to one another.A great deal of time, the elder family, would give some of his land to his child, for them to live on.
Remember, that on some census you will not find the person listed under the name you are searching for.Lets go back to William Culp.MAYBE his middle name was Foster.You might find him on a census listed as Foster.I really can't tell you how many times I found that AFTER the child left the parents home, that he/she took on his/her OTHER name.This is when it really helps to know the names of some of the sibling.Suppose that William Foster had an older brother John.William was born in, lets say, 1867, and John in 1864. Then you might search for the John born in about 1864, and see if he has a brother born about 1867.
Personally, it took me three census years, and finally a marriage license to learn the name of my husband's g-grand mother.One census she was listed as Ann, another one Fannie, and still a third she was listed as Lucy.I honestly thought that his g-grandfather was getting married before each census year.The only thing that kept me going was that the lady was always the same age, and born in the same place.I finally found their marriage license and it was issued to a L. A. F. Bibb.IE, Lucy Ann Frances Bibb.
Which brings me to another point.You will find that people had a NUMBER of other names at times, and might use any one of them.
A James George might very well be a George James on another one.Point in fact.I had a George James Emrich, who was found being listed under that name, James G. Emmerick and any other variation of the Emrich name. I have six different spellings of EMRICH in one family line.
Remember that state and county border lines CHANGED quite a bit, until the late 1800s.Get yourself an atlas, and use it to see what county is bordering the one you are looking at.
Remember that the marriage USUALLY took place in the county of the bride, but they usually lived in the county of the groom.The exception being IF the brides parents needed the groom to help with the farming and the brides father would give them adjoining land to his to entice them to do so.
If you have a hard time in finding someone, try searching for them by using the parents names and the birth place of that parent.(This has helped me a number of times)
In short, DO NOT GIVE UP ON ONE TRY!!!
The enumerators were SLOPPY and the transcribers have a VERY HARD time in translating what was written.I give nothing but KUDOS to those adventurous people who take their time to do this for us.
One final suggestion.If the person has an unusual name, and all the searching has not helped you to find him/her, try using the first name ALONE on the search.Using the "*" method, and then as the names come up, look for a sur/family name that in someway MIGHT resemble what you are looking for.Keeping in mind the fact that Ws, Ms, Ns and Hs, are very similar in appearance.The same goes for Ls and Ss.I's and J's.Ks and Rs.Rs and Bs.
The transcriber doesn't know what names were or should be in that particular county/township, YOU DO!!!Knowing that there were Bryans in the particular county that I needed them to be in , and not finding them after a search, I went searching for Ryans and found them.
The 'i' weren't always dotted,and the ts weren't always crossed.Use your imagination and look at the names as they MIGHT be with other letters, that are similar in appearance, might look like.