Monday, April 18, 2016

Success! Finding Incorrectly Transcribed Names on Census Records

The transcription of names on sites like Ancestry has greatly reduced the time it takes to locate individuals and families on census records. However, incorrectly transcribed names continue to make some people difficult to locate. 

1930 U.S. census, Wayne County, Michigan, population schedule, Detroit Ward 21, p. 258 (stamped), enumeration district 82-792, sheet 1-A, dwelling 13, Charles Kaechle; NARA microfilm publication T626, roll 1063.

In 1930, Charles Kaechle lived with his wife, Amanda, and mother, Mary M. Sprenger, on Gladwin Avenue in Detroit. Although I believed Charles Kaechle was still living in Detroit in 1940, I could not find him.

I decided to try a "trick" that has sometimes worked in the past: search for a neighbor. In choosing a neighbor, it helps to look for the following:
  • choose an unusual surname or first name
  • choose someone who owns a house rather than rents 
  • choose a younger man with a family
To locate Charles Kaechle, I chose to search for his neighbor Joseph Neigebauer.


1940 U.S. census, Wayne County, Michigan, population schedule, Detroit Ward 21, p. 18786 (stamped), enumeration district 84-1417, sheet 1-A, household 14, A. Charles Kaechle; NARA microfilm publication T627, roll 1882.

I quickly found Joseph Neigebauer's living on Gladwin Avenue in Detroit in 1940. Scrolling down a few houses, I saw my Charles Kaechle! It even looked spelled correctly to me. But, when I looked at the index to see how the name had been transcribed on Ancestry, it listed him as Charles Jaeckle. The initial "K" had been transcribed as a "J," and the "h" was misread as a "k." So, the name was transcribed as Jaeckle instead of Kaechle.

This method will only work if your family didn't move between the two census enumerations. Also, if you don't find your family the first time, try a few more neighbor's names.

If you've not tried this method, give it a try! Let me know if you find a family you hadn't been able to find using the "usual" research methods.

BONUS TIP: Try a different website! If you usually search on Ancestry, like I do, try FamilySearch. In this case, I searched for "Charles Kaechle" and set the residence to "Detroit" from "1940" to "1940." The 1940 census record for Charles Kaechle was the top hit - and it was transcribed correctly!

10 comments:

  1. This is a brilliant suggestion! It hasn't worked out (yet) for my grandfather's (and family) 1920 census, but I haven't given up yet. I'm actually having to work backward from the 1930 census (rather than forward from the 1910 census) because my grandfather purchased land and married in 1915 in a different enumeration district than his parents. Do you happen to know if there is any kind of listing for "missing" or "lost" census records, especially for the 1920 census?

    This is a tip I expect to use again and again...many thanks!

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    1. You're quite welcome! I hope it helps! I tried another one last night, and the family had evidently moved. I found the correct address, but my family wasn't living there.

      No, I don't know if there's a listing for missing or lost census records. I'm sure there are places online that would list any census records that are missing. You might try Cyndi's List.

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  2. Great suggestion, I'll have to try this.

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    1. Thanks, Anna! I don't remember where I read about it before. I've tried this technique in the past. Sometimes it works, and sometimes it doesn't. But, it's worth a try! Enjoy the hunt!

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  3. Dana,

    I want to let you know that two of your blog posts are listed in today's Fab Finds post at http://janasgenealogyandfamilyhistory.blogspot.com/2016/04/follow-friday-fab-finds-for-april-22.html

    Have a great weekend!

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    1. Thanks, Jana! I was just over there looking at your post & saw my post listed. :) I really appreciate it & am glad you enjoyed my post!

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  4. I know what you mean about bad transcriptions. My Pozdech family was well documented once they came to the US in 1906, but I couldn't find them in the 1920 Census. Luckily they were listed in City Directories so I used the Steve Morse website and looked them up by the address & found them. Their name had been transcribed as Paxcleigh (not even close). I never would have found them, but I will try your method on my next missing family. Thanks for the post.

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    1. Marilyn, I'm not familiar with the Steve Morse website. I just opened it up & will have to look around... thanks! Yes, sometimes the names are just horribly transcribed. My Koechle ancestors were transcribed as Boecker on the ship manifest on Ancestry! Happy Hunting!

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  5. I see so many transcription errors, especially on the census forms. Some are understandable, due to illegible writing. But a lot of times I look at the transcription and just shake my head. I'm going to try your tip on a couple of ancestors I can't seem to find a certain census for. Maybe I'll get lucky. :) Thank you.

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    1. Thanks, Tina. Best wishes on your search!

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