Genealogy methodology indicates that we perform an exhaustive search before we attempt to reach a “final” genealogical conclusion. I have an ancestor, Ira William Sargent (born early 1840s in Ontario, Canada) who is enumerated in the 1850, 1860, 1880, 1900, and 1910 census in the United States.
I cannot find him in the 1870.
If I’m writing up my research on Ira William, what do I say about him in the 1870 census?
If I fail to mention the 1870 at all then it looks like I never searched for him in the 1870 census and that would lead readers to conclude that my research was really incomplete. It might even lead some to think that I found him in 1870 but that enumeration was inconsistent with other details and I didn’t want to address that inconsistency. But what do I say about him in the 1870 census assuming that I have searched for him. It seems insufficient to say that “I was unable to find Ira William in the 1870 census.” That really doesn’t not tell the reader anything. It doesn’t tell me anything either if I am to go back and review my research.
A discussion of the failure to locate Ira in 1870 needs to delineate my attempts to find him. That delineation needs to be descriptive without being too tedious. A good start would be the inclusion of the following items:
- A manual search was made for Ira William Sargent in the 1870 US census enumeration for Davis County, Iowa, by reviewing every census image page at Ancestry.com.
- A database search of Ancestry.com‘s 1870 census index was conducted for men whose last name began with the letters Sar, Ser, Lar, Ler; whose first name was either Wil*, Ira; lived in Iowa, Illinois, or Missouri; and who were born between 1840 and 1850.
- A database search of Mocavo.com‘s 1870 census index was conducted for men whose last name began with the letters Sar, Ser, Lar, Ler; whose first name was either Wil*, Ira; lived in Iowa, Illinois, or Missouri; and an estimated birth year of 1845.
This list would allow others to determine (and myself) if my searches were complete enough. My analysis of the information I have on William Ira (or Ira William–which form he used really depends upon the day of the week to be perfectly frank) would indicate his 1870 marriage which took place in Union County, Iowa, in the fall–after the census enumeration. That analysis also includes in which township the marriage probably took place. Readers could then look at my summary points above and realize that given where he likely married in the fall of 1870 that my manual search should have at least included the southern tier of townships in the county due north of Davis County.
I don’t often see unsuccessful attempts to locate information summarized in this form–particularly database queries. It’s key to the analysis when something can’t be located how that search was conducted.
Saying “I looked” isn’t sufficient.