What To Do When There Is No Rio in Ancestry.com

Effective use of any database requires an understanding of the workings of that database. It also requires the user to understand that no database is perfect, every database (and “helpful features”) has limitations, and that trial and error is necessary to make the most effective use of that database.

Ancestry.com‘s drop-down list of locations when searching is one of those “helpful features” that sometimes serves to frustrate instead of help.

The metropolis where I live is not included in the drop-down list of locations at Ancestry.com as shown in the illustration. There area variety of places beginning with the letters “rio,” but none of them refer to a location in Knox County, Illinois.

One may wonder why Ancestry.com didn’t “turn off” non-US locations in the list of locations for the United States 1940 Census. While laziness does come to mind, it is worth remembering that some US citizens could have been enumerated overseas. The real problem is that I can’t pull up the location I want in order to search for individuals living in this location–at least not when using the drop-down menu.

Rio, Illinois, is not the only location not in the drop down list.

There are people living in Rio, Knox, Illinois, in the 1940 census and their index entry in Ancestry.com‘s 1940 census index indicates that location as shown in the search results screen shown for individuals with the last name of Leafgreen. The search was conducted with a “unexact” spelling checked, so one other last name appears in the results. This search was conducted so that I could make certain how Ancestry actually listed Rio in the “Home in 1940” index entries. There’s actually the Village of Rio and Rio Township and that difference matters. They are two distinct political entities (the village is physically located within the township) and may appear as different enumeration districts in the census and may show up as “different” locations.

To be as certain as possible how the locations were named, I need to actually view the census images. In this case there’s a way to avoid that as both Rio the village and Rio the township contain the letters “rio.”

My search needs to be tweaked to find people just in this location. My search box is constructed as shown in the illustration:

  • “Match all terms exactly” needs to be checked
  • the location needs to be set to Knox County, Illinois, USA (fortunately that’s in the drop down menu) and “Exact to this place” needs to be checked.
  • “rio” needs to be in the Keyword box. This is set to exact in the illustration. This is why one needs to find someone already in the database in the desired location in order to determine how the location is entered into the Ancestry.com index for the 1940 census

Rio is not the only missing place in Ancestry.com‘s drop down menu. Researchers are advised to keep a list of places from their own research that are missing.

Not because Ancestry.com will fix them.

But because the researcher needs to remember them.


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