A “Search Wish for Ancestry.com” got me to thinking about databases where one can take advantage of the family structure at Ancestry.com. The US census is one database where one can do that, but there are limitations.


Family-structured based searches are a moot point during this time period. These census records are head of household only and no places of birth are provided. Each entry record contains the head of household name and their location (county and state) as given in the census. Geographic locations smaller than the county level were not given consistently during this era. Keyword searches can be conducted using names and location, but there is usually no advantage to performing searches of this type.


Family-based searches are not currently possible on these enumerations at Ancestry.com. All household individuals are enumerated with their place of birth (state or country usually), but relationship to head of household is not given in the original record. Keyword searches only search the words in one individual’s census entry–not all the entries of the household in which they are enumerated. A keyword search for “william rebecca” (without the quotes) will bring up women named rebecca living in Prince William County, but will not bring up a household that contains both a William and a Rebecca–unless that household is enumerated in Prince William County.


All household individuals are enumerated with their place of birth (state or country usually) and relationship to head of household is given. Keyword searches for names apparently search words of all individual census entries within the same household.  These searches are best conducted with all appropriate “exact” buttons checked. The current Ancestry.com search interface for these census years does allow the user to perform family-structure-based searches, but those searches are relationship specific. Keyword searches are not.

A few quick examples:

  • a keyword search of the 1940 census for “cecil ida roger” (without the quotes) located the family of Cecil and Ida Neill that contained a child named Roger.


    click on image to view original size

  • a keyword search of the 1930 census for “mimka dorothy tjode” (without the quotes) located the family of Mimka and Tjode Habben that contained a child named Dorothy. Surprisingly there was only one match in the entire United States.

All these searches were composed with “exact” box checked.

We’ll have an update on using other keywords (such as locations) in a future post. I’m not exactly certain how places of birth in some enumerations work in terms of keywords, so we are holding off on that post.

Comments are welcome and corrections will be made if necessary (and greatly appreciated).



3 Responses

    • You are welcome. Somethings I learn on the Ancestry.com blog, but usually I just try whatever I can until I get an error message 😉

      And feel free to let your genealogy friends know about our blog!



  1. Such keyword searches would be very useful for surnames that get badly transcribed. Thank you.

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