After you've gathered birth certificates and death certificates your family has saved and you've checked the family Bible, the best place to start genealogy research is in census records. As you breeze through the records for the early 1900's, you'll notice a lot of fascinating little tidbits about your family coming to light. They sure asked a lot more questions on older census forms! Then, you ask the librarian or docent for the roll of microfilm for the 1890 census and he or she gives you the bad news. Most of the US Census for 1890 was destroyed in a fire and your state was not one of the lucky ones. All of those records are gone. Unfortunately, you really need some information from this particular census to help you narrow things down to the decade when great-great-great-great grandpa died. So, now what do you do? How about using other documents and records to fill in the hole in the census?
Things You Will Need* All known genealogical information
* List of local archives and information repositories
Step 1List all the puzzle pieces you need to fill in and make a note of any information you know. For example, if you are trying to find out if John Smith had a first wife who died sometime between 1880 and 1900, note that information, as well as the last known residence of the Smith family and the names and rough age range for any of the children born between those dates.
Step 2Check local archives and university libraries for old city directories. City directories used to list more than just Smith, J. 123 ABC St. They had information about jobs and often listed everyone in the household. If a local resource kept some of those directories from the 1890's, you may just find your missing puzzle piece there.
Step 3Search for local historic newspaper indexes. If you are lucky, you'll discover that someone indexed every name in the birth, death and marriage notices in the historic newspaper you are interested in for 1890. I indexed a section of the Wilmington News Journal for that time period as I did my own genealogy search and I am sure I am not the only person to do so. In a few seconds, you may locate that missing link by tracking down a woman's maiden name or seeing that there is a death notice.
Step 4Find grave indexes. Many people are involved in projects to put the names on the gravestones in every graveyard into massive indexes. Some of these indexes are published as books and some are online. Local genealogy experts or librarians should be able to track down indexes for their area. The indexes often contain birth and death dates and can help you locate other relatives because people tended to be buried in family plots.
Step 5Check historical archive indexes. It is a pretty big long shot, but sometimes, checking historical archives for a name index pays off. I was able to find information about a man being a blacksmith in a West Chester, Pennsylvania archive when I was doing research for someone just by seeing his name in an index. His descendant was excited to see a copy of the original document. Tracking down a relative who disappeared from the census records between 1880 and 1900 isn't always easy, but there are ways to track them down even without the 1890 census. For most people, it is worth the extra time and effort, since finding that final puzzle piece gives them a sense of satisfaction.
Tips & WarningsArray