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Ask Ancestry Anne: How do I build a Family Census Table

OK, this wasn’t a specific question, but inspired by reading the comments of my previous article: Are These The Same People? In that post, I built what I call a Family Census Table that I used to determine who was in the family and when.


Maybe it will be useful to do a few examples of what you might include, and also talk about what you can do with the information once you’ve collected it.


Let’s do our first example with my great great grandparents Jeremiah and Mary Gillespie.

I’ll build a table in Excel, but you can do it in word, on a piece of paper, or whatever makes sense.  In this first, example I’m going to work through, I’m not going to include place, but we will in later examples:

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Now let’s find the 1880 census and record what we see.

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Harriet was listed as a daughter, and George and Paul as sons.  There are big gaps between the children, so there very well may be other children.


On to 1870.

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OK, there are some serious discrepancies here!  But let’s collect all four and then think about them.

And now for 1860:

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No George.  And this is the first we’ve seen of Sarah. One more, let’s look at 1850:

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OK.  Now what do we do with this somewhat confusing information?  Let’s start with a list of questions that we might have by looking at this family.

  1. Are the Mary in 1880 and the Ann in 1870 the same person as the Mary E in 1860 and 1850?
  2. Why is George listed as a son of Jeremiah in 1880, but not in the household in 1860?  He should have been 4.
  3. What happened to Sarah?  She should have been about 10 in 1870, too young to be married.  Where is she?
  4. Where are James and William in 1880?
  5. Jeremiah and Mary are no where to be found in 1900, did they die between 1880 and 1900?
  6. Can we find Harriet, James, William, George and Paul in 1900?

In the next post, I’ll talk about where you might want to go next with this research and how to get there.


If you put every family you are working on in a table like this, I guarantee that you will look at it and start asking questions. And that is the best way to get answers. :-)