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Ask Ancestry Anne: How Do I Decipher Census Columns?

Question: What do the numbers in column 30 in the 1910 census mean?  I have many relatives with different numbers in this column

— Jackie

Answer: Column 30 specifies whether the person owns (O) or rents (R) a home.  But I suspect that you are referring to numbers such as the ones written in on the right hand side. They look as if they are written in a different handwriting than the census itself and they don’t appear in every column.


A little research led me to Census Tick Marks and Codes – Revisited Yet Again! by Elizabeth Shown Mills where she discusses similar numbers on the 1900 census.  Some analysis led her to the number there, so let’s try it here.

Given that the codes do not appear on lines with no occupations, I hypothesize that they are occupation codes. We can create a chart to compare them easily.


You’ll notice that both Cooks have the code: 14-0-7-X and that the last three nurses are 1-5-6-X.  However, the first nurse is 9-5-6-X.  Am I wrong or did someone write this down wrong?

If you check other pages and the same occupation/industry pair you see the same codes. 

Now this doesn’t add anything new to your knowledge of your ancestor, but it does give you a place to start if you can’t read the handwriting.  Look for the same code, and maybe you can decipher the occupation that way. And nice job of looking at the columns on the census and every little detail!

While we’re looking at details, you may have also noticed that we have indexed a few more columns on the 1940 census, including marital status, street, occupation, industry, whether the house was owned or rented, and highest grade completed.

If I enter “Lexington, Rockbridge, Virginia” for Lived In and “Houston Street” for Street and mark both exact, I can see everyone who lived on the same street as my great grandparents in 1940. This can help you locate other relatives and who lived around them.


I know my grandfather was a rug weaver in a carpet mill in 1940. If I put in the exact location and “Weaver” and mark it exact, I get a list of everyone in that town who was a Weaver.  I suspect these are the people he worked with and knew. 

The details are always important!

Happy Searching!

— Ancestry Anne

Ask Ancestry Anne: How to Customize Your Google Searches

As you know, the 1940 US Census is free to anyone that registers to and this has allowed us to make this information more available through channels such as Google.  Everyone who appears in the 1940 census, all 132 million plus will have their own page that you can find through a Google search.

With a few tricks you can find these pages and other information that people have posted on various blogs and websites that might be interesting and help you further your research.

Let’s say you are looking for a George Smith that you knew had lived on East 6th Street in New York in the 1940’s.  You might try:

Notice that i typed in east 6th in double quotes.  This tells the search engine that I want the phrase “east 6th” on the web page.

This produces the results:

And clicking on the George Smith link, gives us:

Let’s say now you are curious who else lived on East 6th Street in 1940.  Who were George’s neighbors?

Let’s try looking for pages with the phrases:

  • 1940 census
  • east 6th street
  • new york new york

This gives us a list of people on the 1940 census that we can investigate. 

Now the 1940 census pages are convenient but these techniques can be used for other things in a Google search.

Let’s try looking for George Smith who was born in New York and on pages that have Genealogy theme. 

I want pages that have either “george smith” OR “smith george” and then add in the phrase “new york” and the word genealogy:

Check out Google’s Advanced Search Page to find out more tricks to help you narrow down your web searches.  Let me know if you find anything interesting or come up with a new technique.

Happy Searching!

Ancestry Anne

Ask Ancestry Anne: Search Tip #20: Look for Family Members

Can’t find George Smith but his brother is Hezekiah Smith?  Well go look for Hezekiah.  Looking for the uncommon names in a family can be more fruitful than those pesky common names.

Who were your ancestor’s siblings and parents?

Maybe there are living with Grandparents, Cousins, or Aunts and Uncles.

And if that doesn’t work, try searching for Neighbors in the previous or successive census.  Maybe they are there, but the transcription is not matching your search.

Previous tip: Search Tip #19: Last or First Name

Happy Searching!

Ancestry Anne

Ask Ancestry Anne: Search Tip #19: First or Last Name Searches

This particular technique is most useful on a single data collection, and if it is a large one you might want to limit it to a specific place.

Let’s say you’ve looked for your ancestor Joshua Chamberlain and you just cannot find him.  Enter all of your data and then omit the first name and search.  This will help you find candidates that might be him but have really poorly transcribed first names.  Then you can enter the first name and enter the last name.  Same idea.

You can also try this if you are looking for a wife and you don’t know her maiden name.  This will give you a list of candidates that might possibly be here.

Next tip: Search Tip #20: Look for Family Members or review the previous tip: Search Tip #18: Review the Search Form

Happy Searching!

Ancestry Anne