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Find the Parents and Siblings of Your Ancestor in the United States, 1850-1940

Census indexes can help you locate your ancestors. People were listed in national, state and territorial census records. The national census was done every ten years. Other censuses were often done five years after the national census. Most census records are available online.


Step 1. Search for your ancestor in a census record

Search the census at:

  1. FamilySearch.org
  2. Ancestry.com (free at many libraries and all FamilySearch Centers)

Tips for success:

Always look at the original record, not just the index or transcript.

Find your ancestor in each available census.

If you don't find the person in the census nearest their birth try one near their marriage or death.

If you only have initials for one parent's given name try searching by the other parent's given name.



Step 2. Verify the census information with a vital record 

Vital records (births, marriage, and deaths) provide evidence to clarify what was learned from other records. Try the following:

  1. FamilySearch.org
  2. Ancestry.com
  3. Family History Library: search the catalog by "Place-names" to see if there are indexes and certificates on microfilm.

Tips for success:

Birth, marriage and death certificates may provide the names of parents which can then be compared to information in the census or used to help in a census search.


Step 3. Compare what you found with information in FamilySearch Family Tree

  1. Search for the new names found in other records
  2. Check for and merge any duplicates found