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Brick Walls and the Census

So you can't find that elusive ancestor. You know his/her name and the spelling so that's not the problem. But if you're looking for that ancestor by his/her name, you may be making a mistake. It was very common for names to be misspelled, especially if the census person did not speak the same language. Then the transcriber might've made another mistake with that name that was misspelled to start with. Omit their first or middle names when searching; instead search by location and dates and perhaps surname. Or skip the surname and search first and/or middle. If you can't find anything and you've tried everything you can think of, it might be time to browse the whole record collection.

Church and Civil Records

When researching in Mexico, be sure to search both church and civil records after 1859. Information can appear in one and not in the other. If your ancestor lived in a small village or ranch, locate a map of the area to find a nearby town with the parish records. In a large city, search first in the parish where your ancestor lived then in nearby parishes. Don't forget to note the godparents' names. I confirmed the names of the parents of the father that I had been researching for so long by researching the godmother. Many times, the godparents are family.

Census Again

I found my mother. I had not been able to find my mother before she married my father. Since she was born in 1917, one day I just decided to search the 1920 census page by page to see if she was there. I knew her father died in 1919 so I was not going to find him there. I could not find her mother in 1920 nor 1930. In 1940, my mother had already married my father. I found her in 1920 listed with her grandmother. Her name was misspelled. And her grandmother was listed with her maiden name which I was not sure of. I think I did not leave any stone unturned when I found her. This is something I won't forget: search the census page by page if you have to.

Enumeration District

Sometimes we wonder where our families lived if all the information we have is on the census. Have you checked the city directory? Or how about a death certificate in the early 1900s? Find the city directory that is close to the year the census was taken. Compare the address. Then find the enumeration district. Now you know the location of that enumeration district.


Rootsweb, I think, is an underused source for genealogy. I found my husband's family story in Arkansas by just reading a partial county history. Closer to home, I searched the rootsweb site and found the births of Cameron County since 1924. This was a treasure considering I had not found birth certificates for some family members. The date helped tremendously. I was then able to look for baptismal records. Our local Catholic church requires the exact day of the baptism to look for the record. As you know, that is impossible to know.

Finding Missing Children

Usually finding the members of your ancestor family in the census is fairly routine. You find one census, list all the people in the family and find the next census and list the people and track the family through all the census years. But, have you found all the children? If one child is listed in one census year, and should be young enough to be listed with the family the following census year and is not there, then the child probably died. Where do you look? Usually, the family bible lists all the children. However, if your family did not have a family bible, or you don't know of one, then the cemetery is another place to look. The census itself might give a clue. In the 1900 and

Elusive Ancestors

One of the first things a genealogist does is to try to pose a question when looking for that elusive ancestor. Much of it resembles a scientific method where you pose a question, develop a hypothesis, and then the method of proving it is developed. Each method needs to be, dare I say it, methodical. Before starting on an ancestor, update your family group sheet. Fill it out and update it as to new siblings, families, etc., including vital statistics and census information. You might also do a timeline on the family. With this data, you are then ready to embark on finding that elusive ancestor, that brick wall. Analyze all your data, pose your question, state your hypothesis , and the

Google Tip

Google Tip You should always be aware that a name can appear differently in different sources. For example, “Andres Medrano” might appear in an article. On the other hand, “Medrano, Andres” might appear in a county record. For that reason, genealogists should always be sure to search for at least three variations of an ancestor’s name. The three ways I might search for Andres Medrano might be “Andres Medrano” (note the quotes), OR “Medrano, Andres” Or “Andres * Medrano”. The asterisk indicates that there might be a character or string of characters between Andres and Medrano, ex., Andres Jose Medrano. This does not mean that you might not find another variation. You should also be ope




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