Genealogy Q&A: Analyzing Census Clues

By David A. Fryxell Premium

Q. I found an older husband and wife with the maiden surname of my ancestor living next door in the census—probably her parents. But how can I be sure?

A. With candidates to search for, you can try to find birth records or earlier census records that provide evidence of this couple having a daughter with the right name and age as your ancestor. You also can search forward in time from the clue you’ve found, seeking a will or probate records that mention the daughter by her married name.
Those records may be difficult and time-consuming to track down, so here’s another idea: See if you can find a death certificate for either of the possible parents, especially whoever died last. Who signed the certificate as the “informant”? It could be the daughter or her husband.

For example, Effie E. Miller appears on the 1900 census in Black Creek township, Shelby County, Mo., under her newly married name of Effie E. Forman, with husband Walter. Next door are Henry and Mary Miller—coincidence?

Fortunately, Missouri has an online database of death certificates, with images available for 1910 to 1962. The 1924 death certificate for Henry Miller, born March 20, 1842 (matching his age in the census), not only gives his father’s and mother’s names and states of birth—how helpful!—but was signed by … Effie E. Forman. Though she’s not labeled as his daughter, you can certainly proceed on that safe assumption given the evidence.
From the July/August 2013 Family Tree Magazine