Not all 1940 census searches prove so productive, however; I ran into a brick wall when I tried searching for my mother’s grandfather. Let’s use the five steps I tried to solve the mystery of my missing great-grandfather to help you map the course of finding yours.
1. Run a basic search.
2. Try spelling variants.
3. Look for other household members.
When you can’t find someone in a census, whether it’s 1940 or earlier, you often can sneak up on the missing entry by searching for a relative instead—someone either in the same household (ideally) or in a (hopefully) neighboring household. For a married couple, it’s simplest to start with the spouse. My Harry F. Lowe married a woman with an unusual name, Nisba Uptegrove Stowe—which is ordinarily a godsend for census searching. But alas, searching for Nisba in any variation (including spelling variants and with and without her maiden name) drew a complete blank.
4. Search for other relatives.
5. Process the results.
If my search had turned up any real surprises, next I’d start pursuing those details—tracking down other collateral relatives, for example, or birth and marriage records. If I’d still failed to find Harry Senior, I’d search for a death record sometime after the 1930 census in which I’d previously located him. I’ll also go back and retrieve my great-uncle Oglesby Ashley Lowe’s information from Tennessee, and add to my records about his family.