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Thursday, August 20, 2009

Finding an Elusive Ancestor in Census Records

Barbara asked
Lorine, you were the first first person who helped me years ago when all this send me your Burkholder ancestral info and that got me started. When I teach my "internet research" classes, I always include your site, as I consider among the "experts" in this field.Thank you for all you do for all of us.

I have a great grandmother who was born in Newcastle, England. Her mother died in the 1840s and she lived with her father and his new wife. Then her father died and she lived with her stepmother and is found with them in the 1851 in England. She is no longer there in the 1861 of England

Then she married my great grandfather Morris Collins in Cooksville, Ontario in 1863. I desperately want to find her in the 1861 of that area and been unable to do that. Her birth surname is found on the marriage record, so I don't think she took on a different surname when she came over. I even transcribed the entire 1861 Census of Toronto Township for the Ontario Census project...hoping to find her there somewhere. There is no Elizabeth Hays/Hayes, single, born England in the that census, nor can I find her in the transcription done by Ancestry, but as a transcriber, I had a number of pages that had unreadable entries. Perhaps the 1861 done by the Archives had better luck.

I wondered if there might be some other kind of record there in Ontario that I could search to find her. I have written up her story and just want so much to add where and when she came over into Ontario and with whom....or am I being unrealistic. Several years ago I found the number of a microfilm that contained the marriages from the Methodist Church there where they were married and got it on loan from my library through the inter-library loan service. There was no info on that film. I would be so grateful if you would give this some consideration and advise me if there is another available record that might be available.

Olive Tree Answer: Hello Barbara, it's clear you have done a lot of good research on your ancestor! Sadly the 1861 census for Ontario has problems, including missing areas, and it is possible your Elizabeth was living where there is no existing census. Have you tried using wildcards and using only her first name (no last name), approximate year of birth and location of birth in the census search? The problem with the last name HAY(E)S is that the letter H can be misread for M or other incorrect letters. So you can't use wildcards for the surname if you are searching on

Also I see that Morris is in Emily, Victoria Co., Ontario in the 1861 census so you may want to look there page by page to see if your Elizabeth is hiding in that area :-)

It's also possible she was still in England in 1861 and didn't arrive in Ontario until after the 1861 Ontario census was taken. She may even conceivably have missed both the England and the Ontario census that year, perhaps she was in transit - have you checked for the exact dates when each country's census was taken?

I think your best bet is to search forward from her marriage - if Elizabeth was alive in 1901 and is on the census, she should give the number of years she was in Canada. That can't be taken as absolutely correct but it will help you narrow the timeline for her immigration. Also her death record should show how many years she lived in Ontario.

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