Some people eat, sleep and chew gum, I do genealogy and write...

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Searching the Census: FamilySearch vs.

I have been entering sources into the new FamilySearch Family Tree program for some of my ancestors. I realize that FamilySearch Family Tree is supposed to link to sources in the FamilySearch Historical Record Collections, so I began to look for U.S. Census records. I have been using Family Tree Maker from to gather some of the more common records and provide the basis for citations, so that was where I started. By using Family Tree Maker (I have both the Mac and Windows versions) I feel I can expedite the acquisition of these more basic and easily obtained records. In the process, I find some other helpful records also.

So this is the scenario: I already have all of these particular ancestors completely identified, documented and sourced. I just needed to enter those sources into FamilySearch Family Tree. I am hoping to do this by copying and pasting from my already existing databases, including Family Tree Maker and Reunion to cut down on the amount of typing necessary. It seemed to be working quite well, until I hit a snag, or more properly from the kayaking standpoint, a strainer.

Here is what happened.

I have my ancestor Henry Christian Overson (b. 1868, d. 1947) in my Family Tree Maker file with several source citations, including U.S. Census records. Here is a copy of 1870 U.S. Census record showing Henry Overson as a child from

Here is one problem. The family is misidentified as "Olsen" rather than "Overson." The father's name is recorded as "Oney C Olsen" rather than his actual name of "Ove Christian Overson (or Oveson). In, the incorrect transcription by the enumerator has been corrected by suggested edits. Here is a copy of the index record from

If you care, you can view the record enlarged by clicking on the image. Let's just say that this is one of many, many entries in the U.S. Census where the names were recorded incorrectly and thereby making it very difficult to find the person. In this case, it is not so hard since the place where they lived was Ephraim, Sanpete, Utah and the 1870 U.S. Census only has 9 pages for that location. But if I were looking from a name only, I may never have found this entry.

Now, I wanted to have this entry from the U.S. Census records in FamilySearch's Historical Record Collections to see if I could link the source in FamilySearch Family Tree directly to the record.

Easy, huh? No. When I go to search for Ove Christian Overson in Ephraim, Sanpete, Utah in the 1870 U.S. Census on FamilySearch, what do I get? Exactly nothing. I happen to know the name has not been recorded correctly so I search for Olsen. Hmm. Now I get a whole long list of 426 Olsens despite the fact that I put in the exact location. The search results are for Utah with no further filtering.

Remember, I know he is in the 1870 U.S. Census, I know exactly where he was living and I know exactly how his name was recorded. Without that information, I would now be dead in the water hanging onto my strainer. (Oh, by the way, if you don't know, a strainer is an overhanging branch or other obstacle that strains you out of the river if you are riding in a canoe or kayak). My quest now changes to see if there is any combination of search entries in the Historical Record Collections' search that will find my ancestor?

Too bad. Even when I put in his birth year and place, I get no results. The problem, of course, is if I know all this stuff, why am I looking for the Census record? Also, I get no different results if I look for Olson or Olsen.

After trying a number of other combinations, I get tired and decide to check if that particular record is even in the U.S. Census on FamilySearch. So I begin to browse the 1, 060,369 records. First problem, Sanpete County is spelled San Pete. Nope, FamilySearch still does a search for all of Utah, no matter what you put in as a residence. Back to browsing.

Next hurdle. There are four Ephraim census wards or districts. I cheat and go back to the image from and find that it is Ephraim 4th ward. OK, nine pages. I once again cheat and go to the 8th page, rather than searching through each page. Mainly, because I am giving up on this whole idea of using the FamilySearch records.

There it is "Oney C Olsen" and his two year old son Henry, my Great-grandfather and Great-greatgrandfathers. So why aren't they in the search? The "n" is probably a "v." So now I go back and search for "Ovey C Olsen." Ohhh. FamilySearch does not show any results at all for either Ovey or Oney or anything close.


I am not going to bother trying to look stuff up in the FamilySearch Historical Record Collections to put into Family Tree even if I know the exact way the name is recorded and even though I know everything else about the person. In this case, it appears that there is a problem.

I do a general search in FamilySearch for Ove C Overson and guess what? There is a link to a Civil War Pension File, but the link is to, a subscription website. So the answer is, you might find something useful, but good luck searching for something you know is there. I also find a link to Arizona Deaths and 824 other results, To find the Census records, I have to do general search for Ove Overson and get 966 results. When I know he is in the 1870, 1880, 1900, 1910 and 1920 U.S. Censuses I can look down through the list an finally find him scattered in with the other 966 entries.  I see a problem here.


  1. I totally agree with your comments here. I use Legacy software, but all the same problems exist searching through Family Search. The other problem I have with Family Search is the fact that the data entered is fairly minimal even though the record it was taken from is complete; a census record that when entered into Family Search only has one name when the record will have a complete family. I don't understand why the person entering the record doesn't do a complete job, very frustrating. You need a subscription to Ancestery, Fold3 and Archives to get all the records and not many of us can afford one much less all three. Oh and there is the Newspaper Archives too that is needed. It gets to be an expensive business to do genealogy.

  2. I found the family doing a search for the wife, Mary. This is the link I would use for a Family Tree source, as it will always be free, unlike

  3. Thanks for posting this. Why does familysearch post links to pay sites when there are free images available, do they get some kick backs.
    this is Oscar Norden, in Hudson, New Jersey in 1910 Census. They refer to Ancestry as the image but there are free images available at go to image 225.