Research tip: save time by using the census to find vital records dates

I’ve been reading census enumerations . Why? Because it’s actually faster than turning page after page in the vital records books…

A client doesn’t know when their ancestor died. We could have started with the marriage of the ancestor’s daughter, the last known date he was living – but if we’d done that, we would have had to go through 31 years worth of vital records. Instead, we’d followed the family through the census in order to see how and when the ancestor’s family changed, looking at one enumeration every five years or so. We noticed that the husband was alive in 1855 and his wife was listed as a widow in 1861. Since the census was actually taken every three years, a review of the 1858 census revealed that the husband was already deceased. Instead of checking thirty one years, we checked three.

Don’t forget the census! It may be slow going, but it allows you to skip years without missing anything!


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Who is that second family living in my ancestor’s house?

The 1843 Luxembourg census lists each house on a separate sheet, but not each household. The enumeration for the home of Jean Reuter actually lists two families. One is headed by Jean; the other is headed by a man named Mathias Danckoff.

How are the two families related?

There are a few ways to find an answer:

  1. Check the names in local civil registration entries.  You might find the second name listed on a birth, death, or marriage record of a member of the first family.
  2. Follow the family in the census. In the 1846 census, Mathias Danckoff is no longer living with the family – and someone who was has taken his place.

Both of these methods lead to answer- the family was using the second part of their home for relatives!


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Surname Saturday: use the 1855 census to find exact relationships

Wondering if the child in the house is a niece, nephew, cousin or more?

Check out the 1855 Luxembourg census. Under “state or profession,” the enumerator not only listed occupation but also the family relationship of anyone not working. One entry includes the reference “nephew” and the line number to whom the child was related. What an amazing time saver!

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What happened to Susan Hingtgen?

Daughter of Luxembourgers Jean Hingtgen and Anne Marie Reuter, Susan appears on the 1870 census as born in 1864. Unfortunately, that’s the only time she appears. So what happened to Susan Hingtgen?

My usual starting point for hints, Luxembourg American Families didn’t provide any . There were plenty of Susans, just not one from that family. Arens’s database includes most Luxembourg Americans, so the omission is telling. The information in his database is usually provided by descendants. Susan must not have had any.

If Susan died as a child, that would also explain why she doesn’t appear on the 1880 census with her mother and brothers. By then, the family had moved from Iowa to North Dakota, likely to be close to the family of her oldest brother Theodore.

Think about what we know. Susan likely died as a child. She appears on the 1870 census but not the 1880. Her death, therefore, most likely occurred between 1870 and 1880.

Where do we look next? Now that we have an approximate year of death, we can start looking for her gravestone using the Find A Grave database and her death record in the Iowa databases on FamilySearch. Both are dead ends…

But don’t give up yet! Like most Luxembourgers, the Hingtgen family is Catholic – chances are high, her records are in the local church. Off to the hunt!


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Tuesday’s tip: remember to check the extended family

It seems like so much extra work. You already have to search through the unindexed birth, death and marriage records to find your ancestor’s own records. Why would you want to look for records of the extended family?

Because they can be crucial to finding information about your ancestor that may not show up in the birth, death, and marriage records you can locate for him or her. Take, for example, the case of Matthias Danckoff.

Only one of Matthias’s records can be located. The church record for the marriage of Matthias and his wife Gertrude lists that Matthias had been previously married to a woman named Anna. His birth and his death records are missing – so a researcher theoretically has no way of finding his parents.

But, thanks to the records of his wife and daughter, it becomes possible. Gertrude’s 1822 death records identifies Matthias’s occupation and current place of residence. Add in his daughter’s 1843 census enumeration, which lists a Matthias Danckoff, born in 1771 in Switzerland, and you now have the ability to trace Matthias back further.

Lesson learned: when researching Luxembourg genealogy, don’t just limit yourself to the birth, death, and marriage records of your ancestor. Also consider the places his relatives might have left records, such as the census.


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Did your ancestor immigrate from Luxembourg between 1876 and 1900?

AnLux has placed a publication online that could help your research. Written in French, it’s called Luxembourg Emigrants and Remigrants, 1876 -1900. It draws from the population movement registers stored at AnLux to create a detailed list of who emigrated from each commune – and if they eventually came back.

For English speaking researchers, the document poses some challenges. First, it’s written in French, so you may need some help understanding it. Quick summary: it’s divided into communes. The first part is the emigrants by section (think village) in the commune, with order date, name, number of men, number of women, and year. The last part is the names of those who came back to the commune. Second, it’s organized by commune, so you either need to know it or be very patient.

What are the advantages? This is the first source I’ve seen that will allow you to find someone without knowing what commune they came from… of course, it may take some work to get there!

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Ready for a conference about German – and Luxembourg – genealogy?

There’s one coming up next July. Join me for two sessions on Luxembourg at the International Germanic Genealogy Conference in Minneapolis. We’ll be discussing civil registration and the basics of Luxembourg-American genealogy. You can register here.

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