Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Do you see what I see?

1860 NYC, Ward 5, Dw 187, Fam 805
    Almost forty years ago I found Timothy and Margaret Kiley, in the 1860 census.  They were enumerated in New York City’s 5th Ward.
    That was back in the days when you had to find someone in the city directory, consult maps to find what ward the address was in, rent the microfilm, and scan frame after frame to find what you were looking for.  There were no reader-printers, so you had to write everything down.
    Enumerated were Timothy, Margaret and five children.  Their surname was Killy, not Kiley, but that didn’t bother me too much.  A carelessly written lower case E can look like a lower case L.  Three children were missing, but they would be old enough to have left home.
    Fast forward to 2014.  I wanted to verify what I had recorded by hand of the family entry.   What a difference in how census research is done!  I signed on to Ancestry.com and searched for Timothy Killy, born in Ireland, resident of New York City.  To my surprise, I didn’t find him.  So I searched on every other set of parameters I could think of (Margaret, the children’s names, with wild cards, different birth place, etc.),, always with some variation of Killy.  What I didn’t do was go through all the returns when I searched for Timothy with age, birth place, and wife, and no last name.  There were too many.
    Finally, since I had the ward, district, page, dwelling number, and family number, I browsed through the census until I found the entry for Timothy and his family.  Sure enough, there he was–Timothy Killy.  Why wasn’t he indexed?
    Finally, it dawned on me.  The surname looked a little like Hilly.  And Timothy Hilly was how he was indexed.  I had seen what I expected to see (more or less), and someone else had seen something different.

1860 U.S. census, digital image, Ancestry.com