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Coming to our Census
Column published: 22 May 2008
By: Shirley Gage Hodges   Biography & Archived Articles

Remember to turn to the Census when you have a problem find your ancestors. Some times you have a problem that seems to defy all of your attempts at solving it. Census records have helped me to climb over or batter through some of my brick walls.

I had always heard the story of my grandmother, Mandana Wisner. She married my grandfather, Jasper Gage, in 1885 and they had four children. They were divorced and she then married Wellington William "Bill" Taylor. I had heard stories that she had been married at least once and perhaps twice before she married my grandfather. She was 24 years old when she married my grandfather. I had searched for marriage and divorce records for years with no luck. When one of my father's older sisters died her daughter-in-law found this note in her belongings. On a note written by her daughter, and my aunt, Ethel Gage Burgess was the following: "Dana Wisner, - Bodine, - Van Forsen, Gage, Taylor. This is my mother's married names."

One day while I was searching census records I decided to try a long shot. I went to the 1880 USA census on line and I put in her name, Mandana. I included her birth year and looked in Ohio. You can imagine my delight when I found four pages of ladies named Mandana. She was the second entry on the first page.

The spelling of the last name was different and I only have his initials but it gives me a place to start looking for records that may solve part of this problem.

When you are facing a problem always try and determine if there is a way that census records might be able to help you. You may be amazed.

Bibliography of Census Resources:
  • National Archives; "Chapter 1: Census Records;" Guide to Genealogical Research in the National Archives; Washington, DC, revised 1983.
  • National Archives; Federal Population Censuses, 1790-1890: A Catalog of Microfilm Copies of the Schedules; 1977
  • Greenwood, Val D.; Census Returns;" Researcher's Guide to American Genealogy; Genealogical Publishing Co., Inc.; 1990.
  • Thorndale, William and William Dollarhide. Map Guide to the U. S. Federal Censuses, 1790-1920; Baltimore, MD: Genealogical Publishing Co., 1987.
  • "In Praise of Errors Made by Census Enumerators" by Alycon Trubey Pierce, C.G., National Genealogical Society Quarterly, Vol. 81, No. 1, March 1993, pgs. 51-55.
  • "Finding Missing Men on Early Census Records: The Example of Thomas Russell" by Ruth Land Hatten, C.G.R.S., National Genealogical Society Quarterly, Vol. 81, No. 1, March 1993, pgs. 47-50.
  • Guide to United States Census, 1790-1930 By Shirley Gage Hodges. Guide to the United States Census, 1790-1930 explains what the United States census records are, what information they contain and how to use each census. Each individual year of the Federal Census between 1790 and 1930 (census were compiled every 10 years) is explained in detail. This guide is designed to help the census novice and intermediate researcher come to grips with this valuable genealogical research tool. Experts may also find this guide useful. More information
Until next time :)

Shirley Hodges, biography & genealogy lectures; email:

Editor's Note: Shirley Hodges is the author of the popular Guide to United States Census, 1790-1930

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