Friday, May 14, 2010

Using the 1871 Canadian Census on FamilySearch

I've been looking through the online databases available at the FamilySearch Record Search Pilot site - and came upon the 1871 Census for Canada as one of the recently added or updated databases.

I wondered how I could find the family of Alexander Sovereen in Norfolk county, Ontario in this database. When I selected the 1871 Canada Census from the list, I started filling in the search box for Alexander:

The FamilySearch Record Search site requires the user to choose a place name from a dropdown menu as you type the location into the search field. I chose "Norfolk, Ontario, Canada" for the locality, clicked on "Search" and saw:

Each record listed produces a "mouse-over" when you run your mouse over the person's name, as shown below:

You can click on the name and see essentially the same information for the person:

The record above has no image associated with it. How can I figure out who else was in this family in the 1871 Canada Census? The record data listed the place of enumeration as "Windham, North Norfolk, Ontario" and it was Home Number 174 on Page 49. I should be able to use that to find other persons in the family.

I went up to the "Refine Search" link and clicked on it, deleted the first name, kept the last name, and entered "Windham, Norfolk, Ontario, Canada" in the location field, as shown below:

After clicking "Search" I received 40 matches for those search terms. Here is the top of the first page of 20 matches:

I can find the other persons in the family by finding persons that are listed with Page 49 and Home 174 and write them down. In the screen above, the first entry for Sarah Sovereen showed that she was in Home 174 on Page 49.

I looked at the "Filters" listed, but they showed only "Date," "Gender," "First Names," "Event Type" - not Page or Home number. Drat.

I clicked on the "Advanced Search" link on the Search Box and input the Father's name" as "Alexander" and "Sovereen" as shown below:

After clicking on "Search," I got no results for my search:

So it appears that, for the 1871 Canada Census, that the Parents name box isn't "active."

By clicking through the 40 names, I managed to find that the family included:

* Alexander Sovereen, age 56, born O (line 11)
* Eliza Sovereen, age 49, born U.S. (line 12)
* Sarah Sovereen, age 18, born O (line 13)
* Nancy A. Sovereen, age 16, born O (line 14)
* Valzora Sovereen, age 14, born O (line 15)
* Hettie sovereen, age 12, born O (line 16)
* Alexander A. Sovereen, age 8, born O (line 17)
* Wilber Sovereen, age 3, born O (line 18)

This was really a frustrating exercise. This website has been online for several years now, and the Search fields and navigation links are still fairly primitive. Why aren't there links or buttons to "See all Persons in Home Number" and "See all Persons (or Neighbors) on the Page" so that the researcher doesn't have to do the process I followed above? I note that the 1880 US Census, 1881 Canada and 1881 UK Census records on the classic FamilySearch website have the "Family" and "Neighbor" capability.

If some of the "Advanced Search" box field entries don't work for a specific database, then that information should be included on the search box so that researchers don't waste their time and get frustrated.

The 1871 Canada Census is also online on with all of the sophisticated search capabilities and links to images there. But, since I don't have a World Subscription, I cannot access it at home.

The site has a link to the 1871 Ontario, Canada Census head of household index here, but not to every-name indexes or images.

This isn't just about this particular database - the same issues arise for many of the Record Search databases without images.

I understand that FamilySearch Record Search is a "Pilot" site - meaning that it is not fully developed yet (I think). I would love to know if, and when, the search capability for all databases will be improved or enhanced so that the records found can be accessed efficiently.

I keep having a funny feeling that I'm wrong about this - that I've missed something obvious in the search process above. Have I? If so, please tell me and I'll post how it should be done.


Genealogy Blogger said...

Hi Randy, I can explain one thing that might help with your frustration level! In the 1871 census for Ontario, relationships are not noted. Meaning that in the case of your Alexander Sovereen, he is not listed as the father, his children are not listed as his children and so on. So searching with his name as a parent can't bring up any hits. The indexers won't assume a relationship and none is given.

Second, don't know if this helps or not but when you get those 40 hits (40 names) you don't need to actually click on each one. Just run your mouse over the name and you see the info in a mouseover popup. That allows you to fairly quickly check to see which ones match the household, page # and so on for your Alexander.

Third, if you would like a copy of the actual image I can send it to you :-)

JT said...

I've had the same experience and frustration with the 1871 Canada census database. The 1880 US census database has a similar problem: A record page gives the names of family members, but there's no easy way to view the record page of those family members. It would be really nice if you could search by other fields, such as father's birthplace, for instance.

Alana said...

Hi Randy, I have a Canadian & World subscription to (being in Canada). I have found your Alexander Sovereen on both the 1871 and 1881 census and can send you the images. Contact me if you would like me to email them to you (


Eileen said...

In terms of searching and other fancy bells and whistles, maybe it is a case of "you get what you pay for." FamilySearch probably doesn't have the technical staff that Ancestry does.