Sunday, September 1, 2013

ILEY SELPH - 1920 Census

© Kathy Duncan, 2013

I am a follower of James Tanner's genealogy blog, Genealogy's Star. He alerted his followers to's free access to the entire U.S. census for the Labor Day Weekend. He also suggested that this would be a golden opportunity to take advantage of a different census index to find ancestors who are still "missing" from various census years.

There are lots of reasons why ancestors might be missing from the census: they were living in an area in which the census was not taken, they were living in a remote area, they were migrating, the census page is too light or too damaged to read, the census taker mangled the spelling of the name, or they are where we are not looking for them.

Since Tanner's suggestion was a good one,  I began hunting for my perpetually missing ancestors. I had luck with my husband's grandfather, Iley Nunn Selph, who has been "missing" from the 1920 census. Once I was in, I searched without success. Then I decided to widen my search by broadening my search terms. I looked only for the first name Iley in 1920 in New Mexico. The first result on the list was for "Aly, Ili." I almost skipped over it, but the link also provided information about the other children in the household. My eye caught on Hardy's name, along with Carlota, Frank, and "Andrella." I knew immediately that this was the correct household, but that something had gone wrong in the indexing. I hit the link, and this is what I saw:

click on image to enlarge

The census taker had reversed Iley Selph's name with the first name first and the last name last even though the other names on the page were listed with the last name first. In this entry, Aly definitely seems to the be last name for Carolina, Lillie, Bettie, Ili, Hardy, Aly, Frank, and Andrella. In addition, the census taker's "S" frequently looks like a "C." The result is that indexers have listed Iley Selph's name as Celph Aly, and it has been indexed that way in all the genealogy census databases available online. Even Iley Jr's name was mispelled and appears as "Ili." Annie appears as "Aly." Andrea appears as "Andrella."

On 21 Jan 1920, Iley Nunn Selph and wife Carolina, with children Lillie, Bettie, Carlota, Iley, Hardy, Annie, Frank, and Andrea, as well as Carolina's brother Julian Sandoval, were in La Madera Village in Rio Arriba County, New Mexico.

This strategy probably would have worked if I had searched using Hardy's name. It is only effective if uncommon names are used to search with because that helps narrow the search. Using just the given name Frank would have yielded hundreds, maybe thousands of results. Of course, this strategy only works if the census taker has not mangled the spelling. Unfortunately, the more uncommon the name, the more likely is to be mangled. In this case, even a name as common as Annie suffered at the hands of the census taker.

This does, however, give me hope that other ancestors are waiting be found on the census.

Iley Selph - 1920, Part 2

Iley N. Selph in Allison, Colorado

Last updated on Oct. 5, 2015.

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