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Rhonda's Tips: Genealogy Questions Answered
by Rhonda R. McClure

July 13, 2000
See Rhonda's Previous Columns

Census Age Ranges

Q: Can you tell me how to interpret the "Age Ranges" column in a Census Index or where to find an explanation? I have a number of census citations and I think that age information would be extremely helpful, but I haven't been able to find what those numbers mean. An example: Fargo, Daniel; NY; Herkimer Co; Page 431; 1800; 30010-1021000. Do these numbers (30010-1021000) refer to the ages of people in the household? Can I determine how many are in the household and individual ages? -- Christine

A: Prior to 1850, the federal census that was taken every ten years beginning in 1790 listed only the head of household and all the other individuals were tallied by age range and gender. Some of the indexes that have been released have gone further than just listing the name, county and page. Some are including the ages.

The 1800 census broke down the age ranges as follows:

  • Free white males:
    - Under 10 years of age
    - Of 10 and under 16
    - Of 16 and under 26, including heads of families
    - Of 26 and under 45, including heads of families
    - Of 45 and upwards, including heads of families

  • Free white females:
    - Under 10 years of age
    - Of 10 and under 16
    - Of 16 and under 26, including heads of families
    - Of 26 and under 45, including heads of families
    - Of 45 and upwards, including heads of families

  • All other free persons except Indians not taxed

  • Slaves

Based on the numbers you have, it looks like the household had 3 males under 10, 1 male, age 26 to 45, 1 female under 10, 2 females age 16-26 and 1 female age 26 to 45.

Working with the Computer

Q: Is the computer dumb? What can be done when the person is named Mors at birth, listed Morss at age 18 and later in life (the 1600s) is Morse? Which is to be used when entering information into the computer? The problem is that when a search is done in the computer, if you list him one way and note the other spellings, then you will have to check all spellings if you are looking for him in the file. My file has over 105,000 Morse so having a problem with this. -- Stafford-Ames

A: The computer is not dumb. Instead it is literal. If you type in MORSE then that is what the computer will look for, whether it be a genealogy program or an Internet search engine.

One school of thought says to be consistent when entering the names into a genealogy program. Most programs offer a "Notes" section and this is an excellent place to record the variant spellings you have discovered in your research. This allows you to search for people in the database without fear of overlooking someone.

When searching online, especially with a surname such as the one you are working with where the beginning letters appear to be consistent, you may be able to take advantage of the "wild card" option. A character (often a *) is put in, in place of letters. This tells the computer to search for some variant spellings and can cut down on the number of different spellings you have to look for.

WW I Draft Dodge

Q: My question pertains to draft lists. Is there record of young men from WWI who were drafted into the army? We have been trying to trace my grandfather's family history, and keep running into dead ends. He left home at 17, which was about the time America entered the war. He never spoke of his family, except a sound bite here and there. He passed away in 1976 at the age of 79. I was just wondering if there would be such a record, and if so, where could I find it. One of our possible theories is that he may have dodged the draft and changed his name. -- Jeff

A: It is important that you take your research on your grandfather in the proper order. If you haven't done so, you will want to begin your research on your grandfather by getting a copy of his death certificate.

Also, since he died after 1962, you will want to search the Social Security Death Index. If you locate him in this, be sure to order a copy of his SS-5 form. While many people think of the SSDI as a way to determine when and where someone died, it also gives you the needed information for requesting the SS-5 form. The SS-5 form is the application that was filled out to request the social security number in the first place. It may hold the keys to what you need to tracing his family.

If your information is correct and he was 79 at the time of his death, that puts his birth at around 1897. If he did leave home at the age of 17, then that would have been in 1914. This was three years before the first draft registration. So if he did leave home at that time, it may be difficult to know where to look for his draft registration.

Draft registrations are handled on the draft board level. Some small counties will only have a single draft board, whereas some large cities may have 25 or 100 draft boards. And the only way to search the draft cards is to know at least the county where he would have been.

Not in the SSDI

Q: My father died in 1952 and my mother died in 1971. Neither is listed in the SSDI. How is this possible? -- RSonBall

A: There is often a misunderstanding about who will show up in the Social Security Death Index. Many think that it is an index to all individuals who have died in the United States. This is far from the truth.

The first Social Security payment did not happen until 1937 and it wasn't until 1962 that the Social Security Death Index was computerized. Generally, this means that anyone who died prior to 1962 does not appear in the computerized SSDI that is available online and on CD. This is probably the reason that your father does not show up in the SSDI.

There are many other reasons that an individual may not show up in the SSDI. Many times it is directly related to their occupation. Those who had their own pension, such as railroad workers and teachers will not show up in the SSDI. And many times housewives do not show up in the SSDI either. This may explain why your mother is not in the SSDI.


Rhonda R. McClure is a professional genealogist specializing in celebrity trees and computerized genealogy. She has been involved in online genealogy for fifteen years. She is the author of the award-winning The Complete Idiot's Guide to Online Genealogy, now in its second edition. She is the author of four how-to guides on Family Tree Maker. In late 2001, she wrote The Genealogist's Computer Companion. She is a contributing editor to Biography Magazine with her "Celebrity Roots" column and a contributing writer to The History Channel Magazine. Her latest book is Finding Your Famous and Infamous Ancestors. She may be contacted at rhondagen@thegenealogist.com.

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