It Pays to Browse

Posted by: Eileen A. Souza

…the census, that is. I would like to talk about browsing online census records as an effective, although last ditch effort, to finding an ancestor. While you can browse any records, this technique works best with records like the census were you can go through families one by one. This approach can be used with any website housing census records that permits browsing page by page as an option. I used

In this case I was searching the 1900 US census for my great-grandparents, Bonaventura and Maria Bianchi. I knew they came over in 1888 to locate in Northumberland County, Pennsylvania. Bonaventura died in 1906 and was buried in St. Peters Cemetery right outside Mount Carmel, PA. I was pretty sure they had to be in the 1900 US census and living in Mount Carmel, but I could not find them with any search technique I tried so I decided to browse the records.

To do this I performed a search specifically on the 1900 US census by selecting the census year I wished to search from the Records Collection box on the home page of Ancestry. When the search page displays, you can see on the right the option to Browse this collection.

The Browse window asked me to supply a state, county and township. When it came to entering the township, I had three choices: Mount Carmel, Mount Carmel Ward 1, and Mount Carmel Ward 4. As you can see in the figure below, I selected the state as Pennsylvania, the county as Northumberland and started by entering the township as Mount Carmel.

I felt confident that they lived in one of these three localities, but I did not have a street address so I could not narrow it down any farther. To start, I had to browse through a maximum of six enumeration districts with an average of 50+ pages (images) per district.


I started with Enumeration District 136 (68 images) and paged through all the images for each enumeration district until I found them. I’m not sure I would have attempted this search in a large city, such as, Philadelphia or New York City, at least, not unless I had a more precise location. I finally found them in Mount Carmel Ward 1, ED 135 (the first ED in this township area). Lucky for me, they were on the first page of this district because I was getting very tired.

In this case, the enumerator recorded the last half of his first name as the family surname and an incorrectly spelled version of his last name as his first name so the entire family was indexed as Vantura.


I don’t think I would have found it any other way than by browsing. It is a last ditch effort but can really pay off.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
This entry posted in Genealogy Search Tips | Bookmark the Permalink
<-Back to Blog

3 Responses to It Pays to Browse

  1. Donna says:

    The “browsing” technique has helped me find family members I hadn’t already known about. And it’s netted bits of information about those I already had on my radar.
    Browsing takes time, yes, but it can help flesh out my knowledge of the community or neighborhood. And, once in a while, some little bit of info I’ve gathered by browsing becomes the lynchpin of breaking down a brick wall or discovering a family relationship.
    On the down side, it can lead to exploration that becomes so scattered that I can easily get lost.
    Properly managed (i.e., approached with self-discipline … yeah, that’s gonna happen), browsing can be a laudable technique.
    I’m glad to have found your blog through GeneaBloggers. Keep those posts coming!

  2. Welcome to the GeneaBloggers family. Hope you find the association fruitful; I sure do. I have found it most stimulating, especially some of the Daily Themes.

    May you keep sharing your ancestor stories!

    Dr. Bill 😉
    Author of “13 Ways to Tell Your Ancestor Stories” and family saga novels:
    “Back to the Homeplace” and “The Homeplace Revisited”
    The Heritage Tourist at In-Depth Genealogist:

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *