Monday, June 06, 2005

Amish, Mennonite, Quakers Avoiding the Census Enumerator

I discovered last night as I tried to trace my Grandmother's family through the census: I have six generations to my Grandmother but only in one case could I find any listed in census. This was in in 1880 only. I have been told the religion is Amish, or Mennonite etc. Did this religion avoid census takers? The family came from Somerset County, New Jersey to Hamilton County, Ohio to Madison County, Indiana and the one I really want to find is in Pratt County, Kansas. Where would be my best source for information? I am trying to trace all lines thru census. I have tried NEHGS, Godfrey Library,, and

No, I don't believe your Amish/Mennonite ancestors were any more elusive than the rest of our ancestors when the census taker came calling. Certainly they refrained from associating with outsiders, but I don't think this is your census research problem. We all have challenges attempting to find ancestors in the US Federal Census records.

It is not surprising that you located someone in the free 1880 US Census Index at, since it the result of very reliable double-blind data entry system. The other census indexes are not. That 1880 index provided a direct link to the census page at for free.

My advice is to reuse the census indices located online at:
-- via your membership in


  • Searching by alternate spellings of the surname (If you aren't thinking of at least 20 different ones, you aren't trying hard enough.)
  • Imagine alternate transcriptions of the known surname in elaborate, difficult to read script. ("H" could be interpreted by the census indexer as an "A." An "er" could be interpreted as a "w" and so forth.)
  • Searching without given name
  • Searching with middle name
  • Searching with any combination of initials for given name
  • Searching for a known child with an unusual name
  • Searching for a known spouse with an unusual name
  • Searching by birthplace
  • Searching by age (give or take 1,2 and 5 years)
  • Searching for them in more than just NJ, OH, IN & KA
  • Searching for them in ALL US
  • Check the county history of the known places to see if major emigrations are described.
  • Look for the 1880 neighbors by name in later census.
  • Just clicking through the entire census pages for the county you are convinced they were living in at the time.
  • Consider where the husband's stated occupation in the 1880 census would take him -- maybe to Illinois, Missouri and then back to Indiana?

The concept of "searching for them in more than just NJ, OH and IN" is an interesting one. For instance:

  • Pennsylvania, Maryland and Delaware are likely alternatives to New Jersey.
  • Missouri is a likely alternative for Kansas.
  • Kentucky is a likely alternative to Ohio.

You can also begin to look at alternative records such as state census, courthouse and church records in the known areas for further indications. These will most likely be available on microfilm through your local LDS Family History Center.

Have you readers run across any documented evidence that Amish, Mennonite, or Quakers specifically avoided the census enumerator? If so, what alternative record sources proved most useful?

Happy family tree climbing!
Myrt :)
6023 26th Street West PMB 352
Bradenton, FL 34207

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