Part 6: Widening The Search in the Census


  • Introduction

  • Step 1 – Update from Pam on records from Catholic Diocese in Peoria

  • Step 2 – Lewis designs an excel spreadsheet that all members will be able to tap into

  • Step 3 – Review of why in some lines it may be necessary or advisable to extend your research towards a surname study

  • Step 4 – What we found in the St Louis, Census

  • Step 5 – What Pam may need to do next   

  • Step 6 – Conclusion and Membership Feedback



In Part five we looked at the information Pam had copied from other people’s Ancestry Trees where Ancestry had indicated a DNA match with Pam was present but the information as presented was insufficient to draw any useful conclusions except that the date of birth for “Annie’s” father Michael Laughlin cannot be correct as it would have been very unlikely he would have been 9 years old when his daughter was born.

In this part we will look at the potential information we may be able to ascertain by studying the Census records for Laughlin families who reside in St Louis, Missouri.  I want to take you through the basics of the process involved, the amount of time and effort a side project like this can involve, and why  in SOME lines this may be a useful alternative tactic to find information that cannot be located by following the standard paper trail

Lewis has kindly put together a spreadsheet designed for this purpose, don’t worry if you have no or only very limited experience (or even an absolute horror) of using spreadsheets.  Using a spreadsheet is not obligatory, it is simply one method, pen and paper will do the job just as efficiently if that is how you prefer to work.


Step 1 – Update from Pam on records from Catholic Diocese in Peoria

Pam has been in contact with Mike regarding information she has received from the Catholic Diocese Office.

Susanna was born on 25 June 1861 and baptised on 16 February 1862, her parents are recorded as Peter Daily and Ann Laughlin, the sponsors are Peter McCabe and Margaret Moran.

Ulysses Daily was born 20 July 1864 and baptised on 21 August 1864.  His parents are recorded as Peter Daily and Maria Laughlin, and the sponsors are John and Hannah Daily.

Ellen Daily was born on 29 May 1867 and baptised 16 June 1867.  Her parents are recorded as Peter Daily and Maria Laughlin and the sponsors were Thomas Driscoll and Bridget Driscoll.

Francis Daily was born 29 November 1869 and baptised 5 December 1869.  Parents are recorded as Peter Daily and Maria Laughlin.  Sponsors are recorded as Edward Conroy and Mary Conroy.

Louisa was born on 25 September 1871 and baptised on 6 October 1871.  Her parents are recorded as Peter Daily and Anna Maria Laughlin and the sponsors as Michael Hadigan and Margaret Hadigan

An unnamed child that Pam has identified as Thomas, was born on 4 October 1874 and baptised on 18 October 1874.  His parents are recorded as Peter Daily and Mary Laughlin with the sponsors recorded as Henry Hagan and Ellen Hadigan.

Lastly Harry Benjamin was born on 20 July 1878 and baptised on 16 August 1878.  His parents are recorded as [blank] Daily and Maria Laughlin and the sponsors are recorded as Cornelius Driscoll and Johanna [blank].

While none of this information brings us any closer to where in Ireland “Annie” was born or when she arrived in the US it does very importantly confirm from an additional source other than just the census records that she was identified as Ann, Maria, Anna Maria and Mary.

Being able to definitively prove that “Annie” has been identified in a variation of ways may be crucial when it comes to attempting to identify records that pertain to her earlier in her life as we move through the research process.



Step 2 – Lewis designs an excel spreadsheet that all members will be able to tap into

In the last part of this case-study we set a challenge to see if any members could design (or let us have access to) a spreadsheet that would suit to enter and review a variety of information from census records pertaining to other Laughlin families in and around Jackson (where Annie moved to) and St Louis, Missouri where Pam’s DNA matches Laughlin ancestors were believed to have lived.

We also asked if there were any members who would be prepared to transcribe and proof read the records we copied across.  

Lewis kindly put together a spreadsheet, which will prove to be a very useful resource for any member who is thinking of repeating this exercise for their own lines.  I started testing this by entering the other Laughlin individuals from Census records in Jackson where “Annie” moved to from Peoria.  Then “life” intervened, along with the traditional 12th holiday here in Northern Ireland (you can guess the rest – nothing happened, at least with regard the spreadsheet).

Eventually getting back to “Genealogy World” and actually looking more carefully at the number of census returns over the decades in St Louis and the potential size and time requirements needed to work through the entire exercise I decided that for speed and demonstration purposes to only complete the records for St Louis for 1860 for individuals born in Ireland.

Thank you to everyone who did offer to help with entering information.

You can see the partially completed spreadsheet here attached here in excel format.

And a screen shot of a portion of the information here

If you are not familiar with spreadsheets, they are basically a table, or to be more precise a collection of tables that you can alter, link together, export information from and sort in a variety of ways to suit different purposes all held within one file.   From the screen shot you can see that for the 1860 census there are a significant number of blank boxes.  As many of you will already be aware the 1860 US Census does not record a significant amount of information about each individual or family grouping.

We can see that more clearly in a screenshot of the actual census record for the top couple in the above screen shot James and Cathe Laughlin:

In Step 3 we will look at WHY this MAY be a useful exercise.



Step 3 – Review of why in some lines it may be necessary or advisable to extend your research towards a surname study.

“MAY” is a key word here.   This is an exercise that thankfully in the vast bulk of genealogical research projects is UNNECESSARY, PROVIDING THAT you have explored all of the records that pertain to your ancestor and been able to ascertain from at least one ancestor or a known sibling in any generation a point of origin in the “old country”.

However there are research projects where no matter how thoroughly you investigate your direct ancestor and the individuals that you can prove are related to them there is simply no trace of the family’s original point of origin within the family documentation.

In Pam’s case we do have a potential verbal, but unsourced, query raised by Pam’s grandmother that she believed “Annie” may have originated in or near Newcastle, County Down.  Pam also has DNA hints from descendants of St Louis Laughlin individuals so if we cannot definitely locate “Annie” within our Irish research (up next) this is an exercise that Pam will need to come back to herself and explore these individuals and potential family connections further.

We examined the individual census records for “Annie” in Episode 1 of the Workshop.  This exercise is a “rinse and repeat” of that exercise it is just extended to include additional groups of families who may or may have a familial or geographical connection to our family.  

I am aware though that some of you do not have either a hearsay point of origin or any documentary evidence of a point of origin for your ancestors.

When this happens there are three choices, give up, follow DNA hints if there are any, or widen your research into a variety of other tactics including historical chain and group migration patterns either in the region your ancestor first settled (looking at the neighbours) or by looking at where other groups of similar named individuals may have immigrated and migrated over time.  Most of us utilise this function on John Grenham’s Excellent Irish Ancestors site every time we do an Irish Surname look up.

Using a spreadsheet, either the one Lewis has designed, or sheets of your own design, pre-printed census extract forms, or a notebook is simply a matter of choice that depends on how you work best.  You can use one sheet for all of the Census Records, one sheet per Census year, one sheet per family – the only correct way is what works for how your brain processes this type of information.  

Personally my favourite method is coloured pens, highlighters and lots of separate pages – then get everybody out of my way, including those with 4 legs rather than 2 and lay out a 30 foot line of paperwork.  I like shuffling paper!  I like to scribble questions, possibilities and probabilities as I go and to physically see where and why I’ve changed my mind, reversed a decision, increased or decreased the probability of connection.  (I wonder if that has anything to do with coming from a long line of printers, book-binders and stationers.)

The only real certainty is that this type of exercise can be slow going, particularly if you have a reasonably large number of returns of the surname in any given area or a large area to search.  Searches of this nature inevitably lead to the requirement of further research to find out more information about the families and how or if they connect to one another, it is akin to a one name study although generally not as broad in scope.  It can be often worth checking if there are any one name studies or if there are other people who are researching the same name in the same area before you start with your own family.

Expanding your research sideways, outside of and away from a definitive paper trail is a risk!  This is the sort of exercise that can take months, but with a little bit of pre-planning is something you can do by setting aside an hour a week over the winter rather than as a single large exercise. 

It is also only fair to point out that while it will be successful in some cases (especially if you have a DNA connection with some of the families) in other cases the best result is you will do a lot of work that might just be very useful to someone else.  This is an exercise I have done with my own lines, in some instances it has given me an answer, in others it has been unsuccessful in locating my ancestors and in a few it was several years later before the connection became apparent via a different tactic and only then was I able to utilise the prior research.


Step 4 – What we found in the St Louis, Census.

A search on Ancestry of the “1860 United States Federal Census” for the surname Laughlin (filter set broad), who were born in Ireland (filter set exact to Country) in St Louis, Missouri, United States (filter set to County) returns 30 results.

At this stage I have only entered the individuals in each family who were actually born in Ireland and not spent the time entering their children and where they were born in the US (or wherever).  This would be the next step.

At this point we will briefly look at some of the analysis it is reasonably easy to see from the returns from a single census, however in most cases it is likely to be necessary to also have the appropriate data from both later and earlier census records.

There was one census record that stood out among the rest (in addition to the records highlighted by Ancestry as potential DNA connections)

Michael Loughlin A60, a labourer, born in Ireland, living in 1860 in St Louis Ward 4, in Dwelling Number 152 (Family number 260) as we can see below his inferred wife is Margaret Loughlin age 40, and inferred children John age 16, Eliza age 9 all born in Ireland and inferred youngest child Ellen age 5 born in Missouri.  Also present with the same family number in the same (albeit shared house) is Anne Daly age 25 who was also born in Ireland.  The exact date of the census from the top of the sheet is 11 June 1860.

“Annie” recorded as Mariah Daily is recorded in Peoria at home with her husband Peter and daughter Catherine age one on 19 June 1860.  So at this stage it is not possible to ascertain without further research as to whether “Annie” appears twice in the 1860 US Federal Census or if these are two different individuals.  We did estimate that the 20 years of age of “Annie” in Peoria was more likely to be correct than the information she provided in later census records.  The Ann Daly in St Louis is recorded as age 25.

Red Herring or vital evidence?

I don’t know.

What I do know is this is the type of potential evidence that should be explored further even if the result is to rule this family out as being a potential connection to “Annie”

This is also the only family with age appropriate children (rather than age appropriate siblings) who were born in Ireland.  The later potential birth dates for John and Eliza 1844 and 1851 may make their records slightly easier to locate.  Again their inferred youngest child Ellen is recorded as 5 years of age and born in Missouri indicating that the family probably left Ireland between John’s birth around 1851 and Ellen’s birth around 1855. 

Undertaking a search for Ellen’s birth may provide a date at which the family can be definitively located in the US and confirm whether Margaret is Ellen’s mother, and what her maiden name was.  Exploring this family in the later census records may also help define whether Pam’s theory that Michael was married twice is correct.

Margaret is recorded as 40 years old, (which calculates her birth around 1820) some 20 years younger than her inferred husband Michael and as it happens 20 years older than Annie’s recorded age in Peoria.  However it also makes her a little too young to be the inferred mother of Annie’s” inferred elder brother Michael born allegedly around 1833. That of course relies on her age in the census being accurate!

It is important to note that all relationships in the 1860 Census can only be inferred as the relationships between individuals are not recorded.  Further research will be required to ascertain if these are correct or incorrect.  

At this stage it is important to emphasise that we do not know whether this is “Annie’s” father – currently it is pure speculation.  This Michael would have been born around 1800 if his age is recorded correctly in the census making him an estimated 40 years older than “Annie”.

Even the name Michael as “Annie’s” father is no more than speculation, based on unconfirmed and undocumented information from Pam’s DNA cousins. 


Step 5 – What Pam may need to do next.

If we cannot find definitive records for “Annie” in Ireland then Pam will need to explore the rest of the Census records for St Louis, Missouri for the surname Laughlin and variant spellings.

My advice would be to at least initially concentrate on this Michael Laughlin and his family, try find them in the following census records and start expanding this to vital event information.  

Debbie Shumaker also added connections to a number of files including lists of immigrants that travelled through Castle Garden and a couple of obituaries.

Adding the children for each family will allow Pam to establish where the children were born, eg Ireland or which US State and when they were born.

This will begin to build a picture of date ranges of when each family arrived in the US, when they arrived in St Louis, and whether any children were born in different States indicating possible migration route(s).  It will begin to build patterns, evidence of whether Laughlin individuals may have travelled alone, or in potential family groups, whether it was more likely that they travelled as single or married.  (This can be particularly helpful when looking to combine two or more names to find potential locations in Ireland).

Pam will need to note who disappears from the St Louis census records indicating possibilities that they have either moved on (again?) or died.

Then she will need to begin to explore what other records may exist in the St Louis area. Things like what baptism records survive, how can they be accessed, when did civil registration of births, marriages and deaths begin, what information was recorded by the state, by the church.

Were there local newspapers?, Was it normal practice for different groups to insert family announcements? Obituaries?

Where are the local burying grounds?  Did different family groups use different grounds?  When did each burial ground open?

Burials of Laughlin individuals was also identified by the Ancestry ProGenealogist Report that Pam commissioned.  It identified a number of Laughlin burials in Calvary Cemetery that according to other users trees were the children of “Annie’s” potential brother James Michael Laughlin but that the information was unsourced and that there were no historical records to support the claim.

It is also likely that Pam will/may need to look beyond the standard records of vital Events, Immigration, naturalisation, and passports and begin to explore the social construction of St Louis.  By exploring the wider connections of how and where the various social groups lived in St Louis she may be able to being to build pictures that will go some way to establishing whether most of the Irish immigrants were domiciled in one or two areas of the city, or did they split further by religion, by Irish origin, by educational or job status or other reasons.

There is one more very important fact to raise.  Although Pam has potential DNA connections with other descendants of Laughlin families of St Louis, none of the other individuals or Pam have sufficient evidence in their family trees to confirm that this connection is definitively on the Laughlin line.  It is a common name that appears in all three trees and therefore the most likely connection and therefore the line that would be sensible to explore first.  (Pam if all of the Laughlin descendants have had Y-DNA tests that confirm the connection is on the Laughlin male line then the above statement would be incorrect.)

The question remains even if it fits – does it actually belong?


Step 6 – Conclusion and Membership Feedback.

Even where traditional genealogical records are not available online at our favourite free or membership genealogy sites a significant amount of information can still be found in piecemeal format scattered through a variety of records.

In can take a little bit of ingenuity and persistence, along with careful tracking of the research process in order to maximise the results.

Evidence is not always direct but can be indirect or circumstantial, sources can be original or derivative and from primary or secondary evidence.  


This entire case-study was released as a series over several weeks in the Green Room forum. Between each release, we challenged the members to help and offer comment – so we could use our collective brain – before the release of the next part of the case study. Here was the challenge we issued to the members at the end of the current part of the case-study:

Our experienced members who have years and in many instances decades of research under your belts will know the value of these three statements.  I already know several of you have set out your own research journeys through similar exercises in several parts of the world.  It may be helpful for others if you are happy to post a quick summary of your work, whether you found it helpful and link to you own threads that provide more detail. 

Because of time factors we are going to move the search directly to Ireland next and we are going to begin exploring what records exist for the Newcastle, County Down area where Pam’s grandmother believed that “Annie” may have originated.

We will at this stage keep an open mind about “Annie’s” father being named Michael and potential names of siblings. 

(You can see the full set of comments and suggestions offered when we first published the above part of the case-study here. Feel free to have a look. When you are ready, come back here to jump on to the next part of this case -study.)


You can now Click here to comment on this Case-Study or ask further questions in the Green Room forum