Saturday, June 9, 2012

Frustrated with

I received a lovely e-mail update from a few days ago about the 1940 census for New York.  The whole state is completed!  Start your search now!  And at the bottom were come-ons for the 1925, 1915, and 1892 New York state censuses -- Just launched!  Search now!

Okay, I have lots of relatives who were in New York, and New York City in particular, so I dove in.  I started looking for dozens of names.  I actually found several.  But in the 1892 census, I wasn't anywhere near as successful.  No matter what permutations of a name I tried, I wasn't finding the people I was looking for.

Then I noticed that none of the results was for Manhattan.  Hmmm.  I decided to search just for New York County -- no names, dates, nothing.  And what did I get?  Zip.  Zilch.  Zero.  Bupkus.  The big bagel. put the 1892 New York census up without bothering to note that Manhattan isn't there.

Now, I can understand that it isn't done.  Ancestry has plenty of record sets it's working on, and they really wanted to get 1940 New York finished before did.  That's fine.

But one of the things that has always annoyed me about Ancestry is that it doesn't tell you up front what isn't there.  And unless you do a search the way I did and confirm the missing parts, you might think your people weren't there after all, or maybe the census taker missed them.  I also know that the description below the search fields says that New York County is not there.  My point is that the come-on teaser is misleading and misrepresentative.

I'm so glad I don't pay Ancestry for a subscription.  If Lexis-Nexis ran a subscription service this way they'd have been out of business years ago.


  1. I looked too when the Ancestry announcement arrived in my email on Wednesday morning, and like you couldn't find any of my Manhattan ancestors that should have been in the 1892 NY census - but until your blog posting, it didn't sink in that my common-surname searches hadn't gotten any NYC listings except Brooklyn! Good catch!

    Being at Jamboree when I read your blog post, I stopped by the Ancestry booth in the exhibit hall where I spoke with Chris, who is checking with the Ancestry folks who worked with the 1892 census; will let you know what I hear back from him!

  2. I've actually received two messages from Ancestry employees about my post, to which I have not yet had the opportunity to respond. I hope to be able to post their comments.

  3. I've heard back from both of the employees! One gave me detailed information about the New York state census databases (posted with his permission):

    Over time, we have digitized and indexed New York state census microfilm from two different sources, resulting in us having two different databases containing 1892 census images so that we can have appropriate source citations. From your post, it appears that you were looking at our earlier 1892 census database, which we placed online in 2005. I make this assumption because our new 1892 census database notes the following:

    “It should be noted that the 1892 NY State Census original copies were held by the individual county’s courthouse. Several of the counties did not keep copies of the original records and are therefore not included in this database. There are no known copies of the following counties …” with New York County/Manhattan being one of the counties listed.

    By way of further color, when the 1892 census was taken, two copies of each schedule were made. One copy went to Albany while the other copy was retained by the county. Unfortunately, a fire at New York’s state capitol in 1911 completely destroyed the state’s copies of the various 1892 census schedules ( So when the 1892 census was microfilmed, the copies kept at the various county courthouses were used because they were all that remained. New York County is one of the counties that cannot find its copy of the 1892 census schedules of its residents.

  4. Comment field doesn't seem to support cut / paste so I can't include email I received this morning from Ancestry, but in a nutshell, it states that the database was created from copies of the 1892 NY census stored in individual county courthouses, and about 20 counties copies no longer exist. The database description was updated on Monday to list the counties not covered, including NY and Bronx (latter part of NY & Westchester counties back then).

  5. Looks like our comments crossed paths! - glad you heard back from Ancestry, too!


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