If you would like to read the earlier posts in this series, start here.
I received a call back from a volunteer at the Bronx Historical Society! The man I spoke with was very kind but basically said that even with the clues I uncovered, it would be like searching for a needle in a haystack. He admitted that knowing the family could be Jewish made that haystack a bit smaller, but the synagogue records for the Bronx were very few and most had been destroyed. Some synagogues were still standing, but no longer used as synagogues. He gave me some areas of the Bronx to concentrate on that were known Jewish neighborhoods.
I decided to start my search in the census records and focus on the Bronx. I am hesitant about this since there is no proof that this family was in fact from the Bronx, only that the seller of the plate glass negatives lives in the Bronx. It is a lot of time and energy to search but I am so invested at this point and it seems like a good place to start.
By looking at the census records, I could look for any families that have three children, about the ages of the children seen in the pictures. It would also be a nice coincidence if the father is a veterinarian or photographer.
In 1900, The Bronx Borough was enumerated as part of New York City. I was able to find the enumeration numbers here. https://digitalcollections.nypl.org/items/0cabe3d0-3d50-0134-a8e0-00505686a51c#/?uuid=0cabe3d0-3d50-0134-a8e0-00505686a51c
Believing that New York may have been the state of residence for our mystery family, I also looked at the New York Census. All other states are enumerated every 10 years. But New York has census records for 1892 and then beginning in 1905, every five years until 1925. If you ever research ancestors from New York between 1892 - 1925, you will be happy to know that there is a lot more information available to you since censuses were taken every five years.
Census records sometimes give the names of streets (sometimes house numbers) of a family. They always give the names of individuals, their relationship to the head of the house, age, marital status, occupation, country of birth and other information for each individual. This is a wonderful resource for researchers and family historians to have.
* Shameless Plug: PLEASE fill out your census when it arrives. Hundreds of years from now, it may be YOUR ancestors looking to discover who you are and how you lived. What you share is invaluable not only to our government in planning and understanding the population but for future generations who research.
All that I had for our mystery family was a guess on their ages, and their location. I went through some of the census records and looked specifically for a family of five. Two parents with three children. Any family that had three children, I stopped and checked ages and gender. That proved to be so helpful and I was able to scan pages quickly and efficiently. There are several websites that give access to census records online. The most complete collection and user friendly is Ancestry.com. I have a membership and highly recommend this site to anyone doing family history research.
Here is an example of a census record. (I just love this stuff!) This page is from the 1905 New York census for the Bronx.
1905 New York Census. Accessed on Ancestry.com
I could see families that had three children and then looked down that third column for families that had a daughter, son, and then a daughter.
If you have an ancestor and you know they lived in a specific town and county of any US state during a census year, you should be able to find them, even if typing their names into a genealogical search web site turns up nothing.
There are numerous reasons a family wouldn't show up if you typed in their name and the city, county and state you know they were residing in. The most common reason, is that the name is mis-spelled. If you are determined to find them and sure that they were living in the area you are searching, then go page by page. Use the facts you know for sure - just like I did. Parents and number of children, living together. Use the ages you know for sure, or the best guess. Then as you scan the page, stop at any listing showing the size family you have and see what the name is. If you don't know family size, you can use other clues. Knowing your ancestor was born in Ireland in 1879 is a huge clue. You can look listing by listing for any person born in that year in Ireland. It can be a long and arduous process. But so worth it! And it may open up a whole branch on your family tree!
As I searched the New York census records for our mystery family, I looked down the listings for children that matched the ages I had 'guesstimated' for each child. This allowed me to decide if I would flag the entry and save it in my computer or move on.
I have spent quite some time so far and have a few families that are possibilities. More to do tomorrow. I am still unsure if I'm looking in the right place (The Bronx).
Only time will tell...
Go here to read the next post in this series.