Casefile Clues

21 March 2013

No Matches in the 1850 Census--Huh?

I searched the 1850 census at using the "old search" at I left all the boxes blank so that I determine how many entries were in the 1850 census at in mind that those numbers might not match the official 1850 census results

This was the result:

It would seem logical to me that if all the blanks are empty, the search should return EVERYONE enumerated in the census.

In fact, if one chooses only the name of a state, everyone within that state is returned.

This is my screen for a search with just Illinois as the location:

I got exactly what I expected-the Illinois entries. I have no idea of going through all of them, but knowing how many entries there are in the 1850 census for Illinois at could be useful in some types of analysis. It turns out there are 854,732 entries in Illinois.

I can perform a similar search for a first name--leaving the location blank. tells me that in their 1850 census database nationwide there are 1,164,951 individuals whose first name starts with "joh*."

The question I have is why does leaving everything blank give me no hits? It would seem that searching with everything blank should give me the entire country.

And that's what I was trying to get--how many people were enumerated in the 1850 census according to Ancestry.

The other thing that always concerns me is that when things don't work the way they should I always wonder "are there other things that aren't working, but that I just can't tell are not working?"

I realize doesn't necessarily like my questions. Sometimes though I get a little tired of the response being to find workarounds for these search issues.