Try www.stevemorse.org. He and his team of scientists have designed a very useful US Census ED Finder that allows the user to pinpoint an area through triangulation of indicative information. Of course, if the sheets are missing altogether, the website won't do you much good. Going through each ED in the area, especially in a large city like Boston, can be tedious, but fruitful. I know that the ED's can change over the course of time, but you could also look at 1910 and 1930 to get a sense of what happened in 1920.
Thank you for the fast response!
I always go to the unified ED finder to start. It specifically points me to ED 554 in the 1920 census which matches the ED map that I shared. I have done this in two ways: 1) giving the address I am looking for in 1920, and 2) giving the 1930 ED for the address of interest. Both methods returned the same ED for 1920: 554.
I have gone through all of the other Ward 23 ED's and did not find the street addresses I was looking for. (tedious indeed). I AM able to find the desired street addresses in the 1930 census.
Is there any way to know definitively if some 1920 Boston census records are missing? Does anyone keep track of that? Is it possible that some of the records are indexed in a neighboring town such as Brookline, Dedham, Needham, etc?
As a last resort, do you have any other ideas on how to find out who is living at a specific address in 1920 in West Roxbury using the census?
Hi, Phil --
While you're waiting for an answer from an archivist, here are some things you can try.
1) For an alternate source to view the microfilm rolls, you could try the Internet Archive. A copy of the DP (descriptive pamphlet) for the microcopy publication is often found at the start of the roll, and usually has at least a roll list. I usually download the PDF from NARA's microfilm catalog for ease of reference, or you could use the information on Morse's One-Step Web Pages.
2) Supplement the ED maps you already have with other neighborhood maps. The article "Discovering Your Neighborhood" from Prologue Magazine has a case study you could look at. https://www.archives.gov/publications/prologue/2015/fall/local-history.html
I haven't explored Boston yet, but Holyoke and North Adams (and other cities) have GIS-based Property Viewers that show modern-day property ownership via the tax assessor's website. For the Holyoke system, I was able to download beautifully detailed PDF maps showing the parcels with outlines of the buildings on them. The Property Record Cards sometimes have photos of the buildings and usually have some sort of description of their construction, and an estimate of when the building was put up. For one family, I was able to see that their 1930 Census address was a building built in 1924; from there I researched historical newspapers and discovered their development didn't exist in the 1920 Census.
You can walk through using Google Street View too, but for any complicated problem, I like having copies of the paper maps that I can mark up as needed.
3) Use city directories as a crib. Use the street (numerical) listings as a guide and see if you can match up the heads of household on those listings with the heads of household in the census. Often the street listings will show the cross-streets, which makes it easier to use with the maps or Google Street View. Keep track of which parts of the street you can find, then see what neighbors are missing and try searching/browsing for them. You may not be able to find a cluster who has moved between two neighborhoods, but you never know until you look. (Our next door neighbors when I was a kid knew my parents when they both lived in a different state.)
4) Check historical newspapers for information about the ED (like street renamings or renumberings). Check the street name changes on Stephen P. Morse's site if you haven't already.
5) The FamilySearch Research Wiki has articles corresponding to their Historical Records collections, which you can search for from the Wiki's main page, or by clicking the "Learn More" link if you're on the search page for a collection. Sometimes these articles have a section "Known issues" that describes if part of a record set is missing.
6) Don't assume that the entire ED is together on the microfilm roll, since the enumerator may have gone back to pick up skipped households. Pay attention to any notes in the margin; in the 1930 Census I've seen notes pointing to strays, linking them to their households.
Here's a similar question on Genealogy and Family History Stack Exchange, if you want to see how our community members attacked the problem: https://genealogy.stackexchange.com/q/15318/1006
These cases are always frustrating. Good luck with your search!
Thank you for your response to my question and all of your suggestions. I am working my way through them!
I am almost 100% that the street I am looking for has existed since 1897. I have looked at the Bromley maps of West Roxbury from 1905, 1914, and 1920 and that street (Frances Street) is in all of them. I have also accessed the "Record of the Streets, Alleys, Places, Etc in the City of Boston" publication for 1910 and it is listed there, with the correct cross streets etc. It says the street was built in 1897. And I CAN find the census for that street in the 1930 census. So, I am pretty sure that the street was present and lived on in 1920.
The Bromley maps are very detailed and list the owners (at the time) of each property. But of course, ownership of a property does not mean 'occupancy" in that that property. I have looked up the owners of many of the 'missing entries' in the 1920 census and have not found them to be living at that properties.
I will keep looking! Thanks again for all the suggestions.
1 person found this helpful
Dear Mr. Ebersole,
Thank you for posting your request on History Hub!
Since the Enumeration District (ED) map that you referenced appears to be a less-developed or even somewhat undeveloped part of the city, it is possible the houses addresses you are interested in had not yet been built in 1920. Local property and tax records may provide you more insight into that, and digging into those would require effort on your part. Those records would likely be either in the Suffolk Registry of Deeds, the Massachusetts Registry of Deeds, or at the Massachusetts State Archives. We suggest that you contact these offices for assistance.
In general, the census enumerators were supposed to go around each “block” systematically and enumerate everyone at every dwelling house. It is unlikely that the area would be enumerated as part of a neighboring town, which would have different enumerators going block to block in their own area. The only way that we know of to search the census for a specific address is to go through the appropriate enumeration district page by page, line by line, taking note of the addresses given on the left side of the page.
We hope this is helpful. Best of luck with your research!
Thank you for your response to my question. I am pretty sure that the street I am looking for has existed since 1897. I have looked at the Bromley maps of West Roxbury from 1905, 1914, and 1920 and that street (Frances Street) is in all of them. I have also accessed the "Record of the Streets, Alleys, Places, Etc in the City of Boston" or 1910 and it is listed there, w.ith the correct cross streets etc. It says the street was built in 1897. And I CAN find the census for that street in the 1930 census.
I will keep looking!
To all who responded with helpful hints,
Thank you for your help.
I believe I have solved my mystery. Using the hint to look into property records, I discovered that the first house on Frances St in West Roxbury was built in 1923 so of course there was no entry in the 1920 census.
It appears that the street that I was looking for in the 1920 census did indeed exist, but there were no houses on it! I didn't anticipate the scenario of streets being laid out, subdivided into lots, and the street built decades before the first house on it was built!
Had I been paying attention to the details on the various Bromley maps, I would have realized that the structures, when they exist, are shown in yellow.
Now I know! Thanks for your help.
Hi, Phil --
Glad you found a solution!
I just wanted to leave a quick note to draw attention to the article on Steve Morse's site by Weintraub and Morse, Problems Using 1950 Enumeration District Maps. It's easy to get caught up using the tools there and overlook all the other goodies on the site.
Also of interest: Joel D. Weintraub's YouTube Channel: https://www.youtube.com/c/JDWTalks/videos
Good luck with your research!
Thank you! That information is going to be very handy for the 1950 census when it comes out!