- Over the years we've used the AIS often. We've found if a librarian has
used it him/her self, they better appreciate its worth & in turn teach other
librarians & patrons of its value.
For example, if we only know our Shellman family came from New York in the
late 1700's, this is a good source to search. By looking at this alpha
index it's arranged in, we're able to ascertain what counties in NY that
people of this surname lived in in 1790. Then it usually lists the twp or
district, & includes the census page number that that entry is on That can
be a great clue & much easier than having to check out each county for a
trace of that surname.
Being able to search the entire U.S. for specific names is a
bonus.especially when it's all alpha arranged & all is clearly marked &
subject to your further investigation.
In using the AIS, we've discovered some points to be aware of:
1) When searching, keep phonetics in mind. How does it "sound" & what other
possible alternate spellings might you check under? Even names like
Cramer/Kramer, obviously would be found in entirely different spots as would
Schneider/Snyder/Snider, Rodes/Rhoads/Rhodes/Roads, and
2) The AIS is divided into different searches, depending upon the census
year (or in the case of Search 1, which includes tax rolls, etc of those
early years, close to 1790).
3) Those Searches number 9 & not all are equally useful. You should know
Search 7 is incomplete. Instead of that search, ALWAYS look at Search 7A!
4) Don't discount Search 8."Mortality Records". This is info taken by
census takers regarding deaths in that household in the past year. This can
be quite valuable.
5) Next point...the AIS is principally a record of heads of households from
1790-1850 Census (very little is included after that time frame, despite
what the AIS brochure says).
6) The accompanying brochure states the compiler had a 19% error in his
work. I do not disagree with that, but do think possibly a good bit of that
error was that he kept his finger on the computer entry key too long. There
are multiple cases of repetition of an entry. For instance, in a few cases
here & there, one finds a duplicate entry for the same named person. Once
one is aware of this kind of error, one watches for it automatically. Easy
to check out too since one is already going to that page number to look at
the entry you want.
We feel the pluses far outweigh the minuses.that this can be a valuable tool
for many & hope if you've not investigated it yourself, you might do so with
these imperfections in mind.
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- I personally have solved a copy of difficult research problems by using
the index of early 1800 census' as found in the AIS. It is worth
using. Nancy Hugo