Saturday, March 31, 2012

Track your forebears with the census, city directories and voter lists

Are you ready to trace an ancestor’s movements in a new city? In one of our telephone conversations, my cousin J.D. told me that our ancestor in common, Henry Kreis, had left New Jersey in 1929 for the sunny shores of California. She didn’t know where in California he had gone. But here is where a census record for 1930 might help.

From experience, I know that on, you can find census records. However, to look at the actual 1930 census record, requests that you set up a free account. In the upper right corner of the first screen, click on “Sign In” to open an account.

After I signed in, I did a "residence search." In the name box, I put “Henry Kreis.”  Next, I clicked on “Residence” and filled in CA for “Residence Place” and the years “1930” to “1930” in order to bring up the 1930 US Census records.

As I looked down the results page, I found no matches. But scrolling further down the page, I found a “John H. Kreis.” A quick glance at the record told me this must be my Henry! Four items in the record convinced me this was my ancestor:
1.     The birth date was given as 1875 (Henry’s birth date)

2.     The birth place was given as “Missouri” which fits with

3.     The parents’ birth places were given as “Switzerland” which
       again fits with Henry

4.     The place of residence was Los Angeles, CA which fits with J.D.’s belief that a family story said that Henry left New Jersey in 1929, headed for California

I believe that in this new phase of his life, Henry decided to use his first name, John. He couldn’t quite leave “Henry” behind, so he used “H” as his middle initial.

Another piece of information I gleaned from the census record was Henry’s street address: 1517 Stoner Street.  His occupation was given as a “sawyer” in a lumber yard. I had gotten everything I could from the census record. Now, I needed another tool. From previous experience, I knew that with the street address and occupation I had found for Henry, I could search further in the Los Angeles city directories.

Many city directories are on the internet. A quick search on Google confirmed that several Los Angeles directories are available on-line through the Los Angeles Public Library.  In 1932, John appears to have used “Henry” as his first name again. His occupation is listed as “sawyer”. No street address is given, just the information that his residence was “West Los Angeles.”

In 1938 and 1939, he is back to “John H. Kreis”, and is listed as a “yardman” at a lumber company with “West Los Angeles” as his residence. 

Henry/John does not appear in the 1942 Los Angeles City Directory. This could indicate that he had moved or was no longer living. More research needs to be done to determine this.

While the city directories told me that Henry was living in “West Los Angeles’, they didn’t give his street address. Did he live on Stoner or had he moved? I needed another tool. Voter registration records list the street address for each voter.

The 1942 Los Angeles voter records are available at under “California, Voter Registrations, 1900-1968.” If you don’t have a subscription to, you can access the program free of charge at many public libraries.

I searched the database for “John Kreis” and found him on the same street, Stoner St, as he was in the 1930 US Los Angeles Census. But I was in for a big surprise. In the 1930 Census, John/Henry was listed as a roomer in the household of Lily Fields. But in the 1942 voting registration list, Lily Fields had become “Lily Kreis”! Yes, Henry had married for the third time.

I didn’t find John or Lily in the 1952 or 1954 California Voter Registration List. I have more digging to do to find where and when my great grandfather,  Henry/John died. I am looking forward to the quest.

As you can see from this project to find Henry's whereabouts in California, I had to consult several sources. If I had stopped after only one, I would have missed so much. Instead I'm celebrating my new found knowledge.

Categories: census, genealogy tools, document types

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