Street addresses first appear on U.S. federal censuses in 1880 and every census year after that. To find a specific address you need to know the enumeration district (ED). In the years 1910, 1920, and 1940, you must also know the ward.
Recently I helped someone search for 427 Beethoven Place in the 1920 census. Using Chicago street name changes, I determined that Beethoven Place is currently Scott Street. I used an online mapping tool to find its current Chicago location. I took note of the surrounding streets, which was used later in this process.
To browse census images, you must go to the specific database for that census year, regardless of what website you use. I describe this process for FamilySearch and for Ancestry. If you already know these details, just skip to the section for finding the Ward and EDs.
Browse FamilySearch Census Images
From FamilySearch, select “Search” > “Records.” In the “Collection Title” field on the right, under the map, enter “United States Census, 1920” and press enter.
From the resulting page, ignore the search fields and scroll down to the section below the blue search button. Click “Browse through 2,387,416 images.” Trust me, this will not be as bad as it sounds!
Select the state, then the county. Note that Cook has two entries. One is for Chicago only, so be sure to select that one. The next step is to select the ward.
Browse Ancestry Census Images
From Ancestry, select “Search” > “Census & Voter Lists”.
Narrow the selection to “U.S. Federal Census Collection,” on the right side.
Scroll down the resulting page to the section “Included data collections” and click on the desired link, “1920 United States Federal Census.”
Use the drop-down boxes on the right to select the state, county, and then the ward.
Finding the Ward and Enumeration District
A Look at Cook is a free website for finding the wards and EDs for Chicago. From the home page, select the desired year, in this case, “1920.” Click on the map “1920 Chicago City Ward Map.” Because I used a modern mapping tool to find 427 Scott Street, I already knew where that address should appear. Choose Ward 22 and click on the map to expand it. Use the map for Ward 22 to find the ED. Notice the black numbers in each section. Those are the ED numbers. The Beethoven address would be in ED 1223. Using the browsing technique outlined, go to that ED. There are only twenty-seven images to browse. Much better than 2.3 million! The street names are written in the margins and the first column shows the house number. Image 21 is where that address appears. Charles E. and Della Bowden lived there.
Stephen P. Morse has One-Step pages for finding EDs in large cities. You might want to check that out for other cities. Be sure to select the correct census year at the very top of the page. I did use that tool for this problem, but I did not get the desired result.
Let me know if you have questions. Happy Hunting!
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