Research on the Carson family of New Jersey and Kansas in the early days before Internet-based genealogy records became commonplace
We left off last time having learned the names of four Carson siblings from New Jersey: my 2nd great-grandfather Andrew F. Carson and his brothers: Charley, Furman and Wes. From informal oral interviews with my grandmother and a cemetery trip to her hometown, I learned that three of the brothers had migrated from New Jersey to Kansas at some point in their lives, lived in the vicinity of White City, Morris Co., Kansas, and were buried in White City Cemetery.
Location of White City within Morris County, Kansas 
Typically when doing genealogical research you start with the known, and then move backwards in time, searching for clues that link people and generations. One of the building blocks of an American family tree is the United States Federal census, taken decennially (i.e. every 10 years) beginning in 1790. To access the census microfilm, I made a trek to the local branch of the National Archives in Seattle, where I searched for each of the Carson males in the 1920, 1910, and 1900 census enumerations for Morris County, Kansas. Because of a 72-year black out period before the census is released to the public at large, later federal census listings were not available when this research was first conducted in the 1990s. Here I have extracted the information from the census listings into a table in my word processing software for comparison purposes.
Doing the census research provided important background information. Not only did it establish the presence of the three Carson brothers over three decades in a small community, it also consistently placed their origins, and that of their parents, in New Jersey. However, since none of these census households included a father or mother, it did not help me answer my research question which was “Who were the parents of Andrew, Charley and Furman Carson of White City, Kansas, and of Wes, location unknown?”
Because I wanted to learn who the parents of the brothers were, I needed to choose a census where they were all likely to appear together in the parental household. Looking for four people together rather than just one individual increases the likelihood that, when found, you have identified the correct family group.
In this case, the census closest to their birth dates was the 1860 census. If I was doing this research today, the 1860 census would be the first census to search. However, if you were doing research fifteen years ago, you may recall that the 1860 census index was available in book form, and only the heads of household were typically indexed – not children. Since I did not know the name of the parents of the Carson brothers, that census wasn’t my first option. Instead, I chose to search for the brothers in the 1870 census using a published Heritage Quest index that included children.
In 1870, Charles would have been about 18, Andrew would have been about 16, and Furman would have been about 14. Therefore, I needed to look for young males of these names and ages in the census index for New Jersey. If all were indexed, all entries should lead us to the same household assuming that the brothers had not yet left home. Finding Wes in the household would have been a bonus, since no information regarding his life had been uncovered up to that time.
The net result of this exercise was that the only entry in the census index that matched up was that of “Firman” Carson.  True to form, Wes was not found at all, and the entries for males named Andrew or Charles Carson were all older than our subjects.
This index entry led me to the correct roll of microfilm and page number, which yielded this result:
Although not stated, we can surmise that Caroline Carson may have been the mother of all the Carson children in the household, including Charles, Andrew, Furman, Eley, Amanda and Jane Carson; the ages fit into a logical birth sequence, and all bore the same surname. (Oddly enough, the census index got two data points wrong: the spelling of Firman – clearly “Forman” in the census entry, and his age, which shows as 13 not 14. Still, it led me to the correct family. Using the printed index was easier than cranking through a whole county’s worth of entries on the film.)
Now that I potentially had the name of one parent and the Hamilton Township location in Mercer County, New Jersey, I continued my research – operating under the assumption that Caroline was the children’s mother. Where was the Carson father, and who was Lewis Rainear?
 Image: “Morris County Kansas Incorporated and Unincorporated areas White City Highlighted” courtesy Wikimedia user Arkyan under the GNU Free Documentation License (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Morris_County_Kansas_Incorporated_and_Unincorporated_areas_White_City_Highlighted.svg : accessed 21 Dec 2013).
 Raeone Christiansen Steuart. New Jersey 1870 Census Index (Bountiful, Utah: Heritage Quest, 1998), p. 246.
 1870 U.S. census, Mercer County, New Jersey, population schedule, Hamilton Township, p. 82 [stamped], dwelling 270, family 268, Caroline Carson family in Lewis Rainear household, National Archives microfilm publication M593, roll 871. The original of the edited image shown here downloaded from Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 21 Dec 2013) rather than scanning a poor copy printed from microfilm at the time.