Have you ever tried to locate someone in a census index only to be left wondering why they seem to have vanished? Well, I have and it frustrated me to no end because after looking at all my other data and information, it stood to reason that this particular family should not have disappeared from where I had logically thought them to be.
Yes, I know families moved from place to place which could explain the situation, but I just knew that wasn't the case. I also know from experience that some enumerators were horrible spellers and therefore, names end up being indexed under misspellings that are only found by sheer luck. As it turned out, after several hours of searching with countless spellings, luck was just not going to be there for me. I had to have a new plan.
My new plan involved the neighbors. Not my neighbors, but those of my ancestors. Looking at the last census year in which my family was found, I wrote down the names and birth years of all the neighbors that would possibly still be living ten years from that census year. In other words, I did not bother to write the names of those people who were 75 years or older. I also did not bother to write the names of children who were between ten and twenty years old as they would probably be married and on their own at a different address by the next census year.
With my list of neighbors and their birth years next to my computer, I started searching for them one by one, in the same town and state where they were last found using the search box on Ancestry.com's census records. When, and if, I located the particular name I scanned the whole page for my family's name, also checking the pages right before and after. Now, of course, as luck would have it, most of the neighbors had moved during those ten years and I had to search nearly every name on my list before finally locating my family still living next to that one neighbor from ten years before! It turns out that the enumerator had not only spelled my family's name wrong, but the indexer had transcribed it differently than the wrong spelling that was there on the sheet. I would probably have never found my family in that year's census had I not used the neighbors to find them.
I've used this idea for several of my other census brick walls with the same luck. It sure beats looking at page after page of census records, especially when you are looking at huge wards in big cities! I hope you can use this idea to locate some of your family that seems to have disappeared from one census to the other. I'd also like to hear of your ideas to help find those lost people who were counted, but can't be found.