East Chicago: Steel town Incognitos

Indiana Harbour Steeltown
Indiana Harbour Steeltown

                                   I knew we had cousins that worked in the steel mills of Indiana Harbor. What I did not know is that it was a huge sprawling industrial community that still remains active today. The canal and harbor sprawled out over several years, beginning in 1901, as the company expanded. Many immigrants lived and worked in East Chicago. Inland Steel Company is where three generations of these cousins worked, lived and died. 

                                  When I did some research for a cousin's extended family, I was surprised how large it was and how awful the census enumerator spelled the foreign names in the 1900, 1910, 1920, even the 1930 census in East Chicago, Indiana. No wonder people thought their families were hiding behind doors or under the beds when the Government man, aka the census taker, came knocking at the door. It was against the law to avoid them. They always come back. A former client contacted me to look for an ancestor in East Chicago. Clearly, the client's people lived on the same block for 50 years according to the city directories. However, in any census index compiled by FamilySearch or Ancestry, they never existed. Scrolling through the actual images of the census, page by page, is how I found them but one could easily miss them as their names were so convoluted.

                                A great tool for unscrambling surnames spellings in census databases is at the Steve Morse website. If anyone is not familiar with Steve Morse and his wonderful work with the algorithms of search engines, he is a genius. The site is located at : http://stevemorse.org/

                               SOME TIPS:  You can wildcard your surnames on Ancestry or Family Search with * or ?  characters. For instance, for the name Plachetka, I would use the variations of Pl?hch*k* or Plachet* in the surname search box and in American censuses, put the birthplace as  "Hungary" or "CzechoSlovakia" or "Austria-Hungary" (as the political bondaries changed for many Hungarians after 1918). Hopefully, with these tips, your relative will not remain incognito !