Using Census Records?
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I think I found family in the 1900 census. But when I look them up in later census they do not show up.
So I went back and think I found my great grandfather in the 1860 records. The person is the right age same city as the 1900 but how can one know for sure?
Unless you strike a census record where you get a significant number of cross-bearings, you can't really be sure that it's your man.
You could also try looking at other records for that family in that place. For example, check city directory records, church records, birth, death or marriage records for other members of the family. How about newspapers in the town/area where they lived--the family might have been mentioned there.
Always start with what you have proven or are fairly confident about (i.e., "I know they had at least 4 children named Eenie, Meenie, Miney & Moe") and work backwards from those facts.
And if you're really, really stuck, why not post here & we can all give it a go!
I have been checking with people who lived in the area and no why has any memory of a jail or prison in that area. My wife family grew up in that area in the 1930- 1990.
But I guess 30 years and a area can change a lot.