Try First Name Plus Family Group
Our ancestors tended to be more conservative with first names than we are now, and – even with bad handwriting
– a transcriber (or even the enumerator) will feel more confident that they are reading ‘William’, ‘Thomas’, ‘Susan’ or ‘Anna’ than some of our more unusual surnames. If you are struggling to find someone and you’ve tried different spellings and wildcards, try going without a surname altogether but add the first names of other people who are likely to be in the household in that census year. I found this particularly useful after one of my great great aunts married a French tutor whose surname varied on every census.
However, some websites cope better with this than others. For example, thegenealogist.co.uk has always allowed you to search individual censuses using the first names of family groups and is the best for this kind of searching, while findmypast.co.uk only lets you search with one extra household member – and although ancestry.co.uk may give you the option to search in a family group, it does not really do this for the earlier censuses.
If you know who to expect in a household, try a combination of first names