There’s little worse than looking for a family in a census and not finding them. Especially when you have other records, and you know exactly where they were living at the time. I recently experienced this again while searching for a family in the 1851 census of England.
James Farmer, his wife Nabby, and at least a few still-unmarried daughters and an infant son should have all been living somewhere in Wigan, Lancashire. Yet the family did not appear in the indexes to these records on FamilySearch, Ancestry.com, or FindMyPast.com. On each site I tried numerous variations, “soundex” settings, wildcards . . . with and without birthdates, with and without surnames, with and without given names. Nothing worked.
I knew that the family was living in Scholes. The birth registration for a son born in 1848 reported their address at that time as Wellington Street. I looked at a map of Wigan and found Wellington Street. I read the enumeration district descriptions on the first page of the census for each nearby district and thought I had found where Wellington Street was likely to have been enumerated. Yet I did a page-by-page search of these districts and still no Farmer family.
Finally, I solved the problem using an online finding aid provided by the National Archives [UK]: the Historical Streets Project.
For each census from 1841 through 1901, the Historical Streets Project provides a listing for each street within each registration district. You will need to know the district in which the street lay in order to browse directly for the appropriate street, though it is also possible to use the wiki search engine to find references to the street name. Each street listing identifies a nearby street, and, more importantly, the NA reference number and folio of that street’s enumeration.
To find the Farmer family, I simply had to go to the street index for the 1851 census, focus on the Wigan registration district, and look for Wellington Street. The Historical Street Project revealed that the street was enumerated on HO 107/2199, folio 252–257. The reference “HO 107/2199” corresponds to several enumeration districts within Wigan. Folios 252–257 appear in enumeration district 1I in Wigan. Looking through these six pages was quite simple, and the family appeared exactly where they should have!
Interestingly enough, the handwriting on the entry is quite clear. I am still not sure why none of the online indexes contained this Farmer family by name.
 England, birth certificate for James Farmer, b. 6 October 1848; citing Volume 21, page 763, entry 372, Wigan Union registration district, County Lancaster; General Register Office, Southport.
 “Your Archives:Historical Streets Project,” The National Archives, Your Archives (http://yourarchives.nationalarchives.gov.uk/index.php?title=Your_Archives:Historical_Streets_Project : accessed 4 November 2013).
 1851 U. K. Census, Lancashire, Wigan Borough and Township, St. Catherine’s Ecclesiastical District, folio 257 (stamped, verso), page 31, household 105, Wellington St., James Farmer household; digital images, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 1 November 2013); citing Class HO107, Piece 2199.