The Strange Case of the Missing Families in Shenandoah County, Virginia
by Don Silvius

In a very strange case of missing persons, a group of families disappeared in Shenandoah County without a trace. These disappearances happened some time between 1810 and 1820, and in a truly bizarre twist, most of these families had returned by 1830.

Recently, the truth was discovered about the whereabouts of these families during this time. Through the work of Rick Monroe, Alley Blackford, Tom Pierce and archivist Kristopher Johnson, it was discovered that a page of the 1820 census in Shenandoah County, Virginia was not photographed to be included in the microfilmed 1820 census. Since it was not included in the film, it was also not included in the index.

For years, genealogical researchers in Shenandoah County have wondered what happened to their ancestors, but now that question has been answered.

In 1998, Rick Monroe first suspected that the page was missing from the 1820 census of Shenandoah County. In his search for the family of Henry Lambert, Rick noticed that Henry, who was listed in the 1810 census, did not show up in the 1820 census. However, Henry was present, again, in the 1830 census.

While looking for information for other researchers, Rick noticed this same problem with other people in the census. It just did not make sense that so many families would leave Shenandoah County after 1810 and then return before 1830. In early June of 2000, Rick posted his suspicions to the Shenandoah County mailing list at Rootsweb, managed by Alley Blackford.

Tom Pierce, another Shenandoah list subscriber, then responded with the exact page number that was missing. Tom, who rides the bus to work for 45 minutes each day, found that there indeed was a page missing by reading his copy of the census on his way to work. He checked the "checksums" at the bottom of each page against the amount brought forward on the top of the next page. In Tom's words, "it took only a short time to find the missing page 150 (a double page)."

Tom knew the pages existed, because he was looking at the backs of them. The back of page 150 was page 149a, and the back of page 151 was page 150a.

Other sources had been checked, including the Virginia State Library, the Latter Day Saints database, and None had a page 150 for the 1820 census of Shenandoah County.

Tom went to the NARA (National Archives) web site, and found the inquiry email link. In his email to NARA, Tom explained what had been found and asked the following questions:

1. Does NARA have the originals?
2. If so, could they check to see if page 150 was indeed there?
3. If page 150 was there, could they send him a copy?

Archivist Kristopher Johnson at NARA checked the originals. Lo and behold, there was the "missing" page 150. Kristopher was kind enough to make a copy and send it to Tom.

Thanks to these folks and the very helpful and generous subscribers of the Shenandoah County List at Rootsweb, this long-standing mystery has been solved. The missing families in Shenandoah County are no longer missing.

You can view images of the "missing" pages at the Shenandoah County, Virginia GENWEB Project Site.

Return to Shenandoah County GenWeb Project

Originally published at An Appalachian Country Rag in July 2000
Created March 29 2001
Updated April 14 2006
© 2000, Don Silvius