Though I had had an interest in genealogy since my early teenage years, I had never been in a position to really spend a great deal of time, effort and money actively researching. For decades I carried with me the work my grandfather had begun in the 1950s for his Norwegian line, and the minimal details of my grandmother's line, through numerous moves without losing any of it - a miracle!
By the time I had married (2nd time) and had a child becoming a stay-at-home mom and housewife, personal computers and the internet were taking the world by storm. With that, came easy access to genealogic records. Oh boy, what fun!
Unbeknownst to me, my mom and an aunt were working on my maternal lineage. My mom didn't get far before she pretty much lost interest, and had vision issues, and one summer while visiting her, she pulled out what she had, and though she wasn't willing to part with anything, she did let me take it to a local copy shop and get copies of everything. After returning home, armed with new genealogy info, I went online and discovered some of the popular websites (and paid the price for access!) and also discovered I needed to purchase reams of paper and binders - you should be laughing at this point!
Off and running, I was searching for just one branch of my German immigrants, Louis MACHENHEIMER [Machenheimer-16] and his wife Louise geb BEST [Best-3017], knowing they had settled in Ohio. Mind you, this is still pretty early in my learning phase too for searching, so recognizing that spelling based on an enumerator's hearing and an immigrant's speech might not reveal the same as what was on paper, so I struggled with finding this family in the 1850 & 1860 censuses. I must have realized they had immigrated by 1850, probably from later census records or my mother's, so knew they should have been enumerated in 1850, but no matter what I put in the search fields, it was coming up empty. I don't recall exactly how I stumbled upon them, but finally found them in New York (city). And the name the head of household was written as? Ludwig MAGENHEIMER. OK, Ludwig/Louis - German/Americanized, MAGENHEIMER - sure, the "ch" could sound like "g". The wife was listed as Louisa (with an 'a' at the end), the kids were all there, right order, right ages. The enumeration took place on the 28th of October 1850, and I believe the family had immigrated in July of that same year.
The 1860 Census was an even greater challenge though I eventually discovered them. Speaking of miracles, this had to be one. Again, I don't recall the steps for my discovery, but in 1860, the enumerator wrote the names: Lewis Meghen which was transcribed as Lewis Meyhew. The image leaves a few of the letters open to interpretation (what I show as the 'g' appears to look as a 'y', and 'wi' of Lewis - could be an 'oui' for both he and his wife). Again, the kids names are all there, though Dorothea is shortened to Dora which is what she went by, and another daughter, Philapena, who went by Phoebe, is shown as Bena, though it might have be 'said' as Pena. I'm guessing the enumerator was really struggling with the German language he was hearing and didn't take the time to get the last name full and correct, and with his hand-writing, the transcriber was largely accurate in 'Meyhew'. Of course, maybe in that year, the Machenheimer's were considering dropping the 'heimer' to shorten the name...who knows!