The simplest surnames are sometimes the hardest to find.
I learned this as I was working on my MENOU collateral lines. My great-great grandmother was Emelie Menou. Her brother was Jules Menou. They, their siblings and parents came to Louisiana from France in the 1880s. They lived in what is now Iota in Acadia Parish.
Today I did some research on Jules Menou and his family. It wasn't hard stuff. I just wanted to get their census enumerations into my RootsMagic database.
I did a quick and dirty census search for Jules Menou at Ancestry.com and no results were returned. I did the same search by limiting the record pool to just those in Iota, Acadia, Louisiana. Zero hits.
Well I knew they were in Iota, so it was time for a page-by-page search of the 1920 census. Luckily for me, there are only 16 images in the set for Iota.
I found the Jules Menou family on image 5, but they were indexed as MERSON.
Does that look like MERSON to you? I can see MENON. That's a common transcription error, but Merson? Look at the small "r" in Marcelle. Look at the closed "s" in Rosa. These are different than what the indexer thought he/she saw in the surname. I don't know, these are the things I notice when I'm indexing.
Anyway, I decided to do a page-by-page search of the 1900-1940 censuses for the Jules Menou family. I found them in Iota in each census, their name incorrectly indexed in every single one.
1900 - Manow
1910 - Manne
1920 - Merson
1930 - Menon
1940 - Menoce
Then I got curious. How was the Jules Menou crew indexed at FamilySearch?
1900 - Menow
1910 - Manne
1920 - Menon
1930 - Menon
1940 - Mansee
Now to be fair, MENON is a common misspelling for MENOU, so it's one I always search. A cursive "u" often looks like a cursive "n." The same can be said for mixing up "u" and "w" in MENOW. Some of the others though, I just don't see it.
This isn't a complaint about indexing. It's more of a pause for thought if you can't find someone in a census.
Search page-by-page if you can. Lucky for me, the Iota section was tiny so it was an easy task on Ancestry.com. Some census districts make this difficult. I feel your pain as I've done this task in Los Angeles.
Search for the family using the most unusual name in the group. At FamilySearch, it's not easy to browse page-by-page like I did at Ancestry. Instead, I searched for everyone named Jules in Iota, Acadia, Louisiana who was also born in France. My man Jules was always in the first few names.
Look at the neighbors. If you find a family in one census but not another and you're sure they're there, search for the neighbors' names and see if you can find them that way.
Thanks for listening. I just wanted to point out the large differences in indexing the same name. If you can't find someone in a census, maybe they're just hiding in plain sight.