Tuesday, January 2, 2007

Ancestor Searching Newsletter

November, 2006
Vol. 1, # 8

Census Research

The most basic of research tools that genealogists use are the Federal and state census records that have been taken since 1790.

George Washington signed the original legislative act that was responsible for creating the Federal census. A major purpose for the young republic was to ascertain just how many men were eligible for military service should it be necessary. Since then, the census has become an important tool for measuring and tracking many more aspects of the population. An excellent source of information can be found on the National Archives site at…


…, also, US Census Records, 1790—1930 at…

… the USGenWeb’s Census Project at…

… and, an excellent detailed narrative at…

Even though much of the 1790 census was burned by the British during the War of 1812, there are, in many cases, ’substitute’ census records that have been created from tax records. Don’t lose hope just because you discover no Federal census is available for the state you need. Look for a re-created work! Along a similar line of thought, most of the 1890 census was also destroyed by a fire in the Commerce Building.

There are, as in many aspects of genealogy research, problems that will arise with trying to work with census records. One such problem could be the census takers themselves. While all were able to read and write, the level of enthusiasm varied. There were those who made a diligent effort to record accurate information and others who were simply working for the money and exerted little effort for exactness.

Remember, too, more recent census returns may be more likely to have recorded family names under a standard spelling format. The further back one does research in census records the more likely will be the chances of finding ancestors under variation spellings. Even though the census takers were literate, many times names were written based on how they sounded to the writer than how we as researchers will expect to find them enumerated.

Another issue is the fact that if a family was not a home for some reason, they probably weren’t counted unless perhaps a nearby neighbor offered information on the family to the census taker.

Erroneous information would be another factor. If there was a misunderstanding of the question(s) asked or poor memory recollection, then faulty reported answers will result in misleading and conflicting research leads.
Even the number of questions asked in each particular census year can cause frustration. There were only 7 questions asked in the first census and ALL given names for everyone in the household were not enumerated until the 1850 census.

NEVER overlook the state censuses that are available. They were taking between Federal census years mainly for tax purposes but can provide valuable clues.

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Genealogy Workshop

Fact: The Soundex system was begun while Franklin Roosevelt was President. The work fell under the jurisdiction of the Works Progress Administration (WPA). For more details, go to…


Tip: Be sure to check at least the previous ten households before your ancestor listing as well as the following ten (or more) households when viewing census records. In many cases, your efforts will be rewarded with information on other related family members.

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Starting with this issue will now be a new section in the newsletter entitled Genealogy News that will contain information on current happenings in the genealogy world.

From Dick Eastman’s Online Genealogy...

A new web site has appeared: AncestorsOnBoard.com. I suspect this is going to become one of the major sources of information about ancestors who traveled from UK ports to various cities around the world. The site will eventually list 30 million passengers who sailed on ships that departed from Southampton, Glasgow, Queenstown (Cobh of Cork), and other ports.

This site greatly complements the Ellis Island web site and even exceeds it in many ways. The new AncestorsOnBoard.com will list detailed information about travelers to many North American cities, not just New York. Yes, it even includes information about many who went to Canada. In fact, this new online resource includes passenger lists for many voyages to Australia, Canada, India, New Zealand, South Africa and the USA. You will also find some passenger lists for voyages to South America, the Caribbean, West Africa, and all parts of Asia. Many of these passengers were never documented upon arrival in their newly-adopted countries.

For more on the subject, click thru to...


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See You In The Heritage Room!
Richard White, Editor
Huntsville-Madison County Public Library
915 Monroe Street
Huntsville, AL 35801

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