Tuesday, July 31, 2012

US Federal Census Is Not the Only Census

Not all census records are for the US Federal census. There are many other types of census records. In fact a search at FamilySearch.org yields 32,397 results in the card catalog with titles having the word “census” in them. A similar search of the card catalog at Ancestry.com yields 455 results. Don’t get bogged down in the difference in record count. FamilySearch has a catalog entry for each county for many years where Ancestry has one entry for each census year.

The important thing to recognize is that there are many enumerations that are not Federal census records and your ancestors could be hiding in them. I’ve written previously in this blog about the NY state census records and many states, counties, and cities conducted their own censuses. Earlier in US history, when a territory wanted to become a state, there was also a census to prove that there was sufficient populations to warrant statehood.

Pennsylvania conducted a Septennial census every seven years for tax purposes and that index just became available on Ancestry.com for the years 1779-1863.

For those of you not familiar with using a card catalog search; here are the steps for searching the card catalog at FamilySearch.org.

Open the FamilySearch.org website.

               Click “Catalog”

               In the search box, click “Titles”

               In the “For” box type “census”

               Click “Search”

The process is similar for Ancestry.com

Open the Ancestry.com website.

               Click “Search”

               Click “Card Catalog”

               Type “census” in the “Title” box

               Click “search”

If you put the word “census” in the keyword box and not in the title box, you will get even more results.

It’s a good idea to browse through the titles just to see what types of census records exist on these two premier websites. There are many sites that have census records. Don’t just limit yourself to these two sites.

More next week on which sites indexed what records for the Federal censuses.

Happy Hunting!

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Your Ancestors in Context

We all know that everything seems to cost more than it did last week. But you may not know how much costs have changed in a hundred years. While working through some of my family history and census records I was wondering what $600 in personal assets represented in 1900. One of my grandmothers was born in 1900 and her father listed his personal property as $600.

There are many inflation tracking websites but I wanted more specific information and found an interesting website I want to share.


This site lets you put in a date and then either choose the quick page or custom page to build a sheet of events and prices for the date you picked. This allows you to put your ancestors in context and keep things in perspective. (It's also a bit shocking)

This website is for US or UK prices and events and here is a sample of what it showed me with the quick page for my grandmother. There is a lot more information but it would not be readable here, if I included it. I tried dates as early as 1800 and there was data.

So, as you peruse those census records or think about the lives of those that went before, add some context to their lives with a time capsule entry or two.

Happy Hunting!

Monday, July 16, 2012

Climbing Someone Else's Tree

First let me say - BACKUP YOUR WORK!  - my computer's hard drive crashed over the weekend. (yes, I'm asking for sympathy.) On the good side - I have a current back-up. On the bad side - It's going to take hours for the recovery. So, in the meantime, I've been working on a friend's family tree. Lorie and I sat down and created an online family tree at Ancestry.com when she came to visit. 

When Lorie first arrived she and her family had been watching this season of "Who Do You Think You Are" and were fascinated with the process and what the stars were able to find. It was a real treat to explore her family history using the online tools at Ancestry.com and my membership. 

After a few phone calls home, Lorie and I created a tree with about 35 known people and now, just one week later, we have over 95! When Lorie went home she and her family spent more time exploring their family history and I've spent time killing leaves.

Killing leaves is what I do when I have a few minutes in between other obligations. I just open the online trees I have at Ancestry.com and search for shaking leaves and research the hints. Because I have the online trees synchronized to my computer based trees, it is a very productive use of time. So, when my new hard drive arrives, my family tree will not have been sitting around dormant for the week.

As I've mentioned before, working on someone else's tree is rewarding because it reinforces my practices or challenges my assumptions. It was a real treat working with a friend and explaining how we genealogists put together evidence and what things work and what things don't. 

I also had the chance to get to know Lorie better by working with her family tree and that was the real gift from our time climbing her tree.

So - help someone else get involved with genealogy and ...

Happy Hunting!

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Ancestors from New York: Celebrate!

If you have ancestors from New York and access to Ancestry.com today could be your lucky day. There are many indexes to NY censuses that recently came online. Some have been there for ages but I did not go looking for them because I did not know they even existed. I don’t want you to suffer the same fate.

So here is the direct link to all the cool NY stuff at ancestry.com:

: basically it’s a query result from the ancestry.com home page. I’ve written before (Better Search Results) about how important it is to search specific card catalog items instead of always doing broad searches. This collection of NY databases is a treasure trove of information. I’ve posted a partial list below from the ancestry.com link above.

Specifically the NY census databases include – drum roll please – 1890 and 1892! The 1890 police census is for NY City residents (not inmates) and is almost complete and the 1892 census is for the whole state. For those newbies out there the issue is that the Federal 1890 census was destroyed and only small fragments remain. This means that there is a 20 year census record gap between 1880 and 1900 if you only use the Federal Census records.

I have a lot of NY state ancestors and finding these databases has been wonderful. I used to wish all my ancestors had lived in Missouri (with their huge online repositories of vital records) but now I can be grateful that many were from New York.

I hope you find your ancestors spent some time in the Empire State, too.

Happy Hunting!

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Summer Clean-up

It’s summer clean-up time in my family tree. It’s HOT outside. OK, yes, I know it is summer but that does not change my original statement. HOT for me means southern hibernation: like winter hibernation without the layers of wool and hot chocolate. It also means it is a good time to review how my family tree data has grown so far this year and fill-in some blanks.

As you know, I use Family Tree Maker 2012 but this should work in all other programs. What I’ve been doing in those little bits of time between other home projects is perusing my tree for missing information that should be relatively (Sorry about the pun – it just happened) easy to find without opening the front door.

Starting with myself and working back in time; I’m checking each of my entries for Birth, Marriage, and Death dates. I’m also checking each family I know well for missing kids. I can’t believe that I forgot to add my aunt, entirely. I also noticed that I don’t have a maiden name for one of my favorite aunts. Then I realized that I don’t even know it! Cue phone call!

I’m not making a big production with this work: it’s more like busy work but valuable. I’m still working on more concentrated family history searches but this summer clean-up is great for those bits of time that show up while waiting for the dryer to buzz or while waiting for the air conditioner repairman.

Happy Hunting!