So there I was, working on Lesson 5 of the Home Study Course, which is all about census records. Yawn ... I've been using census records for a long time and the references are a little outdated (they didn't even mention the 1940 census release - !!!), so I was reading the lesson and taking very few notes.
Then I got to the assignments. (Here's where the epiphany part gets a little murky)
The first assignment was to do a census research checklist. Essentially list out all the census years in which a particular ancestor could be found. Okay, I already do that, so that wasn't very hard. But then list out where you expect to find them (county, state, etc.), their approximate age, and the capacity in which you expect to find them (head of household, child of __, etc.). Well, that's new. So here are the results for one of my ancestors:
Wait ... I still haven't gotten to the epiphany part.
The next assignment was to do a census search report. Find the ancestor on the census, then do a search of the entire county for people of the same surname (or variations thereof), and transcribe the entries onto the appropriate blank census form, citing your sources, of course.
Usually, when I find someone in the census, I look a few pages forward and a few pages back - or sometimes I look through the entire enumeration district if it's not a gajillion pages - and see if I can find any other family members, making note of any surnames that look familiar (maybe the children of my ancestor married into these other families or something). But I never searched the entire county.
When I did the assignment (using the 1930 census), I found a lot of Sloweys in Yankton County, which I expected. However, there were a few that didn't ring any bells as being related. No shock there, right? Here's the rub: I stumbled upon a Bernhard Slowey (age 77) married to Isabel (age 75) listed in the same enumeration district as my ancestor, only about 8 pages later. It seems I stumbled upon my ancestor's uncle Bernard and his aunt Isabella! (insert happy dance here).
But wait ... in the same county (different E.D.), I came across Barney Slowey (age 76) and Belle (age 76) listed as father- and mother-in-law of Hans Hansen. Well this is definitely a monkey wrench. The Hansen surname meant nothing to me, but Hans' wife's name is Mary and she is 47 years old. Turns out that Bernard and Isabella had a daughter named Mary in 1883, which would make her ... 47 years old. Hmm. The couple had been married since age 24, or 52 years. My Bernard and Isabella were married in 1878 - 52 years before. (Perhaps my happy dance was premature) Could this be my Bernard and Isabella? Clearly, this will require further research.
Okay, here's the epiphany part (or my "light bulb" moment, as Oprah would say).
By searching the entire county where I discovered an ancestor on the census, I was able to find 8 other families with the same surname. I haven't figured out how (or if) they are all related to my Sloweys, but it sure will be a time-saver if I ever find out they should be added to my tree, because I'll already have the census searches done!
Now I just have to get started on all the other ancestors in all the other censuses (censi?) ... and find somewhere to keep all these blasted transcribed pages.
Do we share any ancestors?
Please email me at lostancestors [at] gmail [dot] com