Sunday, December 09, 2012

Does This Count as an Epiphany?

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 I've been using census records for a long time and the references are a little outdated (they didn't even mention the 1940 census release - !!!), so I was reading the lesson and taking very few notes.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


Unknown said...

BOY, am I glad you took this lesson and posted it! In my "lost-due-to-ill-health" 2012, I did manage to start a genealogy project; that of finding the census records for everyone on my tree from 1850 forward (I'm not ready to go back before the every-name census reports at this time.) Having achieved a 50% success rate at my first attempts in both the 1850 and 1860 census lists, I knew I needed to extend my records. You have just shown me the way! I'm using my initial methods through 1940 before I return to 1850, because I realized I was laying out a residence and migration pattern for these people. The methods you have mentioned here will help me make the picture more clear. So thank you again for the insight.

Unknown said...

Sue - I'm so glad this helped you! I never thought about the migration pattern angle - so thanks for mentioning it!

Claudia said...

I was looking for relatives in a German community in 1900 and finding nothing and I knew they were there. I entered the first names and a partial with an * and was able to find them.

I will try the county search next, thanks for the tip.

gophergenealogy said...

For me the quickest way to do a county search after I find someone is to enter the county with only the surname. Then I usually print the list and connect those that are obvious families. It is also good to check other known surnames, as the wife's maiden name. Some may be missed due to mistranscriptions, but the census taker is usually pretty consistent.

Unknown said...

Claudia, did you find a variation on the spelling of their name, or was it an indexing error?

Good idea on the maiden names, Susan! I'll have to check those too.

Cheri Hudson Passey said...

Thanks for your post. I will be starting the Home Study Course in January. I hope to have some epiphanies too!

Unknown said...

I'm sure you will Cheri - it's a great course. I've learned so much already and I'm only 1/3 through the course. I can't wait to see what else I don't know :) Good luck!

Unknown said...

I'm on Ancestry and other subscription services which are good for creative name searching in an ED. But, full counties and parishes searches I find using the census images at Internet Archives to be the way to go. First, they are scrolled pages so you don't have the painful image load lag times. You can just fix your eyes on that column of names and scroll thru 27 pages in an ED very quickly. Second, they are in ED order so you really can work an entire county very quickly and easily without alot of 'back to the beginning' click throughs to find the next ED.

Unknown said...

Rorey, I'm glad you mentioned Internet Archives. I had forgotten about them. (And it IS a bonus not to have to wait for each page to load!)

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