Monday, April 2, 2012

Happy 1940 Census Day!

Well, its only taken 10 years (actually 72 if you think about it) but the 1940 census has been released and as we genealogists should've expected the websites that are offering not only images but indexes for this important record are overloaded with visitors trying to find their parents, grandparents and the like.

Delaware was the first state to come online and is complete along with Washington DC and Virginia (last time I looked anyway). Depending on which website you go to, the availability is going to be different for each one. But what can you do if your state isn't yet available?

First, be PATIENT, the records/images aren't going to magically appear no matter how much hype there has been about them.Second, try using the Ancestry and the 1940s Era records that they have unlocked for the next 8 days and get ahead of the game for the 1940 census. Find your relatives in 1930, jot down their address AND the Enumeration District and then use Steve Morse's website to convert that ED for 1940. That way, when your state DOES become available (and you can page through the images though no index) you can make things a little easier, especially if your relatives lived in a big city, like Chicago, like mine did. Third, use some of the updated records at FamilySearch and fill in other blanks. I did that earlier today and finally found my paternal grandparents marriage record. My paternal grandfather was listed as CARWIN, but I didn't care because I have been waiting a long time to actually SEE that record. So if I can wait to see that one I can wait a little while longer to find them in the 1940 census living in Chicago AND find my dad for the first time in ANY census.

They say patience is a virtue, well for genealogists I think it'll be a test of just how long we can hold out. And look at it this way, we have 10 more years to wait till the 1950 census is released.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Tracing the wrong branch

I've been researching my family tree for (and I almost hate to admit how long) 20 years and I suppose it was bound to happen eventually. Genealogists like to pride themselves on research and pinning down facts in order to prove (or disprove) whether or not a name, date or place in their family tree is accurate. That way when others look at the work they've done they don't have to question it but can look up the record for themselves. Unfortunately, when you get on a track and go with your instincts as far as tracing a branch, you do always have that small chance that you can be completely wrong and therefore end up chasing the wrong branch and in some cases the wrong tree entirely.

Well that is what has happened to me. As much as any genealogist hates to admit they are wrong, it turns out I was when it came to a branch of my tree. Granted its not a direct line that now has to be altered but a side branch that shows 'half' brothers, sisters and the like. A paternal great-grandfather was married twice and the branch I got 'wrong' has to do with his first wife's family, specifically her father's side. But I have to admit, her father's name is what threw a wrench into the research.

The worst part I suppose is that I trace the name back a great deal and I'm actually glad that it isn't a direct line because that would set my research back a number of years. But even though its not a direct line I now have a bunch of information that I now have to remove from my tree unless I can connect the correct branch to the one I previously thought was the right one.

The lesson learned here, it isn't a big deal to trace the wrong branch of your tree, but provided it isn't a direct line, it NEVER hurts to double and even triple check information and facts before putting it in your tree. However, if you put the names, dates and places in and come to find out later that branch is the wrong one, don't panic, because you might still find a link and instead of removing all that hard work (and time that got wasted) you can just shift a few names around and save yourself from having to re-enter the information later when (and if) you do find a connection. After all, whether you've been researching for two years or twenty, everyday can be a learning experience.

Friday, February 24, 2012

A poet and geologist

Well, it took a little digging and some help from other researchers but I actually found a bit of information on two siblings of my great-great-great grandmother who was born in England. A sister, Harriet Annie Wilkins, was a teacher of music and wrote poetry to supplement her income when she had to care for her ill mother and younger siblings after her father's death. A brother David Francis Henry Wilkins, graduated from McGill University with I guess you could say a degree in Applied Science and focused on Geology. He published several articles on that subject and Harriet published four books three of which can be found on Google Books. 

Upon just googling Harriet's name her poems and also a brief biography can be found. The bio confirms some of what I found in my research and lets me know that I at least found the right line as far as her grandparents. Her father was a minister. The bio also explains why the youngest child, David was born in Ohio when the others were born in England before they immigrated. Apparently they emigrated to the US and then after a couple of years went north into Ontario Canada where they lived the remainder of their lives. I would've never thought of just googling her name even though I've done that with other names in my tree just to see what (if anything) might come up.

I haven't read any of Harriet's poetry but I'm proud that someone was able to get published like that and wish I had a real copy of one of her books.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

A genealogical pet peeve for 2012: Poor penmanship in any language is still poor penmanship

Genealogists have lots of pet peeves especially when they are trying to research a line that has caused lots of late nights (and some sleepless ones). But one pet peeve that I have and know I'm not alone in having is the poor penmanship of those that record the records that we search for.

I have seen some BAD penmanship in US records, especially census records where even if the name is spelled differently from the way you know it to be, that's irrelevant because whoever wrote it down hacked it so much that its unrecognizable. But to find any of my Scandinavian ancestors in Norway, Denmark or Sweden, takes learning hieroglyphics in order to decipher them. Going page by page literally does no good because not only are there a lot of similar names, especially in Norwegian records, but you'd have to be very lucky to actually find a set of records that you can READ.

I have thought in the past when going through US census records, that the census takers must've been related to doctors simply because of the poor penmanship. Now you would think because census records have become SO important in a genealogist's research that they could've at least given some thought to how they were recording information. And I know, the census takers certainly had NO idea that the records were going to be used by future generations to find their grandparents and great-grandparents, but even so.

Just today I had to ask for someone on a Norwegian facebook page to find an ancestor in the Norwegian parish records because even if I found the right page in the right parish and the correct date I wouldn't be able to read anything on that page. It turns out that I was right about the first request I had as well as the second, because it took more than one person just to decipher a 'maiden' name (I say maiden even though the female of the pair keeps her father's name her entire life and never changes it unless its changed in another record). Even with the ability to zoom in as close as possible the records are extremely difficult to read or interpret.

But that isn't the only thing that's difficult to interpret. When you think you have a location for a birth, especially in Scandinavian records, a baptism for example, finding the right set of records can be a bit confusing. If that entire line lived in one 'county' it doesn't mean that all the records will be in a specific location, like the parish church. They could be in a church that is close enough to SEVERAL places within that county until, like with my own ancestors, a church is built within that parish. For example, a 5th great-grandmother of mine Kari Andersdatter was baptized in Viker kirke parish in Nes, Adal, Buskerud, Norway. However the records for her baptism are kept in Norderhov and were until 1857. In 1860 a church was built there and after 1857 the records can be found in Adal or Adal/Viker.

I wish the records were transcribed into English or at the very least transcribed in a way that Google Translate could be used on them instead of us researchers having to strain our eyes (as if we don't do that enough staring at computer screens) trying to decipher 200 year old records in another language. Then again, I suppose just finding the records is a plus because it enables us to move further back in time.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

New Discoveries waiting in the New Year

Happy New Year!!  2011 ended at midnight and 2012 began and there are plenty of discoveries for us genealogists to find in the coming 12 months. Most importantly is the release of the 1940 US census which comes out April 1st, just 4 months away. Several websites are offering the indexes for FREE once it is released and I for one am looking forward to finding relatives and where they were living (or weren't) in 1940. It will be the first census that my mother was counted in as well as the first for my father.

But today I'm helping other researchers by breaking down the list of Ohio birth record images by county. The index at FamilySearch isn't helpful to genealogists at this point because no hits come up when you put a name in, however, you can go through the images page by page IF you know what county you are looking for. But in order to make this a little bit easier I and another researcher are literally clicking on each set of images to see what county they are for. Unfortunately I haven't found Stark, Columbiana or Carroll counties yet, but I hope to find them soon. I never like it when FamilySearch puts out new records and they say 'Search Images', because you have to do what my paternal grandfather did when he looked through census records in the 1970s, page by page till you find what you are looking for. But deciphering which numbers represent which counties and having the list of them say on a Facebook genealogy group page, should help those researchers who don't want to play hit and miss.

I did find two counties that I will go back to and take a look at just because though I doubt I'll find anything significant. The other breakthrough I had at the close of 2011 was that my cousin in Norway, Nils, emailed a cousin of his father's who solved a mystery for us in which he had information regarding the parents of my 5th great grandmother Kari (or Karen) Andersdatter. Nils then sent me what he had in his database and I'm going to be adding that information sometime today.

Everyone talks about making 'New Year's' resolutions to lose weight, exercise more, be nicer to people etc. And then most people don't hold up to them and are back to eating more, exercising less and being their normal selves within a couple weeks of January 1st. But the kind of resolutions I like to make are ones in the genealogical sense and they aren't really resolutions but goals I hope to accomplish. I hope that I can find the parents of John Daniel Fry and actually find that connection to Heinrich Frey and Catherine Levering so that I can extend the Fry line back a couple more generations. I also hope that the 1940 census unlocks some mysteries that have stayed hidden by the 1930 census. And one thing I would love to be able to do, find a connection to Clark Gable's stepmother, Jennie Dunlap Gable, since I have some Dunlaps on my father's side of the family. I think it would be neat to find even a collateral connection to Gram's 'boyfriend'.

Happy 2012, may the next 12 months bring plenty of surprises and new discoveries in your family tree.