Friday, April 27, 2012

Tiptoeing Through the Tangles


Sometimes I think genealogy is like working free an endless clump of yarn with lots of loose ends.  Will I come to a hopeless knot, or work long hours only to reach a frayed end? The release of the 1940 census should provide major clues for many of us -- and then, too, it will probably introduce some new twists, knots and abrupt finishes.
So, how many of you have done the Enumeration District search for people in this most-recently released census? I was delighted to find my own family, and some neighbors (sure enough, one of my playmates had a father who was in the California Highway Patrol).  But mostly I think I can wait for the indexes to be completed before I do any more digging.  Meanwhile there is plenty to do in preparation.
After making a general list of possibles, as I wrote last time, I went back and pared it down to people who are actually related to me.  That helps a lot!  The next step was to look at my records for each one and make sure I had earlier information, including the 1930 census. This is a good exercise in any case, because it is all too easy to overlook certain records we shelved long ago. I am still in the midst of this, of course, but it is fascinating to be able to update information with all the ever-growing number of online resources.  (When I started, the 1860 census did not even have a printed index, and nothing was “online” because the Internet didn’t exist.)
Some of my recent discoveries have been intriguing.  The youngsters who lied about their ages when they went over the state line to marry, and had a child six months later.  The 1960’s children with names like “Tiffany Dawn,” and “Zakkary.”  The teacher who died in Australia but was buried in Indiana.
I particularly enjoy the story of the “enterprising young family man,” (so described in a website for an Illinois town) who was a tinsmith by trade. He is described as having boosted the local economy by employing several men to produce stills during Prohibition for a Chicago mobster.  That sort of acts as a counterbalance to the string of teetotalling preachers in that same family line.
On another subject, how many of you watch “History Detectives” on PBS? They are in reruns at present, but reportedly are planning for their tenth season. (I hope it is true!) It is fun to watch them interview the owner of an artifact with possible historical significance, and tease out the important clues. They always ask “What is it you’d like to find out about this object / book / letter?”  That’s something we need to keep in mind as we race in and out of the branches of our family trees, trying to untangle them. 

What is it we really want to find out?

1 comment:

Ann said...

There is always such good wisdom in your posts! I am still trying to navigate the 40s census, but getting a little better each time. I have more questions than time to dig for the answers, but it is certainly a joy to make any significant discovery isn't it!