Thursday, August 09, 2012

Making sense of the census

Palm School, Riverside, California, 1940

I’ve been caught up in the FamilySearch 1940 census indexing efforts for several weeks and find that while it temporarily diverted me from my personal research, it has been a great experience. There were many benefits aside from the obvious one: helping make this mass of information freely accessible to everyone.

One plus is that I find myself looking much more carefully at ALL census records (and having more appreciation for the indexers in general). 

When doing my own research I always paid attention to the primary information: name, gender, age, birthplace, occupation, etc., but have now become much more aware of the additional informational bits buried in various censuses. To keep them straight I even made a cheat sheet:

1900 shows the year and month of each person’s birth
 From 1900 on, immigration questions are included
1900 and 1910 show how many children the wife bore, and how many were still living
1910 also asked whether the adult males were Civil War veterans
1930 asked the adults their ages at first marriage and whether males were veterans; if so, which war
1940 has a wealth of information. A couple of the new questions are: where one lived in 1935,  and whether employed in 1939.  It also indicates who in the household answered the questions. It does NOT list the birthplaces of each person’s parents, though, except for two people who are singled out on each sheet to provide additional information.

There are other questions found in various years, but these are the ones I found most important to keep in mind.

While Ancestry has proclaimed its completion of the 1940 indexing (done overseas on contract, so I have read), I’m awaiting release of the rest of the FamilySearch indexes, because I know how carefully they’ve been developed and vetted. Will, of course, eventually use both. 

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By the way, "History Detectives" is back for a tenth season! My local PBS station, KQED, actually preempted the first episode for their interminable begging, and hardly publicizes it at all but the program is now up and running.  Check your local schedule. 

Later:  Not again!  The schedule shows KQED will continue to preempt it for the rest of the month. Boo! Hiss!  Watch the episodes on your computer.



PS: The cheery group shown above is my first grade class.  Mrs. Mueller was one of the best teachers I ever had.

1 comment:

Ann said...

That is a wonderful picture!