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FindMyPast

FindMyPast

When I first saw FindMyPast I was particularly struck by the maps which show you the person’s location on that census. I could see many uses for that. And the census maps in FindMyPast would be useful — IF they were dependably accurate. But they aren’t. And there are too many I know aren’t to trust those I don’t know.

Robert Downing arrived in Illinois and settled along Salt Creek in the center of the state in 1821. I know what land he bought and where it is. It hasn’t moved since.

In the 1830 Census for SANGAMON County, Illinois, I found Robert Downing. There he is on a page with the folks that were his neighbors at the time, many of whom, or their descendants, would continue as his neighbors the rest of his life. With the transcription is the map of his location. He is found somewhere north of the Decatur airport. Decatur is in Macon County, Illinois.

From the 1840 census for Mt. Pulaski Precinct, LOGAN County, Illinois, I find Robert Downing. He didn’t move. In 1839 Logan was created from Sangamon. The transcript is correct. I know it is the right person, right neighbors, etc. Yet according to the map he is now northeast of Paris in EDGAR County, Illinois, just west of the Illinois-Indiana border. In 1850 he is in the same location in Edgar County. When I began to look for the 1860 census for him FindMyPast crashed.

In 1870 Robert is still farming but he is doing so from a house in the town of Mt. Pulaski according to the map. The census sheet show his neighbors, all those farmers. Amazing that they all moved to town together isn’t it? In 1880 Robert, now a man of 86, retired farmer, living with his wife, son, daughter in law and grandchildren, is again located in the town of Mt. Pulaski according to the map. Unfortunately the actual census page shows his neighbors to be people living on farms. At this point it crashed again. It seems to do that a lot.

FindMyPast also has the Social Security Death Index. The searches I did returned what I expected. You can get the SSDI free at FamilySearch.org though.

1940 Census

1940 Census

I’m not excited about the 1940 Census. I know. I know. It’s heresy to say that with all the hype that is going on. But it’s true. I know where all my ancestors and most other family members were in 1940 – same place they were in 1930 – and 1920. For the most part, same place they had been for the last 100 years. The only difference is in 1940 they will all be in one township instead of two or, if we go back far enough, three. So I just can’t get excited about it.

And frankly, be honest, how many of you don’t know where your parents or grandparents were in 1940? You might be excited to see the information in writing – maybe you are in the 1940 census – but are you really expecting a big surprise?

I am excited about transcribing the 1940 Census. I think the method in place for doing this, enlisting the help of local genealogical societies to transcribe local counties, will provide future researchers with a much more accurate transcription than we have ever had. We know the local names. That means our grandchildren will not have to be creative in searching for names. Now that’s something to be excited about.

FamilySearch

FamilySearch

FamilySearch is constantly adding searchable records.

I tested their records for Cook County, Illinois. I note you cannot right click and save a section but if you have Windows 7 you can use the snipping tool. If you hover over a name you get more information, perhaps spouse, parents and/or children. And if it is a vital record you can order a copy from the Cook County Clerk.

It produced assorted birth, death and immigration records for the surname. I note they have not done a bang up job with the ethnic names or the foreign birthplaces so you need to be flexible. Needless to say, the document may not have spelled things correctly to begin with.

I then tried their Wisconsin records. Hovering produces information which can be copied.

I could not find a Civil War pension index card for my 2g grandfather – there is a widow’s pension application and a dependent pension record. It’s a work in progress and perhaps they haven’t gotten to them.

You need to check back periodically to see if they have added a database you can use. You can also volunteer to help with the transcribing.

Digital Organizing

Digital Organizing

You’ve been scanning away. Time to organize. If you follow the outlines of this flexible system you will always be able to find your digital documents. Pictures are a separate topic.

I use an external hard plugged into a USB port for my genealogy. It keeps my genealogy all in one place, can be easily removed and taken with me if needed and – this is important – it gets automatically backed up with my offsite backup procedure. It also makes it easier to create your own filing system because you don’t have to fight with your operating system’s idea of where things should be filed.

Name your people files in the following manner: birth surname, first name, type date location. An example: Downing William census 1860 Chester.pdf. I suggest you stick to surname then first name. If you want a different order for the other information that’s fine. There is no right or wrong. You are the one who has to find the documents later. Just be consistent.

The key, at least in my experience, is to be consistent. Consistency trumps just about everything. If you use a numbering system the number should be the first word in the file name. I don’t use a numbering system. It’s just one more thing to organize and remember but if a numbering system works for you do it.

Make eight directories, one for each birth surname of your great grandparents. Keep in mind that if you are doing this for your children that would 16 directories. Put everything pertaining to that ancestor in that folder. If you have a lot of information on ancestors prior to your great grandparents you may chose to make a separate directory for additional surnames. It doesn’t matter how many directories you make. This is digital. You have the room. Do what works for you.

I hear you. What about great grandmother Jane who was born a Smith and married a Jones? Put her in Smith. If you want to put a copy in Jones go for it. It’s digital. Duplicates aren’t an issue.

Also make directories for cemeteries, census, birth, marriage, death, land, etc. If you collect funeral cards make one for those. My census file has subdirectories for each federal census. A copy of all census documents I have is in that directory. Another copy of the individual page is in the appropriate surname directory. For documents in these files the name might be 1880 Census Illinois Logan Laenna.pdf. Illinois is obviously the state, Logan is the county and Laenna is the township. Using spaces between words makes it easier to find them through a digital search if needed.

Get the idea?

Now go to http://www.voidtools.com/ and download the free Search Everything. If you goofed in spelling but you included all the elements you can search on any one of the elements and find the file.If you misfiled it you can still find it. Search Everything only searches files on your computer, including the drives attached by USB. It will not search network attached storage or home servers.

Vital Records and Alternates

Vital Records and Alternates

In 1900 only 18 states [including future states] registered vital records. It was not mandatory in all of those, but it was encouraged.

Thus you might find vital records in Vermont back to 1779, Massachusetts 1842, New Jersey 1843, Connecticut 1859, Hawaii, Rhode Island and Virginia 1853, Delaware 1861, Florida 1865, Michigan 1867, Arizona, Iowa, New Hampshire, New York 1880, Illinois 1887, Maine 1892, North Dakota 1893, Maryland 1898.

Illinois did not mandate the registration of vital records with the state until 1916. Marriage records were always kept but birth and death were not. Logan County has marriage records back to 1857 but marriage records also exist for 1820-1839 under Sangamon County at IRAD. The only missing records are those for 1839-1856 due to the courthouse fire.

Logan has sporadic birth and death records dating to 1878. Probate records go back to 1855 and, again, there are earlier records at IRAD. Deeds go back to 1829. Court records date to 1857. Initial land purchases from the beginning are at the Bureau of Land Management.

The 1855 Illinois State Census for Logan County exists as well as the federal census records for all years. There is also the 1862 Military Census. Remember that Logan County is covered in the 1830 Sangamon County federal census. Census images for 1830 Sangamon, 1840 and 1850 Logan are online free along with lists for the 1855 Logan County state census and the 1862 military census. Go to the Logan County ILGenWeb site for links.

Cemetery lists for many cemeteries are online at the Logan County site. The Decatur Genealogical Society has cemetery listings made in the 1960s and early 1970 for most cemeteries in books which they sell quite reasonably. The Logan County Genealogical & Historical Society has some cemetery books and several history books with name indexes.

CENSUS – MORE

CENSUS – MORE

The Census is often overlooked as an information source. It’s much more than a list of the names of the people who lived at a particular location. It is particularly useful for people researching ancestors 1870-1930 as those censuses contain more information than earlier censuses. Also, if your ancestors were immigrants information on immigration was collected beginning in 1900.

For general census information, including the non population schedules, go to Dollarhide’s Census Book and read all about it. However, the easiest way these days is probably to go to Heritage Quest or Ancestry.com — possibly both available free through your local library — and view the census records. Be sure to check with your library — many provide Heritage Quest to you from your home computer.

So what can you learn from the census? How about where your ancestor was born [state or country] and the birthplaces of that ancestor’s parents? From 1900, how old precisely are they, including month and year of birth? When they arrived in the US? Were they naturalized? How long they were married on census day? How many children were born to the woman and how many are still living? Some questions were repeated in later censuses so you can compare. Earlier censuses provide less information. A complete list of the census questions is online at Census Finder. They also have downloads of census forms so you can do your own transcriptions. Remember, get the names of the neighbors too — they may be helpful at some point.

There are other useful pieces of information on the Census Finder site so take some time to browse. They have, for example, links to free information regarding censuses and other listings, often to GenWeb sites. They have done a lot of work for you. It’s a good place to start when doing research.

The Census Finder site is not limited to U.S. Censuses.

Using tools available to many free you can find and/or flesh out several generations of your genealogy in a few hours.