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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.