Category: Workshops

Resources for Census Research

Finding Census RecordsLast night’s workshop topic was finding and analyzing United States census records. We learned a little bit about the history of the census (Did you know that the decennial census is mandated by the Constitution?), talked about search strategies, and then went to work examining entries for two fascinating Chicago families looking for clues about births, marriages, deaths, immigration, and family relationships.

If you missed it, no problem! We’ll offer the workshop again. In the meantime, here are a few quick notes  that might be of use to you in your research:

  1. Census records are valuable research tools and many are online.
  2. If you have a tree on Ancestry and/or FamilySearch, you can begin your census search with one click of your mouse. No need to type anything into a form.
  3. If you have trouble finding a family in a census try a new search approach. Check alternate websites. Use wildcards. Vary the search information. Try different combinations of search fields. Look for known neighbors. Browse a likely enumeration district.
  4. Look at more than names, ages, and occupations. Depending on the year, census records might  include information about military service, immigration, naturalization, property value, education, illness, and even whether or not the family owned a radio.
  5. Check instructions given to enumerators in order to clarify what an entry might mean.
  6. Look for unwritten clues. For example, taken in combination, the census year and ages and birthplaces of children might suggest when a family arrived in the United States or when and where a couple married.

By far, though, the most important takeaway was this: following an individual or family through available census years and comparing the information that was recorded can provide useful insights into the lives of your ancestors.

In preparing for the workshop, we came across a number of helpful online resources for census research. Here are three worth bookmarking:

Chart comparing census information, 1790-1940 (Ancestry Wiki)

Census Instructions, 1790-2010 (United States Census Bureal)

Census Transcription Forms with Easy-to-read Headings (FamilySearch)

Indexing Socials?

IndexingOnce a month, the Laguna Niguel FHC hosts an indexing social which is just what says it is–a chance for people to get together to index genealogy records.

I know what you’re thinking. Sounds exciting, right?

Well, actually, if you’re the kind of person who can give patient attention to detail, who enjoys a good puzzle, and who likes the satisfaction of accomplishing something that’s really worthwhile, then you might enjoy the challenge!

In a nutshell, FamilySearch is digitizing microfilmed records from around the world at an astonishing rate–important things like church registers and probate documents and naturalization papers–and making them accessible for free online. If you’re not familiar with what they’ve done so far, take a look at this list of published record collections.

It’s great to be able to browse through original records online, but it’s even better when you can just type in the name of your ancestor and have the record appear in the search results. In some cases, research that use to take hours can now be done in a matter of minutes. Indexing makes that possible.

Volunteers look at small batches of records and extract useful information, usually names, dates, and places, by typing it an online template. A small effort by lots of people adds up to something great. In 2015, 89,000 contributors indexed 19,315,100 records. Indexing is something that you can work on from your home computer, in short periods of time, whenever the mood strikes.

Check out FamilySearch’s indexing overview, if you want to learn more.

Our indexing socials give you a chance to try indexing first-hand. If you’re new, we’ll walk you through the process and then give you a chance to try it on your own. And that’s where the fun begins. Every record batch you work on will tell a story.

You might be typing the names of infants that were born to Polish families in Chicago in the early 1900s. Or you might be working down a list of names on a Boston passenger list. Or, if you’ve got the language skills, you could even be working on a project like this: España, Granada, Ciudad de Granada, Registro Civil, 1837–1870. Check out the current list of indexing projects.

The nice thing is you never have to worry about finishing a batch. If, for some reason you can’t, your  saved work will just be sent to someone who can continue. And, you even though you should be very careful, you don’t have to worry about making mistakes. Every batch is indexed by two people and if extracted information doesn’t agree, a third person gets to make the call.

If you’ve read this far, you’re probably thinking you’d like to give indexing a try. So, join us for the next indexing social and we’ll help you get started!