Follow Friday – 1940 U.S. Census-Looking for Grandmother Seaver

As I said yesterday, I am interrupting my series on making a research plan for Little Eddy (Edward Dwyer) in the Civil War to search the 1940 Census.  Ancestry.com recently made new states available, including Missouri.  Some of my great-grandparents have been eluding me and I have been impatiently waiting for Missouri to be searchable in hopes of finding them.  After spending much of the day looking for various relatives, I was glad to read a post by Randy Seaver of Genea-Musings about his search for his grandmother.

When the 1940 Census images were made available in early April, I easily found both sets of grandparents.  Of my great-grandparents, five died before the 1940 Census.   Of the three remaining, there were two great-grandmothers, Martha Gahr and Emily Cowan, and one great-grandfather, John A French (he had remarried when his children were young so I count his wife as a great-grandmother, too, even if not by blood).  I found Martha Gahr in April by browsing the images; she was in the county where she was supposed to be.  The others I could not find.

With the indexes, John A French and his wife Vernie were easy to find.  They were in Kansas City, Missouri, but not where I had thought.  All of their information was correct, including John’s birth in Indian Territory and his attending one year of college (at Drury, in Springfield).  Vernie had attended two years of college, which I did not know.  I’ll have to ask my mother about this.

Emily Cowan was not in the small town in Missouri that I had supposed when I first looked at the images.  My mother then told me that Emily had moved to Saint Louis to live with her younger son Claude (my mother’s uncle).  I could not find Claude without an index, but with the index he and his family came right up.  But Emily is not there!   As Randy did in his search for his grandmother, I tried all of my census tricks.  She is not to be found.  Perhaps she is one of the names mangled by the enumerator and/or indexer.  I expect FamilySearch to have the Missouri index available soon so hopefully I will be able to search there before long.

Otherwise, I guess Emily will be like Randy’s grandmother, “…one of the 3% that were missed in the 1940 U.S. census.”  Perhaps she was visiting a sister.  I will have to look and see if she turned up with any of them.  For the past several hours (Thursday evening) Ancestry searches have not been connecting very well — lots of spinning.  Maybe everyone was happy with the states that were added and has been searching like crazy.  I hope that tomorrow will be a better day!

Ancestry.com: Problem Loading Page

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Thrifty Thursday – new states added to 1940 Census at Ancestry.com

Ancestry.com has added twelve more states which can be searched for free.  I found out about it from today’s genealogy insider’s blog post.

So I’m interrupting my research plan for Little Eddy to look for my Missouri relatives!  Hopefully I can find my elusive great grandparents:  3 of them have been hiding from me!

The genealogy insider also has links to the full list of states available on FamilySearch.org as well as on Ancestry.

Hope you enjoy this great information which is available free!

Follow Friday – FamilySearch Indexing “5 Million Record” Day

I received an e-mail from FamilySearch.org entitled “Leave a Legacy: July 2nd Could Be the Day“:

Will July 2, 2012, Be Our First “5 Million Record” Day?

July 2, 2012, is going to be an amazing day! We can feel it! It could be the first day that we achieve “5 Million Name” fame. That’s right. July 2nd might be the day that we index and arbitrate 5 million names (or records) in just 24 hours! No other name transcription project that we know of has ever come close.

Together, we’ve achieved unbelievable success in the past three months. Our highest day for indexing & arbitrating combined—for the last three months and in the history of indexing—was April 30th. On that day, we reached 4.9 million records submitted. Amazing! We nearly made 5 million with just our everyday effort!

To make sure we reach the goal of 5 million records, we’ll need help from every indexer and arbitrator out there. Everyone will need to submit an extra batch or two (or more!) during the day. Remember, though, that our “day” starts at 00:00 Universal Coordinated Time (UTC/GMT), which means 6pm MDT (Utah time), on Sunday, July 1st. Check the Facebook event page for your local start time.

Now, don’t think that we’re focusing completely on quantity and forgetting about quality. Next week, to prepare, we’ll provide ways to improve the quality of your work and suggestions for how to get ready for the big day.

Spread the word! Tell your friends and family about the opportunity to be a part of this history-making event. We may not have another chance like this for years, so plan now to get involved. We need you and everyone else out there to reach this goal!

Look for more details next week. For now, let’s keep on indexing (and arbitrating)! ——————————————————————————-
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I have done quite a bit of indexing of the 1940 Census, recently helping to complete Missouri and get it to the searchable stage.  I like indexing the census, for the most part.  Of course, it can be frustrating, with terrible handwriting, enumerators who refused to follow the rules and images that strain the eyes.

For the most part, though, it is an enjoyable way to spend some time.  Knowing how valuable it is to the genealogy community is a motivator.  Knowing that others in that community are also working hard to complete these states–all of them volunteers–is also a great motivator.

What I like the most about indexing the census is the ability to daydream about the people on the pages.  It is different from looking at the census for my own families, where I am looking for clues and trying to fit the information into a cohesive picture of their lives.

With the census for other people’s families, I’m free to wonder—and to speculate.  Finding someone whose residence in 1935 was in California, for instance, but now he is back in Missouri with his family.  What happened to him?  Is he happy to be home?  Is his family happy to have him back?

And what about the family where three sons are home, all divorced, one with children?  What were the last few years like for that family?

Then there are the names, I love the names.  My favorite so far were twins, Hazel and Basil.  My husband said that with Basil he never knew whether to pronounce the name with a long or short “a.”  Well, with twin sister Hazel, I guess everyone would always know it was a long “a”!

When indexing, I don’t take the time to look at the other columns that aren’t included in the assignment.  They would undoubtedly provide even more grounds for speculation.  Looking at the number of weeks worked in 1939 might provide some insight, especially into those moves, where someone was living somewhere else in 1935…or maybe not.  That is the fun when you just speculate and don’t have to support any conclusions.

Of course, that’s not the way we genealogists are wired.  We want to do the research, search for the clues, and the data, that will provide us with the whole story.  Or as close to it as we can get with an imperfect set of “facts.”

So, this bit of more concentrated time that I have spent with other people’s families in the 1940 census has been great for letting me think about what their lives might have been like.  But it has also been a great tool for getting me excited to go back to my own family and put their information in order and write up some of their real stories.

Familysearch has declared July 2 “5 Million Record Day.”  Their goal is to index and arbitrate 5 million names in 24 hours.  That means that everyone needs to put in a little extra time.  I’m going to be there, with the community of genealogists, contributing in an important way, pushing the 1940 census closer to completion.  And I’m going to be daydreaming about those other families.

Then I’ll be ready to come back and attack my family history.  I hope you’ll join in.

1940 Census, and why I miss the Earlier Questions

Yesterday’s blog post addressed a question Geneamusings’ Randy Seaver asked in his blog  What is the Value of the 1940 U.S. Census?    I wrote about why it is valuable to me.    I am excited about the the 1940 census, but I can also understand feeling a little let down by the information it provides.

I was disappointed when I saw the categories of the 1940 census.  Sure, there are some good additions to the data collected, including residence five years earlier, income and education, and the return of the question about real estate.  One of the most valuable additions may be the notation of which household member answered the questions.  In studying data in a past census, I always wonder about who supplied that information.

The questions I wish had been continued are those concerning parents, marriage and children.  Having the parents’ birthplace is often a great clue as to whether this John Smith is “your” John Smith.  How long a couple has been married narrows your search for their marriage records.  The number of children born and the number still living is one of my favorite questions.  I have learned so much from this.  Unfortunately, it was only asked in 1900 and 1910.   I feel that I understand much more about a family’s lives when I know that they have lost many children – or that all of their 17 children are living!

One of my own marriage mysteries concerns my gg grandparents Louise Johnson and Jay Lansing French.  In the 1850 census, Luiza is living in the town of Neosho, Missouri, while her widowed mother and siblings are in a more rural area of Newton County.  She appears to be boarding, although no occupation is listed; two others living with the merchant and his family work for the county court.   Her uncle Robert Brock, who is Clerk of the County Court, is listed three households later.

I wonder why Luiza was living in town.  Luiza’s mother and siblings left for California in the spring of 1852, but she didn’t go with them.   I always thought that her mother would not have left her unless she was married, but there is no indication when the marriage took place.  No marriage records survive for this area; they were all destroyed during the Civil War.  We don’t have any family information handed down.  And, Luiza’s first child was born in 1856 so this offers no support for an early marriage.

The 1900 census might, however.  Here was a small detail that could easily be overlooked:  Maria L, 3 of 6 children living.   No one had ever mentioned this.  My mother knew nothing about it.   As far as we knew, Luiza and Lansing only had three children:  Martha, born 1856; John, born 1858; and Mary, born during the Civil War.  Adding three more children certainly makes stronger the probability of a marriage sometime after the 1850 census and before her mother and siblings left for California.

A cousin descended from one of the siblings who went west sent me a most precious document:  his great grandmother’s memoirs of the trip from Missouri to California, with a few details of her early life.  In it she had written:  “The eldest girl married a man by the name of Lancing French and remained in Missouri. He had been a farmer in Cherokee Nation.”

So the pieces fell into place.  Luiza and Lansing had married before the Spring of 1852.  Some or all of the three children discovered because of the 1900 census were probably born before Martha.  We may never know more about these children — but at least we know that they did live, if even for a very short time.  We can imagine Luiza and Lansing’s early married life in Newton County, Missouri, a little more clearly, and continue to look for clues.

Unfortunately, the 1940 Census won’t give me answers to these questions for most of the people that I am researching.  However, supplementary questions were asked of two people on each page and this did include some of the information from previous censuses.  Maybe I’ll be lucky enough to find someone on one of those special lines.  And hopefully, over time, I will find that the new information is just as valuable.