Thursday, August 26, 2010

The Census

After writing down all the information I could find at home, I decided to sign up for a free two week membership at Ancestry.com . The first thing I noticed was the list of available census records listed. Since this (2010) is a census year, it seemed a good enough place to start. I quickly learned that mistakes abound in the census records. It's almost comical how many different ways your ancestor's name might be mispelled. But I found that if I looked at the entire family list, I could easily tell if I had the right name or not. It's important to read every line of the census to extract all the clues out of it. Also, read the page before and the page after your ancestor's listing and don't neglect to read the entire page on which your family member's name appears. You might find relatives living nearby, like Great Grandma Borgreen's brother and family living near them in WY and again in Belt MT! When I have the time, I intend to look into her brother's records a bit more, sometimes it's easier to find out information on the male relatives than the females. I hope to learn exactly where they came from in Sweden. More on that later. The census is very useful in helping you create a timeline for your ancestor. By noting when they lived in a particular place and where and when they were married or where and when the children were born, you can track them back and forth through time. BUT, don't use the census as a primary source. The records are full of errors and guesstimates. Use the clues you find to help you track down the primary sources for this information. In other words, it's not good enough that Great Grandma says she came over on the ship in 1891. You'll want to find the ship's passenger list to confirm that info. But her statement to the enumerator is a handy clue to help you narrow down the search for that passenger list. Until you find the primary source, you mark Great Grandma's emigration "circa" 1891 and site the Census (including the census year) as your source. When you finally find the ship's passenger list, you can cite the exact date and the ship's list as your source.

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