Sunday, September 9, 2012

Questions About the Early Censuses and GenealogyBank

Emmie asks:
"When you looking at the early census records before 1850, how you you differentiate between two men of the same name?"

If you think that one of the men is your person of interest then try matching up the ages of everyone in the household to see which one matches your person. This is especially easy if the person you are interested in also appears in the 1850 census. Then you can go back in time one census at a time matching up the ages of the children. Here is an example of identifying the known children in an early census. This one is Perry County, Mississippi 1840:

Silas Simmons
2 free white males age 5 to under 10 [John and Benjamin]
1 free white male age 10 to under 15 [James]
1 free white male age 15 to under 20 [Abner]
1 free white male age 20 to under 30 [William]
1 free white male age 40 to under 50 [Silas]
1 free white female under 5 [Matilda]
1 free white female age 5 to under 10 [Melinda]
1 free white female age 15 to under 20 [Nancy]
1 free white female age 20 to under 30 [Mary]
1 free white female age 40 to under 50 [Janet]

I use all of the evidence that I have to narrow the birth dates of the children down so that I can fit them into a census. In this case everyone fit in perfectly but there are mistakes on census records, both unintentional and intentional, so this is more of an art than a science. Now look at this Silas Simmons from neighboring Alabama:

Silas Simmons
1 free white male under age 5 [possibly Benjamin depending on when the census was taken]
1 free white male age 5 to under 10 [John]
1 free white male age 10 to under 15 [James]
1 free white male age 40 to under 50 [Silas]
2 free white females under age 5 [Matilda and possibly Melinda depending on when the census was taken]
1 free white female age 40 to under 50 [Janet]
1 free white female age 50 to under 60 [unknown]
Where are Abner, William, Nancy and Mary?

With as many discrepancies the Silas in Alabama has I can safely say that the one in Mississippi is my guy. I will say that it isn't always as clear cut as this so that is why it is important to evaluate all of the evidence you have, not just census records.


Rob asks:
"I have a subscription to GenealogyBank but I am not finding a lot. I don't know if I am just not searching the right way or if there was just nothing about my family in there."

I Highly suggest you watch the following FREE webinars but Thomas Jay Kemp:

Newspapers: Critical Resource to Complete Your Family Tree
Newspapers for Genealogists: Using GenealogyBank.com to Document Every Day of Your Ancestors' Lives.
Obituaries: Clues to Look For. Tips for Making Sure You Get the Full Benefit From an Obituary Notice
Marriages and Anniversaries. Mining Newspapers for Engagements, Marriages, Anniversaries, and Divorce Records

Check GenealogyBank's list of newspapers to see if there are any for your person of interest's location and time period. Having said that, Thomas gives several examples of finding things in newspapers that are in a totally different location. Sometimes family members far off would run announcements in their local paper so even if you don't see anything that looks like it is the right place or time, don't give up yet. Also, other newspapers would pick up announcements from other locations just to fill space. If the story is a big one, multiple papers will carry it. Here is an example from my own file. I knew a man had been murdered in Wilkinson County, Mississippi but GB doesn't have the papers from that area. I found the story in the Time-Picayune out of New Orleans. An added bonus was that the Times-Picayune named the local paper it got the story from, the Woodville Whig. The Woodville Whig happens to be on microfilm at the Mississippi Department of Archives and History. I haven't requested a copy yet but there is a good chance that the local paper will have more of the details.

Also, there is a real art to learning how to do searches. Thomas Kemp will show you have to do effective searches. GenealogyBank is adding more papers to its collection all the time so it is always good to make a note of when you last searched and then you can go back later and check again.


Copyright © 2012 Michele Simmons Lewis

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