Here is a summary of our most recent Genealogy Program at the Schaumburg Township District Library on Tuesday evening, February 8, 2011. Our guest speaker for the evening was Steve Szabados. Steve presented a program titled “Mining Census Records”.
We did not get buried by any vicious storm for the evening program! Oh No! That snowstorm came the week before on Tuesday evening when we received about 20 inches of windy, blizzard, drifting snow!
We had a great turnout for this wintry program. We had 70 participants who were willing to give winter a kick in the pants and come out for a great presentation!
This was the first time that Steve had presented a program at our library to our group. I can already say that this will not be the last time he makes a genealogy presentation at our library!!
I started the program at 7:30 PM with the introduction of new participants. Boy did we have a house full of new participants at this program! We had about 10 new participants who shared with all of us their name, their description of the their newness to genealogy and some of the surnames they were researching. Each new participant received a Welcome package from me with some good tips on how to move forward on their research journey using a variety of resources both within and outside our library.
I then reviewed our “Handout” package of electronic handouts from the library genealogy blog I author. I brought those in audience up to speed with some other genealogy programs in our area offered by other genealogy groups and societies. I also reviewed some other points of interest I came across on some genealogy news and topics and expressed why I thought some of the topics were of importance to help researchers.
You can easily find all of our monthly library genealogy “Newsletters” in this blog along the right sidebar. You can also find all of our monthly library genealogy “Handouts” in this blog along the right sidebar. Take some time to look at the current issues as well as the past ones. These are PDF files so you can look at them from the within the blog or download them to your own computer. All are filled with electronic bookmarks, hyperlinks, internet URL links for you to quickly find material and to link to topics of interest on the internet. That is the beauty of these electronic files!
Steve then started his presentation at around 8:05 PM.
I am a strong believer in using Census records in your genealogy research. They
are the “meat and potatoes” of resources for genealogy research. They should be a researcher’s first choice of basic research on their family. Using census records is something you need to always keep “revisiting”. You may have learned a little more about a particular family you are researching. Reviewing that family in the census with your newly discovered information may shed even more about that family within the census records.
Steve had a wonderful PowerPoint presentation of the material on Census Records. He also provided us with a great handout on this material. Steve was also kind enough to allow me to share the handout as a PDF file link within this blog posting. You can take a look at Steve’s handout for this presentation here at:
Steve gave us a great review of what the census is, how it came about and how it has evolved over the years. From 1790 to 1840, our U.S. Census only identified the Head of Household by name. Anyone else in the house was just statistically captured. It wasn’t until 1850 that each member of the house was identified by name. It took until the 1880 census when the individuals that were named were also identified as their relation to the head of household. Now the researcher could see these relationships from 1880 onward in the census.
More names and relationships, something all genealogists like to see as opposed to just head of household and statistics on the number of males and females within age groupings.
Steve showed us many examples of census data as they were included over time by showing us the actual images of the census data where you could find these occurrences. It is amazing how humorous some of the examples can be of what census takers noted and wrote on the ledgers they were compiling!
All genealogy researchers should know that the U.S Federal Census for 1890 was destroyed by fire in 1921. Therefore, in essence there is no data available from this census save for maybe thousands of records that were saved from a few isolated geographic areas. So in essence there is no data for this census enumeration that genealogists can tap into. This is unfortunate because it covered such a time of heavy immigration when our first ancestors to arrive in the United States may have very well been captured in this census. Alas! Such is genealogy luck!
Steve offered the researcher some alternatives to consider as “workaround” substitutes such as:
- City Directories
- Voting Lists
- State Censuses that occurred midway between the decennial amount for the Federal Census e.g. 1885 or 1895. State censuses were irregularly taken. All states did not do one in 1885 or 1895. So you have to realize you may not find this as a workable alternative to the 1890 census for the areas of your research.
- 1890 Veterans Schedule for Union military personnel.
Steve also made us aware of the universal issue of the spelling of names that occurs in online census material. You have to be aware that the name you know your ancestor went under may not be the name in the index associated with the online census. Errors could have easily been made in transcribing the data from the image to the index. Misspellings can easily occur here as well as omissions. You need to be flexible and creative when inputting your search name in the search box.
One resource Steve mentioned was to understand the use of the Soundex to help
as a tool when you can’t find the name as you search. Soundex was a coding process to convert Surnames to a phonetic sounding approach. Most online census databases can be searched by using Soundex. Your search results may still be large but you stand a good chance of finding who you seek using this tool. When you find someone using Soundex you will be amazed as to how their surname may have been butchered in transcription. You may also see from the image how horribly written the name may also have been.
Steve also pointed out that when all else fails and you can’t find your ancestor in the census data online you may have to resort to a “page by page” viewing of the enumeration district that you think your ancestor may have lived within. This is generally easier to do for large uninhabited farm areas of counties in which the number of people is smaller than for a large city. But you still have to have some idea of geographic location in order to browse census data on a page by page search looking for the elusive ancestor.
Take a close look at Steve’s handout from the link earlier on in this post. He also provides a very nice list of Internet web sites to assist you with census research in one form or another.
Steve’s presentation was a WOW!!
He is a natural speaker with a great voice and a great pace to his presentation. He is very knowledgeable about the census and just about anything in genealogy as evidenced from some of the questions he received. He knows how to put his material together with PowerPoint to make his point in an effective and often humorous manner!
I certainly believe most everyone left the program more knowledgeable about U.S. Census Data than when they arrived. Steve had everyone interested and involved until not only the end of the presentation but until we had to start reminding people that the library will be closing soon and they unfortunately had to leave!!
I am going to review what other programs topics Steve can present and invite him back again for another presentation.
Thank you Steve for your fantastic presentation!
Thank you to all of you that came out to our program!
See you again next month.
Schaumburg Township District Library