Episode 142 – Family History Bloggers

Listen to the episode here.

Have you ever wondered how the Internet works?  I mean, how data from your computer actually makes to another computer somewhere else around the world? I found a very cool video that really manages to explain a very complex process that happens in a matter of seconds in a way that actually makes a lot of sense. And yet while it made sense, after I watched it it was almost harder to believe that it really works at all because it’s so amazing. Even if you are typically a person who doesn’t bother to click on videos, you have got to check out How Does the Internet Work in the newest of an edition of the free Genealogy Gems Podcast email newsletter

RootsTech

RootsTech 2013 Promo Video

Ancestry

Read Lisa’s blog post: Money Growing on Trees: Ancestry Buying and Selling

While the world’s largest online family history resource, Ancestry.com, awaits a possible buyout, they are keeping busy buying other companies. Reuters reported that Permira Advisers LLP has emerged as the front-runner to take Ancestry private in a deal that could exceed $1.5 billion. (Read more about the possible acquisition at PEHUB)

Ancestry also released the following press release about the company’s latest acquisition, San Francisco based 1000Memories. You can learn more about 1000 Memories by listening to my interview with Michael Katchen, Director of Business Development at 1000Memories in  Genealogy Gems Podcast Episode 119.

Google Books
Google Books and Publishers Reach Settlement over Digitization

Learn more about using Google Books for genealogy in my book The Genealogist’s  Google Toolbox.  

New Premium Episode 92

Old maps can tell us a lot more than just where our ancestors lived: They put events into geographic context, reveal surprising genealogical clues, and can be incorporated into Google Earth for analysis and storytelling.

In the newest episode (#92) of the Genealogy Gems Premium Podcast I’ll tell you about a terrific example of a website that has set the goal of have every image they possess (allowable by copyright) digitized and on their website by early 2013

I’m also going to tell you about something pretty shocking that happened to me recently while speaking at an international genealogy conference. I was really taken by surprise, and received some unexpected questions. I will share those with you as well as some solid answers.

It’s another packed episode. If you are a member sign in now to start listening.  Become a Member today.

MAILBOX

Stephanie also wrote in with an opinion about Ancestry Trees
“So here are my “2 bits”.  I am new to all this and honestly never considered my public tree as published.  I have used the Ancestry tree as a if were my workbook, just as if it were a software package like Roots Magic.  Because I consider it a workbook I add names as I find them and work the family as a group to document the information AFTER I add them.  It simply never occurred to me that others would see this as complete, documented information.  I have kept my tree open since I want to be open to contacts.  When I see hints from other trees I simply avoid the un-sourced ones.  The Ancestry hints have moved me along much faster than I ever could have before.  I truly hope others who get angry could see my point of view. Thank you so much for teaching us, you have made this journey so much more enjoyable and effective!!!”

From Loretta: Ancestry Trees
“I’ve had a little different reaction towards the “polluted” online trees… sarcasm. At the beginning of the year I started a blog, Barking Up The Wrong Tree. I post on Tuesdays and Fridays. Both days could be considered tips for beginners but Tuesdays are examples of what NOT to do. All the examples are actual online trees and because of the propensity of newbies to mindlessly copy other trees most examples are not just on ONE tree. It makes for a lot of head meets desk moments but I’m enjoying it. Hope you and some of your listeners will too.”

Ricky in Birmingham, Alabama asks about citing sources and paper and file organization

GEM: New Family History Bloggers

Family History blogging is hotter than ever and the ideal way to get your research out on the web where others working on the same family lines can find you through Google searches!  Many of you have been taking advantage of free blogging services like Blogger at Mom Cooke’s nagging here on the podcast, and reaping some rewards.  So let me highlight a few listeners who have turned in their “Round To It” for a “Gitter Done!”

First up is David Lynch who started a blog on his St. Croix research
“I recently started in my genealogy and find your show both entertaining and helpful.  My 200 Years in Paradise

The reason I’m writing is that sometimes we forget that the world wasn’t homogeneous throughout the 1800s. Right now, I’m writing a series on illegitimate births on the island of St. Croix from 1841-1934. From my research, it seems that over 77% of the children born were to unmarried households.  Typically they formed stable family units, but just didn’t marry. In fact, in my personal family history, I have a set of ancestors who had 16 children and got married after their 12th child was born.  In the US at the same time, only about 4% of the children were illegitimate.”

Jennifer shares her blog
“Just wanted you to know that I’ve started my own blog, based largely on the encouragement in your podcasts.  What appealed to me was that it’s a medium where I can share information, but not in a way that’s an online family tree.  This will prevent readers from copying and pasting family tree branches, without slowing down to learn some context.  It also allows me a forum to correct some gigantic errors floating around out there about my ancestors.  I finally woke up to the fact that I’ve moved to the head of the line in the experience department.  I’ve placed a lot of tags on the entries, so the information is easily located in Google.” http://jenongen.blogspot.com/

Sonja Hunter wrote in to share her blogging success
First, I would like to thank you for putting together your podcasts!…I only became a listener about a year ago, but have been working my way through old Genealogy Gems podcasts as well as the Genealogy Made Easy podcasts, mostly while gardening. 

I also wanted to let you know you inspired me to start blogging. I rang in the New Year by starting a blog about doing genealogy in my hometown of Kalamazoo, Michigan. One primary goal is to highlight helpful area resources. I imagine this will be most helpful to those new to conducting family history research in the area.

In addition, I am trying to include Kalamazoo area or Michigan history items that I think are interesting. One example is an article I found in the local paper describing what Kalamazooans from 1884 imagined life would be like in 1984. I’ve also written about poisonous cheese in the 1880s, diphtheria and the case of my gg-grandfather’s brother-in-law who may or may not have committed suicide by slitting his throat. I consulted Paula Sassi for that case and plan to blog about her handwriting analysis in the future. 

Thank you for inspiring me to embark on this project! I’m learning a lot. And keep up the good and valuable work you do on your podcasts!

Bushwahacking Genealogy Kalamazoo and Beyond 
John Harrigan: Who Done It? (With Handwriting Analysis by Paula Sassi)

From John in Maryland:
“I want to thank you again for everything you do to inspire people to be enthusiastic about their family history.  I learn so many “Gems” within all of your resources and put many of them to practice.   You are the family history “Go-To” person in my book.  I recently started a blog for the primary reason of documenting my findings so that I wouldn’t forget what I’ve been discovering.  The blog also appears to be a good way to share my success stories with others that may be interested.  I credit you for introducing the idea of using a blog in Family History: Genealogy Made Easy podcast.  When I first listened to the podcasts about blogs, I didn’t think it was something that was applicable to me, as I felt I had no new information to share with others since many experts like yourself already handle this.  However, I’m giving it a try and enjoy it so far.  I really like how I’m able to place images within the text to help convey my information.”
http://recordetective.blogspot.com/  

And finally Shannon Bennett has really made a blogging splash.  She writes:
“I have been hemming and hawing on writing to you and finally took the plunge to do it.  Last spring a friend of mine told me about your podcasts (yes all of them) since I had just started into family research.  She thought I would like it, and boy was she right!  I have taken you on my iPod to drop my kids off to school and pick them up again, cleaned house, grocery shopping as well as everywhere in between. The wealth of information I have gathered from your podcasts have been very helpful, and I have loved all the interviews and tid-bits that have come along the way as well.  There is no way that I could just pick one out of so many to be my all-time favorite.  Maybe a top 10 list would cover it.

However, I do have to blame you for the latest adventure in my life, which is why I am writing.  Listening to you tell us, in almost every episode, about the importance of having a family blog finally sank in.  The first couple of times I heard you say it I thought to myself “there’s no way I would/could ever do such a thing, I barely have time to keep up with my Live Journal account.”  A few weeks went by and the thoughts began to change to “hmmm…maybe I could do this.”  Then after 4 months of thinking about it I started to do some research into how to run a successful blog.”

Shannon took the plunge and applied to Family Tree University to write for their Family Firsts Blog.  “I come to find out that they are looking for their second blogger.  I sat…I thought…I clicked the application button.  Yes, on a whim I entered because I thought I had nothing to lose.  You see I never win these types of things.

A month goes by, and I have given into the feeling that well it was a good try but of course I didn’t get it.…then later on that week I find out I won it!

So thank you, I never would have entered let alone thought about creating my own blog less than a year into my family research, without you and your wonderful podcasts.”

Trials and Tribulations of a Self-Taught Family Historian

Family Tree Firsts Blog

Check out this episode

The 1950 Census for Genealogy

Countdown to the 1950 Census – Show Notes

The census is the backbone of genealogical research. Here in the United States it gives us a cohesive look at our ancestors every 10 years between 1790 and 1940. And now there is a new census on the horizon!
 
The 1950 census is an exciting one because it may include your great grandparents, grandparents, parents and perhaps even you! It will provide opportunities to confirm some of what we already know and clues for new research.
 
This week brings us to the one year mark before the release of the 1950 census in April 2022. Now is the perfect time to familiarize ourselves with it and start preparing. In this free webinar on the Genealogy Gems YouTube channel we’re going to do just that! In Elevenses with Lisa episode 51 you will learn:
  • the interesting and little known stories behind the 1950 census,
  • what it can reveal about your family, (and who you will NOT find!)
  • the important documents associated with it that you can access right now!

Get the HD version by clicking the gear icon in the video player. 

1950 Census Show Notes Cheat Sheet

Premium Members have access to the ad-free downloadable show notes cheat sheet in the Resources section at the bottom of the page. Click here to become a Premium Member.

What You Can Learn About Your Family from the 1950 Census

The 1950 Census may be able to answer all kinds of questions for you such as:

  • Where was your family living in 1950?
  • Did you have American relatives living abroad?
  • What did your relatives do for a living?
  • What was their household income in 1949?

The 1950 census also stands out because it ushered in some new features and data collection improvements with the goal of providing more complete and accurate information than ever before.

This census can help you confirm information you already have about your family while also providing new facts and clues for further genealogical research.

So, let’s dig into the 1950 US census. Oh wait…we better hold our horses! The 1950 census isn’t available yet!

When will the 1950 census be released?

The official census day in 1950 was April 1. So as of April 2021 we are one year away from the release of the 1950 Census. However, it’s never too soon to get acquainted with this important genealogical record. There’s a lot we can do to get ready to research when it’s released by the National Archives in April 2022. That will be 72 years after the official 1950 census day.

1950 census release date

So why don’t we get to see the 1950 census until 72 years have passed?

The “72-Year Rule” became law in 1978 (92 Stat. 915; Public Law 95-416; October 5, 1978). It restricts access to decennial census records to only the person named on the record or their legal heir.

Why is there a “72-Year Rule” for the Census?

It’s long been believed that the rule was based on the average life-expectancy at the time. However, that may not be the case at all. Letters at the National Archives dating back to 1952 from the census bureau director and the archivist of the U.S. support the rule, but don’t say what it’s based on. Joel Weintraub’s essay Why the 72 Year Rule for U.S. Census Privacy?  proposes that the rule evolved  for a variety of reasons when the National Archives was first created.

The bottom line: For now, we have to wait until 2022 for the 1950 U.S. Federal Census.

Who was counted during the 1950 census?

In addition to Americans living here in the States, for the first time Americans abroad were enumerated in 1950. This included:

  • members of the armed forces,
  • crews on vessels at sea,
  • and employees of the United States government and their families living in foreign countries.
Sailors and soldiers serving overseas were counted in the 1950 census

Sailors and soldiers serving overseas were counted in the 1950 census.

Be aware that there were other people living abroad at that time who didn’t fall within these official categories. In those cases, they were to be  reported by their families or even neighbors who lived in the U.S. This was clearly second-hand information which means that the information wasn’t as reliable. In fact, so much so that these individuals weren’t included in the published statistics. Keep this possibility in mind if you have trouble locating a relative when the census comes out.

What Questions Were Asked in the 1950 Census?

The 1950 population census questionnaire asked for information such as:

  • Address;
  • whether their house was on a farm;
  • name;
  • relationship to the head of the household;
  • race;
  • sex;
  • age;
  • marital status;
  • birthplace if they were foreign born,
  • whether or not they were naturalized;
  • their employment status;
  • how many hours they worked in a week;
  • occupation,
  • industry,
  • and class of worker.

The information provided by your ancestors has the potential to lead you to more genealogical records.

Geographic Areas Covered in the 1950 Census

So where were all these people living? The 1950 census covered:

  • the continental United States,
  • the territories of Alaska and Hawaii,
  • American Samoa,
  • the Canal Zone,
  • Guam,
  • Puerto Rico,
  • the Virgin Islands of the United States,
  • and some of the smaller island territories.

1950 Census Enumerators

In 1950 the population of the United States was about ½ of the population today. But it still took a lot of people and organization to count 150 million people. The people doing the counting are called enumerators. These enumerators came from all walks of life and had to be trained so that everyone got counted with the fewest mistakes possible. A technical training program was developed to accomplish this goal. 26 chief instructors would teach a few hundred instructors to train 8300 crew leaders who would ultimately train over 140,000 census enumerators.

The 1950 census enumerator training program

The 1950 census enumerator training program. (Source: census.gov)

1950 Census Enumeration District Maps

You may be wondering ‘how did the enumerators know where to go to count people?’ The answer is Enumeration Districts or EDs.  The geographic area to be covered by the enumerator was divided up into Enumeration Districts. These ensured that enumerators were not crossing paths and duplicating efforts. EDs were just the right size so that the census taker could cover  the area in one census period, which was about 2-4 weeks.

Enumeration District maps were drawn for the 1950 census. These are important for your genealogy research because they:

  • describe your ancestors’ neighborhood in 1950
  • are essential for figuring out where to find your ancestor in the census.
  • don’t fall under the 72-year rule, which means that they are available now.

It takes time for the entire census to be indexed. If you want to start using it as soon as it’s released, you will need ED maps. You’ll need to know where your relatives lived so that you can find the address on the ED map. The map will provide you with the associated ED number. This number is needed to search the unindexed census. 

There are 8000 ED maps for the 1950 census that have been digitized. You can find them at the National Archives website in Record Group 29: in the series called Enumeration District and Related Maps 1880-1990.

An alternative place to find 1950 Enumeration District maps is the One-Step Webpages by Stephen P. Morse website. It’s not only an easier way to find the correct map, but it includes maps not found on the National Archives website. It’s also worth reading the essay on the website called Problems Using 1950 Enumeration District Maps. It will help you better understand how to use the maps.

Links to tools demonstrated:
Search 1950 ED Maps at One-Step.
Unified Census 1950 ED Finder search at One-Step.

 

1950 Census Enumerator Instructions

Up until 1870 the job of census taker fell to the U.S. Marshals. The U.S. Marshalls received very little in the way of instructions or training. It wasn’t until 1830 that they even got printed schedules to record the information given by each household! That all changed with an act of congress passed in 1879 that shifted the job to people specifically hired to be enumerators. This was just in time for the 1880 census.

By 1950, 140,000 census enumerators hit the field armed with their Enumeration District map showing them where to canvas, and a lengthy set of instructions that they received during their training. In fact, 1950 was the last time that the census was taken exclusively in person because in 1960 the Census Bureau started mailing out questionnaires.

The 1950 census enumerator instructions are available for free as a downloadable and searchable PDF file. It’s 24 pages of specific instructions designed to help enumerators record the information they gathered.

The enumerator instructions are important for you as a researcher because they explain what you’re seeing on the census page. If we see a mark or a notation, or a field left blank, the instructions will explain why the census did it that way. If we understand the why behind the information we find we will be much more likely to interpret it correctly.

An example of this can be found in the 1940 census. You’ve probably noticed X’s in circles scattered about the pages. On a map that could be misinterpreted as there’s buried treasure in that house! But alas, it doesn’t. Only the census enumerator instructions can help us really understand their true and important meaning. The 1940 census enumerator instructions state “Enter (X in a circle) after name of person furnishing information.” This helps us better determine the validity of the information provided for each individual in the household.

Who Was Not Counted in the 1950 Census?

The instructions for the 1950 census also includes a list of those people who were not to be enumerated, such as:

  • People temporarily visiting the household
  • Foreign citizens visiting embassies and similar facilities. Do enumerate foreigners who are studying or working here temporarily.
  • Students below college level who are boarding to attend school locally.
  • College students visiting but who live elsewhere to attend school.
  • People who eat with the family but don’t sleep there.
  • Domestic workers who don’t sleep in the household.
  • Household members who are currently an inmate in prison or other institution.
  • Ship crew members or people who live in lighthouses
  • Absent Soldiers and sailors

What are 1950 Census Infant Cards?

There’s also an entire page in the instructions devoted to explaining what Infant Cards were and the information they were to contain. If you have relatives who were born in January, February or March of 1950, they would have had a special Infant Card completed just for them. Learn more: Download the infant card PDF

1950 census infant card.

1950 census infant card.

How Accurate is the 1950 US Census?

Several procedures were put in place in an effort to dramatically improve the accuracy and completeness of the 1950 census. These included:

  • improved enumerator training,
  • providing enumerators with detailed street maps of their assigned areas,
  • publishing “Missed Person” forms in local newspapers,
  • and setting aside specific days to conduct a special enumeration of people staying in hotels, motor courts, and other places frequented by transient people.

Also, in an effort to ensure greater accuracy and completeness, a post-enumeration survey was instituted for the first time. The Census Bureau recanvassed a sample of approximately 3,500 small areas and compared these to the original census listings. The goal was to identify households that might have been omitted in the original enumeration. They also took a sample of about 22,000 households and reinterviewed them to determine the number of people who might have been missed in the first count.

How Were Transient People Counted in the 1950 Census?

The challenge of counting people is that people can move around. This means they could be counted twice, or the genealogist’s nightmare: not counted at all!

The solution to counting transient people in the 1950 census was T-Night canvasses. The “T” stood for “transient” and they were held on Tuesday April 11 & Thursday April 13, 1950. They were designed to provide a more accurate count of people who did not have a fixed address or were temporarily away from home.

 

1950 census enumerator at Motor Camp

“Transient” enumerations were conducted on specially designated days in 1950. (source: census.gov)

Tuesday, April 11, 1950 was the date for “an intensive drive to cover in a single night the occupants of certain places usually devoted to transients” such as hotels, YMCAs, and tourist courts or camps (campgrounds).  Young men were moving to the city from rural areas, and the YMCA (Young Men’s Christian Association) was a popular, safe and affordable place to stay. By 1940 YMCA room across the country totaled more than 100,000.

According to the instructions, enumerators were to visit these facilities from 5 p.m. to 11 p.m. on Tuesday evening and again from 7 a.m. to 12 noon the next day. On Thursday, April 13, 1950 enumerators turned their attention to missions and flophouses.  T-Night enumerators assigned to these facilities were to “station themselves at the main entrance or the lobby of the place” and instructed to interview guests, resident staff and employees personally. 

Another unique feature of T-Nights was that enumerators used the Individual Census Report Form (ICR). In an unusual move, it was completed by the person being counted instead of by the census taker. This ensured privacy for the informant since census interviews often had to be conducted in hallways or a room with other roomers. Thanks to the 1950 census enumerators working the hotel lobby, asking guests passing through if they had already completed an ICR, calling up guests on the house phone and working with staff on identifying those checking in, there’s an even better chance that we will find our family members in the 1950 census.

What Does “REG” mean on the 1950 Census?

Even after all of this extra effort, some people never completed the ICR form. In those cases, the enumerator would fill out the ICR on information taken from the hotel register. The entry on the census would be marked “REG” indicating that the information came from the hotel register.

The 1950 Census Residential Survey

A new feature of the 1950 census was the Residential Survey. In a separate surveying effort, information was collected on a sample basis from owners of owner-occupied and rental properties and mortgage lenders.

1950 Census Technology Trivia

According to the National Archives, “The Census Bureau began use of the first non-military computer shortly after completing the 1950 enumeration. UNIVAC I (for Universal Automatic Computer), the first of a series, was delivered in 1951, and helped tabulate some of the statistics for the 1954 economic censuses. It weighed 16,000 pounds and used 5,000 vacuum tubes.”

5 Things to Do While Waiting for the 1950 US Federal Census

Looking for something to do now while you wait for the 1950 census? Here are just a few things you can do while you wait:

1. Review your family tree.
Make a list of those families you want to look up. And look for gaps and questions that might be able to be answered using the 1950 census.

2. Look for 1950 family addresses.

  • Old letters
  • Diaries
  • Scrapbooks
  • Ask Relatives
  • City directories
  • Vital Records
  • Occupational records
  • Newspapers
  • Social Security Records
  • 1940 census addresses

3. Use the One-Step website to find Enumeration District Numbers

Note: The One-Step website includes some maps not found at the National Archives!

4. Download the Enumeration District Map for your Ancestor’s Home
Again, you can access the maps through the One-Step website or the National Archives website. These are excellent research resources to have on hand. They can be used to create map overlays in the Google Earth Pro software. Step-by-step instructions for doing so can be found in my book The Genealogist’s Google Toolbox and my downloadable video tutorial series Google Earth for Genealogy.

5. Check out the 1790 through 1940 census records online at the National Archives.
Census records can be found at many popular genealogy websites. The National Archives has a great resource page listing each decennial census and the associated online resources including where census images are hosted and searchable for free or on subscription websites. It also includes additional resources and background on each census taken.

For more ideas on what you can do now to prepare, read How to Find Your Family History in the 1950 Census.

Watch Next: 1950 Census Questions

1950 US Census Questions

WATCH NEXT: Elevenses with Lisa episode 53 1950 Census Questions

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