Republished Dec. 3, 2013
Welcome to this step-by-step series for beginning genealogists—and more experienced ones who want to brush up or learn something new. I first ran this series in 2008. So many people have asked about it, I’m bringing it back in weekly segments.
Episode 9: Using Census Records
In this episode we start off by talking about a group of records critical to family history research in my home country: U.S. Federal Census Records. You’ll learn not only what to find in the regular schedules, but about the enumerators, the instructions they followed, and special sections like the economic census.
Then in our second segment we go straight to the source: Bill Maury, Chief of History Staff at the U.S. Census Bureau. I’ll be talking to him about the History section of the Census Department’s website. Note the updated Genealogy tab on the site, as well as the Through the Decades tab, which is packed with historical information for each census.
Since the show first aired, the 1940 U.S. Census has become publicly available. This was the largest, most comprehensive census taken, with over 132 million names of those known as the “greatest generation.” Full indexes and images are available at several sites. Your first stop should be the National Archives’ official 1940 census website to learn about the census itself. Then search it at your favorite genealogy data site in one of the links below.
Finally, I gave you specific instructions in the podcast on searching the 1930 U.S. Census online at Ancestry.com. To specifically search any of the U.S. censuses (or any other record collection) at Ancestry.com, go to the Search tab and select Card Catalog. You’ll see several censuses among the options they give you, or you can enter keywords like “1940 census.”
Search U.S. censuses online at:
OR Learn more about researching from microfilm at the National Archives website.
I recently read Lisa Louise Cooke’s 3rd edition of The Genealogist’s Google Toolbox. I use Google every day and this book has so many helpful new search tips! But I was skeptical about her chapter on finding your family history on YouTube. So skeptical that I immediately opened YouTube to prove her wrong. Can you guess how this ends?
Following one of her tips, I entered an ancestral hometown and state and the word “history.” The fourth search result made my mouth drop open:
This is a 1937 newsreel showing my husband’s great-grandfather, Andrew O’Hotnicky, driving his fire truck with his dog Chief! Though Andrew’s not named, I can prove it’s him. He was the driver at the Olyphant Hose Co #2 during this time. Photos of him match the driver’s face. I have stories and a newspaper clipping about his dog, Chief. A distant relative watched the newsreel and confirmed his identity–and said a young man riding on the side of the truck was Andrew’s son Bill.
My father-in-law buy medication for dogs never knew his grandfather Andrew, who died before he was born. Imagine how thrilled he was to watch that newsreel! I was just as thrilled to find it. I’ve spent years researching Andrew’s family.
Only by following Lisa’s suggestions in the new edition of The Genealogist’s Google Toolbox, 3rd Edition did I make my best family history find EVER!
My own tip: search YouTube for relatives you already know something about. That way you will recognize them (from pictures or stories) when you see them. A lot of old footage won’t have names with it. I had to know who I was looking at. Once you find something, tag it with your relative’s name. You never know who will connect with you that way (check out the comments section in the above video)!
What can you learn about YOUR family history on YouTube or anywhere in the Google world? Learn how to search widely, deeply and effectively online in The Genealogist’s Google Toolbox.