I have been asked to write a blog entry about my personal family history research experience (now in its ninth year) for about a year now. My life circumstances have not allowed the free time to make this happen… until now, ironically the week that the 1940 Census went “live” online.
What an exciting time in Genealogy! Today at our fingertips (literally, from the comfort of our homes) we are connected through library databases, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Flickr, the “Cloud”, genealogy blogs and so many other resources besides sites like the National Archives, Ancestry, Family Search, My Heritage and whatever other partner in the 1940 Census release that I may have overlooked!
I’m far from claiming to be a technology whiz but I do have to say that you have to be comfortable enough with perusing online sources in order to fully benefit from the overwhelming amount of information that is now available to us. Anyway, I thought I would detail here how I managed to keep up through Facebook as the 1940 Census came online – all while I was across the country in Washington DC at a national medical facility (where I had frustratingly inconsistent Internet access) and far away from my genealogy records and my home base.
I’ve been on Facebook for several years now (to keep up with my teenage daughters, my family members spread across the country and the small community of families dealing with the same medical condition my daughter has). It was not until recently that I decided to utilize this social network for genealogical purposes – but boy was I glad I did!
The Facebook community of genealogy buffs has grown exponentially in the last year and I’ve learned and kept up on genealogy news right along with them. Some examples of active FB groups I “friended” are: Ancestry, Family Search, Family Tree Magazine, Mocavo, Find My Past US, GenLookups and a variety of local or ethnic historical and genealogical societies (or those in the localities you may be researching).
A mother-lode of information has come from individual state or country research communities sponsored by Family Search (but independently administered). For instance, if you friend the group “Ohio Genealogy Research Community”, individuals post on their page what surnames or locations in Ohio they are researching, what luck they have had and perhaps a valuable resource they’ve used that you might not have known about. The administrators also have times they will offer their free services to try and help with your brick walls, vital records or cemetery searches or any number of different ways to assist you.
Many of the genealogy societies and sites like Ancestry or Mocavo post links to their very helpful blogs that once again, provide up-to-the-minute genealogy news and research hints or even contests (if you are inclined towards those kinds of things). And, of course, there’s always your library’s Local History department’s blog or posts that can inform, instruct, encourage and entertain as you grow your family tree, so don’t forget to friend your local library page! While I’ve only tried twice so far to contact distant cousins on Facebook (one successfully and one who unfortunately never responded), there are endless possibilities available for connecting with the younger generations of your family – it just depends on how much online searching you are willing to conduct (and how you feel about cyber-stalking J).
So back to the 1940 Census: since I had limited access to the Internet early this week (okay, my daughter wouldn’t share her laptop with me and the Business Center where I was staying had limited hours), I surfed all the previously mentioned sites and groups on Facebook on my phone to see which states were coming online first (as you probably experienced, the National Archives site had all the states’ census records online Monday, April 2 but had many technical issues, so very few folks were able to access them consistently until Tuesday or after) and on which partner sites: Ancestry, Family Search, or My Heritage.com.
Since most of my and my husband’s relatives are from the Chicago area and Illinois was not one of the first states rolled out, I went for Indiana where many of my dad’s relatives lived back then and where they still are. (At this time, I jumped on the available computer for my 2 hour time slot and cruised on over to Ancestry!) I then went to Steve Morse’s Unified 1940 Census ED Finder at www.stevemorse.org/census/unified.html to find out which Enumeration District they were in, then plugged that into Ancestry’s 1940 Census search. Twenty pages into the 35 pages of that Enumeration District – BOOM! My first family find in the 1940 Census! Yeah! I downloaded the record on my thumb drive and was off and running, apparently like thousands – millions? – of other genealogy researchers.
Upon my return home, I’ve spent (almost) every waking hour till I posted this blog, searching for my family in Chicago and Buffalo, New York – now that these two states are available fully available online. Found my mother with her parents and my great-grandfather (and not in the place I expected); my great grandparents in Buffalo; my paternal great-grandfather in Chicago but NOT my dad and his parents, at least not yet. Whew! Staying connected, plugged in, up to date, whatever we call it, on all that is new in genealogy research today really is a time-intensive task – but I love every second of it! So, who will you find today – and how??