Census records are a great basic source of information and easily accessible, now that all publicly-released census years are indexed and the images are available on the internet. I’ve collected census records ever since I started doing genealogy; however, I haven’t been consistent in how I handled them. Basically, I have three different kinds of census information in my database:
- Abstracts with Evidence Explained (EE)-style source citations
- Abstracts that are cited, but the citations are not up to EE standards
- Notations that the person was found in the census, with non-EE citations
About a year ago, I started working on updating my records, so that each census was abstracted and had an EE-style citation. My plan was to start with my grandparents and work backward in Ahnentafel order. After I finished with my direct lines, I would go back and start on the collateral lines; however, as I revisited each census page, I also abstracted the information for any other relatives found on that page. Revisiting the pages was very useful, because I found records for people that I didn’t know about the first time I looked at the census page. I’m still working on the direct lines, but I’ve decided to increase the scope of the project.
As I’ve mentioned before, I’m reading North Carolina Research: Genealogy and Local History. The second chapter deals with designing research strategies and touches on the different kinds of records one will encounter. In the section on census records, there is a fabulous example of an abstract and analysis of the data. While I typically analyze the data I find in my head, I haven’t been doing complete written analyses of census records.
As I was looking at this example, I knew it was something I wanted to emulate, but I couldn’t quite figure out how I wanted to manage the paperwork. I first considered simply typing the analysis into the notes section of RootsMagic, but that seemed cumbersome because I would have to privatize the note to keep reports from becoming unwieldy. Next, I thought about creating a simple Word document, but I’m really trying to avoid having lots of separate documents related to my families. Then I remembered this blog. One of things I’m doing here is not only recording the results of my research, but also recording the research process. I’ve done this with other types of records; I don’t know why it didn’t occur to me to do the same with census records.
So, now, my Census Project will start anew. I’m going back to the beginning (my grandparents in 1930) and will write an analysis of each census record. Helen Leary also suggests recording 10 to 15 names before and after each family (I heard Elizabeth Shown Mills say 25 names in each direction at FGS); I haven’t been doing that because, again, I couldn’t figure out the best way to store the data. Now, I’ll start adding those names to Census Project posts. I’ll also add a link to the blog post to the census note in RootsMagic; then when I upload the files to TNG, I’ll have a clickable link from the individual census record back to the analysis in the blog.
I think this is really going to take my analysis skills to the next level and I’m excited to get started.