In 1998 when I first started searching for ancestors I would visit the library to select the microfilm rolls I needed, insert them in the machine and spend hours scrolling through names in the census records. If I was lucky there would be an index of names that would direct me to the exact roll I was looking for making the search much easier. These days with Ancestry and FamilySearch most of the census records are easy to search from home on the internet.
Some of my favorite discoveries from the census include:
- Finding middle names. Grace Irene Squires (Foreman) sister was Mary I. Squires (the mother was listed as Mary S. Squires.) The next census had a more diligent recorder and listed her whole name Mary Ivadine Squires. Grandma Hancock would talk about her aunt Ivy saying she was an old maid because she never married.
Mary Ivadine Squires 1866-1921
- Finding surnames. I could not find my dad in the 1940 census which was made public in 2010. I kept searching and finally last year found him in Tacoma, Washington under the name Jerry Frahm. His mother Signe Anderson Stalter had remarried. The family had been enumerated with Clarence Frahm as head of household and my dad and his brother Victor were listed as Frahm instead of Stalter. I never knew he lived in Tacoma, Washington. Seven years it took me to find that!
Left to right – Jerry Stalter, Clarence Frahm, Uncle Frank Martin, seated in car is my great grandfather Hinberg Anderson who immigrated in 1892 from Norway. My best guess is this picture was taken about 1937.
- Finding places. Looking for my grandfather Perry Stalter in 1940. He was divorced from Signe and was listed by himself in a place called Work Camp #3, Glendale, Minnesota. Minnesota does a midterm census so I found him in 1935 in a different work camp. During the depression men who did not have jobs and no place to live were placed in work camps and trained for jobs or placed on work crews building “public works” projects from bridges to schools and the like. This included art projects and music projects. Perry wrote lyrics for music, he also wrote poetry. In 1942 he entered Word War II. He also served in World War I. Sometimes gravestones provide a lot of information.
- Finding families. Most of our family lines moved as a group from one part of the country to another. By reading the entire page of the census and going back one page or forward a page you can usually find a brother or father or son with their family listed nearby. The Foreman’s in Illinois all lived within a ten mile radius of each other. Their farms were next to each other. Edwin Squires farm was next to his father, Levi Squires farm in Wisconsin. Daughters were a little harder to track because their names changed, but looking carefully, usually can be found within a short distance of her family.
This is the Robert Allen Foreman family. They left Time, Illinois and settled in Cherokee, Oklahoma about 1877. At the same time Jacob Foreman, older brother of Robert, left Time, Illinois and settled in Carroll County, Missouri about 250 miles from Time, Illinois. In 1887, Jacob and Sarah Foreman brought their family to Vernon, Colorado to homestead.
Finding a story within ten years. My husbands grandmother Beckie Singer was one of four children. In 1900 I found each of her siblings, a sister Fannie in St. Louis and two brothers, William and Harris living in Friar’s Point, Mississippi. Harris was married to Lizzie and the 1900 census shows they had four children. In the 1910 census there is no listing anywhere for Lizzie and Harris yet two of their children were living with William and his wife in Friar’s Point, Mississippi. With a lot of hard work I found that Harris and Lizzie had moved to San Antonio, Texas and Harris had died of tuberculosis in 1904 in San Antonio. Lizzie had died of tuberculosis in 1908 in San Antonio. In the 1910 census two of the their children are living with William back in Mississippi, one daughter is living with Lizzie’s brother’s family in Memphis Tennessee. The fourth child, Sarah, shows up in the 1910 Colorado census. She is 18 years old. Sarah contracted tuberculosis in Memphis and moved to Colorado in 1909 for treatment at the JCRS hospital. Sarah died in 1917 in Colorado. JCRS, for many of us who remember, was the name of a shopping center on west Colfax in Lakewood. The entire property was owned by the Jewish Community Relief Society. The synagogue remains behind the shopping center. Both Denver and San Antonio were cities that people with tuberculosis sought treatment.
Several months ago I found Lizzie’s will in a digital collection from Mississippi. The will lists five children. With a lot more digging I found the fifth child, David, born in 1901 and 9 years old in 1910 census, living in a Jewish orphan’s home in New Orleans. At age 18 he left the orphanage and went to live with his sister in Memphis. After communicating with a member of the board of directors for the history of this orphanage I learned many people in the early 1900’s were dying from tuberculosis and the B’nai B’rith Society placed the surviving children in orphanages to continue their education and religious studies. For me, it was heartbreaking to put this information together and find that an entire family was devastated by this horrible disease.
In 2020 the government will release the 1950 census and it will be fun to look for myself and many of you!
Next week #6 – Favorite Name.