Terri Meeks of the Fort Worth Genealogical Society presented a workshop about census research for “The Beginners Workshop” series. Her workshop covered the federal census, special federal census records, as well as territorial and state census records.
Meeks pointed out specific information genealogists should know when they set out to do research using a federal census.
- Only 1790 to 1940 federal census records are available to the public due to privacy act restrictions.
- The 1890 Census was destroyed in a 1921 fire and only a few fragments remain.
- Genealogists should start with what they know and look for ancestors and relatives for whom they have information.
- Start with the most recent census and work backwards in time.
- Pay attention to other people listed nearby on the census record. People often married neighbors so other ancestors may be listed on the same page.
- Families lived near other family members. Genealogists should search several pages before and after the specific ancestor to find more ancestors.
- People often lived with extended family and not all surnames in the same household will match.
- Research names of other people living in the same household if the names do not match to possibly reveal the relationships.
- County lines and state lines changed from one census to another. An ancestor could be listed in one county and then listed in another county in the next census without ever moving.
- Census records have errors, omissions, misspellings, and illegible handwriting. Sometimes these records are digitized poorly and are hard to read.
Because a census record can have erroneous information or be difficult to read, genealogists should try to find other documents to support the census data.
“The Beginners Workshop” is a series of eight free presentations sponsored by the Fort Worth Genealogical Society that are open to the public. The sessions are offered on the fourth Saturday (not the last Saturday) of the month from January through August and cover a different topic each month. Genealogists in the Fort Worth area are encouraged to attend and they do not need to be members of the Fort Worth Genealogical Society.
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