Saturday, February 27, 2016

Census Records are the Best!

It's been a LONG time since I've written a blog post...but since I gave a large group of people the address to this blog, I thought I should update it! Today I had the opportunity to present at our local Family History Discovery Day.  It was so much fun to be with so many people who love family history as much as I do!  It's fun to pull out some of my craziest family history stories and know that other people will value the work that was put into finding them. :)

Today's classes were on African American genealogy research and taking an in-depth look at US Census records.  Census records are my favorite!  On just one page, you can recreate a pretty clear picture of what someone's family would have been like at a moment in history.  For example:

From this 1920 census, you get a picture of a young family, with a hardworking father (Emmett) and a mother at home with a toddler.  You see that they are making ends meet enough to be in the process of owning their home (they have a mortgage), and they seem to live a pretty simple life.  Now, when you look ten years down the line... find that it has all fallen apart!  Emmett is in the Lima Hospital for the Criminally Insane!  How did he get there?!

We can find clues to that when we look further back  in the census records as well.  In 1910, Emmett is in the US Coast Artillery Corps, just prior to World War I. By using these census records as starting points, we can find more information on Emmett's military records and legal records. His military pension application shows that he came out of the war with enough injury to be called an "Invalid," and other legal documents use the technical term, "Lunatic." From what we know now, he likely had PTSD, and that affected him and his family enough that he was eventually institutionalized, and committed (or attempted to commit) crimes that landed him in the Lima State Hospital.  All of that information, mostly from a few census records.

I think everyone has some crazy stories in their families that can be confirmed with records.  Some of them are funny, and some of them are emotionally difficult to accept.  But these are our families, and it can also give us a context for who we are and why our families are the way they are.  So here's to census records, keeping it real since 1790. :)

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