Lets talk about census records, I mentioned in a previous post my annoyances with transcription errors, so much so that I volunteer transcribing them myself with Family Search, whose records end up on your screen! I enjoy it, it settles my mind at times it like to race away with itself, but I also feel like I am helping but I am getting a look into the past, into people and I find it quite fascinating. So, lets talk facts and how these can help you!~
1. A great source for place of birth and date of birth~ I would like to enter a cautionary tale here about both. First the place of birth, my not too distant relatives, early 1800s, came from England. My bestie Andrea happens to live in England. In chatting with her about the Wheres of England, as with many places, boundaries change. So the County of today, may or not be the County of yesteryear! Dates of birth, this is a bit trickier, if the census was taken in a populated city, like New York or Chicago, the area was flooded with census takers and it was a relatively smooth and quick process. Now, where my relatives were located, Indian Territory (Oklahoma/Arkansas), not so populated, so a handful of census takers traversed the area via horseback and was gone many months up to a year gathering information. How do I know this? Well in transcribing these records there is a name of the taker and the date gathered at the top of each sheet. I have come across names that are the same, months apart, in areas that I am familiar with. So, just use caution and allow, in my opinion 1-2 years variance as long as other variables are the same (siblings/parents, etc.,).
2. Immigration history and places of paternal/maternal birth are also located on many census records. Again, with the spelling errors, just be cautious as some of these census takers could have been coming across country names they had never been exposed to, so just a cautionary tale here on that.
3. Own or Rent property, it is indicated on the census records whether they are living in a rental or owned property. How does this help? Well, if they are in an owned property this can quickly alert you to being able to do a tax and land record search as well! This will give you an exact location of the homestead or maybe if you are lucky, the actual home your family once resided in.
4. Occupations, well you might be saying what is the big deal and how does this help me in my research? Well, besides finding it personally fascinating seeing what our ancestors chose to do as a profession or a trade that was handed down generation to generation, some records such as records in England where an apprentice is taken in and shown a trade. Another source of information for your records!
There are many other types of information beyond name and family in the household at the time, but I hope these few things help you see there is more to a census than just names! There is a wealth of information for you to look at, so take time, open one and take a really good look at what information is requested and given on the form!