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You know I love a good mystery but some mysteries will eventually drive me batty.  When I started my family history research it was because I wanted to find out about my mother‘s family. I naively thought that once I found out that I’d stop my research. Silly girl. For the first several years I couldn’t find anything beyond my grandfather‘s name and vitals. I knew he was born in England but his death certificate said he was born in Delaware County, PA. The information was given by Aunt Gert, someone I vaguely remember my mother mentioning a couple of times.

Frances Claire Craven Volz

I put his name in the search engine at Ancestry.com again and again and got nothing. One day I just went straight to the 1930 census, put his name in  and there he was, Arthur Craven, bold as you please. After that I found out more. His mother’s name was Asenath (widowed), he had two brothers and he lived in Delaware County, PA and they all lived together.

The family store goes that he was disowned when he married my grandmother. When my grandmother died, my mother was only thirteen years old and had to quit school to take care of her father and older brother. She always said that her father’s family never offered any help and she resented that all her life. So when my grandfather died, my mother decided to make sure his family could never find his grave and try to move him to rest with their family.

Now my mother was a very nice and gentle person. She gave everyone the benefit of the doubt and never met a stranger. She was helpful to anyone who needed it and made sure that my brother and I grew up surrounded by her love.

So her resentment of my grandfather’s family was baffling to me. It was so out of character. Of course I never asked her about it when she was alive and my brother didn’t know and there was no one else to ask. Typically genealogy blunder.

Trying to piece together the facts I did have, I knew that my grandfather lived with his mother and two brothers. The three boys (men really) worked in one of the mills. Did Mama resent losing the income from Arthur when he married and moved away?

Another fact that I had is that my grandmother was Catholic. Arthur, being from the working class of England was probably a member of the Church of England. Did his family disown him because he married a Catholic?

The last fact I got was from the census of my grandmother’s family. Her mother’s birth is listed as Wales in one Census but Ireland in two others. Did the English/Irish multi century conflict figure into his being disowned?

Recently I did find out how my mother hid my grandfather’s grave from his family. Last year when I was in Philadelphia, my brother and I visited the cemetery where he is buried and found that my mother had all the stones removed. My grandmother’s, uncle’s and another sibling’s stones were all removed when my grandfather died. So there’s just an expanse of grass, no markings of any kind.

It drives me nuts that I will probably never find the answers I seek, and some days, that’s a short trip. I’m always open to suggestions of  other avenues of research. Any hints, anyone?

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Do you have any clue how many articles, books and blogs I have read about how to organize my stuff? Too many I assure you. Here’s just a few suggestions I’ve seen.

* Color coded file folders for each family

* Three ring binder for each surname

* Alphabetical index cards kept in a little metal box

* Scan and store on CD discs

* A box for each family, loosely organized

* Hire a professional organizer (my personal choice)

* Separate files for documents, photos, census copies, letters

I actually bought color coded file folders a few years ago, and plastic color coded page dividers, different colored ink pens and all kinds of little doodads to help organize my research. I am a stationary junkie and could spend lots of money in Office Max. The color coded file folders are still in the box but the page dividers and ink pens and most of the doodads have been used for other projects.

So why are we all so against strict organization of our research data? I would be ecstatic to see it all nice and neat and be able to put my hands on just about anything. But I just can’t seem to get started. I’ve got three file cabinet drawers full of just about everything genealogy that I own including magazines and books. I do have a hanging file for each surname but they continually end up mixed up and I have a ton of small pieces of paper with a name or a name and date or some important piece of information that I just had to save. Not important enough to organize in files however so I am always digging when I need to find something.

I think my major problem is understanding how to divide up the stuff by surname. If I put George’s stuff in one folder and Sabina’s in another, what about the things that have both their names on it like marriage certificate, census copies and such?  Should I make duplicate copies and put one in each folder? That’s a lot of duplicates and much more paper and space involved.

And what about census records? I have them saved to my family tree as sources. Do I really need a hard copy of each report for each person? Or should I trash them since I have electronic copies. Before Ancestry.com and the available of instant census records, I was thrilled to print out a copy from the microfilm machine. Can I truly just abandon those now that I can see them on my own personal computer? Sure!!

It’s o.k. to throw things out. It’s therapeutic. It’s helpful to the de-clutter process. It’s cleansing to the soul. It’s SO HARD! But it’s o.k.
I think the mental exercise for me should be: Can I replace it? Can I see it online anytime I want to?  Can I live without this piece of paper? If I answer yes to at least two of these questions I should toss the paper.

Documents To Organize

Being able to put everything on a long table and leave it out to continue culling through it all is important to me as well. Once I put it back in the drawer to continue another day, I won’t be inspired again for a few years.

Now that I’ve announced the intended purge and organize publicly, I think I’m leaning towards the color coded file folders since I already have the file drawers and I do have the file folders. I’ll just have to go to Office Max for some new colored pens, color coded page dividers and lots and lots of new doodads.

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Genealogists worldwide salivated for months  in anticipation of the release of the 1940 US Federal Census Myself included. I’m not quite old enough to see myself in the census but I knew I would see my mother, father and my brother. Also a few grandparents would be listed and I would finally find out who they were living with in their old age as well as where. I kind of think there’s a little gypsy in some of my ancestors. They just couldn’t stay put for too long. And they kept bouncing back and forth from Virginia to Pennsylvania and back again if they didn’t have any other place to explore at the moment. I like that about them.

Of course the states I was looking for were not among the first few to be indexed so I still had a little wait beyond April 1, 2012. And wait I did, still salivating, wish and hoping until finally I could get my hands on that long awaiting electronic hoard of knowledge.

The 1940 Census, being the first that has been released electronically makes me  think of all the census gone before that were amassed on hundreds of thousands of rolls of microfilm. What a difference a decade makes.

First begun in 1790, the US Federal Census has evolved into a gold mine, and I do mean G-O-L-D -M-I-N-Eof data and information without which genealogy research would still be in the dark ages.

Census

1790 was just a list of the Heads of Households with tick marks for the sex and age group of all free persons in the house and the same for slaves. Following the tick marks you could figure if he had a wife and about how old the children were. With a little wishful thinking you could figure out if your ancestor was one of those tick marks. In 1840 they asked about Revolutionary War pensioners so that was helpful to find your war hero and in 1850 they finally asked for the names of all the persons in the household, as well as occupations, real estate values, etc.

In 1860 the first Slave Census was taken as well as the regular one. Unfortunately, a lot of slaves were not listed by name, only sex, age and some general description. 1890, the one census that so many of us want so badly, burned in a fire and was almost completely lost. Kind of like the Southern court records after the Civil War. There are some fragmental records but of course, none that I want.

Ancestry.com, in addition to all the US Federal Census has a collection of UK and Canadian Census. The United States was the first country to make sure that all their citizens were accounted for so they would receive the state and federal representation they were entitled to. Individual States (not all) took citizen census as well and I have found a few at FamilySearch.com

I remember when they took the census in 2010. Fortunately or unfortunately, I was one who received the long form census. At the time I thought it was a pain to fill out pages and pages of stuff.   But then I thought how convenient it was. It came in the mail, I could sit in the comfort of my air conditioned home, put it down whenever I wanted and come back to when I had time.

Our ancestors were treated differently. Someone came to the door or up the drive to the farm house, usually on horseback or on foot. Interrupting their day, they took up their time, asked a bunch of personal questions and then went away never to be seen or heard from again. If you remembered something later you should have reported it was too late. But they did it because they thought it was important. Being counted was important to them and it’s important to me. And I am so grateful to them all.

So when the next census comes along and you get that all important form in the mail, take the time to fill it out as accurately as you can and send it back. Stand up and be counted.  Some people didn’t even send the census form back in 2010 and their descendants are going to be real disappointed in them.

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