1885 NJ Census Index at FamilySearch

A great new aid for finding families in this record, and apparently it only just went up. Here is the link to the searchable index.

This is an online name index only. To see an image you need to order the film from a Family History Center. If you find the name you’re looking for, you’ll also see the film number on the entry, along with the page number and family number.

Or, if you’re in NJ, you could see it at the NJ State Library in Trenton at 185 West State Street. Here is a chart that explains the ins and outs of New Jersey censuses and tax lists since 1772 — what’s destroyed, what’s survived and where you can find it at the library or state archives. Very useful.

h/t to Gary at the NJ-GSNJ list.


Links 06.07.10

This week we’ve got a lot of grave tidings and record achievements. Cliche watchers, take note.

Cemetery records suit: A Virginia genealogy society was unsuccessful in proving ownership of a collection of cemetery records being offered for sale in CD and book form by a local museum. The U.S. District Court ruling means that the Bedford (Va.) Museum and Genealogical Library can continue to offer the items for sale. The case was more about procedure than genealogy. It hinged on whether, in voting to incorporate last year, the society was really the true successor to the parent group, an unincorporated volunteer group organized as an affiliate of the museum. The court held that the entire membership should have been notified of the vote in order for it to be valid. An interesting case to consider for volunteer genealogy societies amassing record collections.

Irish census of 1901: Meanwhile, across the pond, excitement reigns over the release of the 1901 Irish census, the earliest complete Irish population count available. The records took five years and 4 million euros to digitize, and join the 1911 census online for Irish researchers. (Many 19th-century Irish records were lost in a 1922 fire at the Public Records Office, during the Irish civil war.) The BBC’s website summarizes the news angles nicely, including examples of famous folks and their census forms.

Also in Ireland: This news item popped up, containing an intriguing reference to a proposed merger of the Irish National Archives, the Irish Manuscripts Commission and the National Library of Ireland into a new national library/archive. The legislation is to be introduced by the end of this year, said Fianna Fáil leader Brian Cowen.

“Uncle” is correct: I love genealogy stories that bring distant history close to living generations, and this one is a classic. An Ohio man recently succeeded in replacing the official grave marker for his uncle, who served in the Civil War. Yes, you read that right. Sid Sines, a WWII veteran himself,  belongs to what must be a small group of living Americans with a biological uncle who fought in the Civil War. Sines’ father Martin (born 1868) was the product of Simon Sines’ second marriage. The Civil War soldier, James (born 1844), was an elder child of Simon’s first marriage. Martin waited until he was 52 to marry, and Sid was born in 1922. A perfect storm of genealogy circumstance! Congratulations to Sid on replacing his uncle’s marker — the original was vandalized 30 years ago.


Ancestry Searching: Some 101-Style Tips

A while back I attended an Ancestry.com webinar on how to make the most of your searches. I know Ancestry’s search engine twists and turns are a hot-button topic. Last fall, for example, Randy Seaver did a succinct rundown of old vs. new interfaces, at least as things stood at that point. (All I can repeat is that in case you didn’t know, you can still use the “Old Search” button at the top right of the “Search All Records” page.)

But this post (like that webinar) isn’t for searchers expert enough to know just which part of the interface annoys them the most. It’s to pass along some basic procedural tips that struck me as useful for those just starting to explore Ancestry databases.  Many might think, “What, this is news?” Well, as we used to say on the copy desk, there are babies born every day who never heard of Elvis. So there.

Where to start: Do not start at the Ancestry home page. Go to the Search All Records form, and use the Advanced Search option. Checking the “exact” box is … debatable. For common given names and surnames it can help — did you know there are more than 800 variations of the name Catherine? For dates, “exact” is problematic, as we shall see.

Useful keys: To spare your fingers, know that: P = preview; J = next; K= previous; N= new form; R= current form.

Three things to do upon locating a record: (A) Read it. Really look at all the information. Scan for clues as to immigration year, time of marriage, total number of children. In census entries, look at the neighbors — some might be collateral kin. (B) Save it online to a shoebox or online tree, if you do online trees. (C) Save it offline however you prefer to do it, by saving it to your hard drive or making a printout, or whatever. I was snickering at this advice until I remembered all the records I’ve re-read and re-saved over the years.

Play with date ranges: The webinar instructors advised beginning with a plus/minus range of 10 years. For example, ancestors didn’t always care about just when they were born; there really was a time when one’s birthdate wasn’t a matter of vital importance. So start with a wide range, narrowing it as you go, depending upon the hits you get.

Use wildcards to play with spelling variations. You can replace as many characters as you want, as long as there is a minimum of three actual characters in the search term. I can pull in lots of  variations on Haigney by searching H*g*y. This can be a real help with a name that goes under multiple spellings.

Look at all types of records, even if you are certain your ancestor would never be in them. Don’t search assuming that he or she: was never in the army/never left their home county/never copyrighted anything anywhere. You may well be surprised. I have.

Bon voyage and good luck!


Standing up to be counted (at last)

Well, now:  A copy of a 1780s population count has turned up at Kean University in Union, N.J., just down the road from me.

Note how I’m applying my terminology, however. I’m staying away from calling it a “census” because, while accurate in the strict sense, this document isn’t the sort of thing we family researchers can spend hours obsessing over on Ancestry.com.  Naturally the word “census” may sneak into some headlines, getting people all hot and bothered.

Easy, tiger. Although very interesting, this doesn’t appear to contain information on specific names and their domiciles. It’s a tally of U.S. populations, state by state, drawn from state enumerations taken between 1781 and 1786. For some states, the tallies are broken down by age and race, but other states simply provided a total tally.

The information was found among papers belonging to John Kean, a member of a family still very much active in New Jersey politics today — former governor and 9/11 Commission member Thomas Kean is one example. (In New Jersey, Keans and Livingstons and Frelinghuysens are like the Appalachian Mountains of public life: they’ve just always been there.)

Descendants of the Kean and Livingston families donated a trove of papers to Kean University (no relation? What do you think?). And Kean University archivists have been slowly combing through what they describe as 200 years of American history, which is probably a good thing — researchers say all sorts of goodies keep turning up in odd places.

The population count, for example, was scribbled in a ledger that John Kean originally used for keeping accounts. Being a thrifty sort, he turned it over and used the reverse pages for taking notes when he was elected to the Continental Congress in 1785.

The count said that 2.2 million whites and Indians were living in the U.S.A., along with 567,000 blacks. Virginia had the biggest population, with 530,000 residents, more than half of them black. (New Jersey, by contrast, had about 159,000 residents.)

While it probably won’t set off any lightning bolts for individual genealogy research, the discovery does provide a nice snapshot of the United States at the dawn of its existence.


Census form completed, with a tip

All done, and it took me about five minutes, even with a new child to list since the last time around. Despite an incredible temptation to spell my surname six different ways as a gesture of solidarity with my ancestors, I kept all spellings standard.

I also used a great tip from the Genealogical And Historical Research discussion group on LinkedIn:

Make a photocopy of your completed census form and file it with your genealogy stuff. No sense making your descendants wait 72 years to see what your answers were if they don’t have to!

I can’t believe I never thought of that! Am I the last person to start doing this?


Link Love, March 8

My friends, I am officially Oscar’d-out; I can no longer tell the difference between a Best Dress and a Worst Dress. So I will move on to my weekly links. Today we have quirky landmarks, a genealogy freebie and two New York City events of note.

Obscura Day is Coming! March 20! Yes, there is still time to prepare. No, it has nothing to do with the Mayan calendar. It is an international festival of strange, interesting landmarks, each of which will offer a public event on the big day. Some are of interest to genealogists; some are just off the charts. In London, you can trace the course of the long-lost River Fleet; in Boston, you can tour Jamaica Plain’s Forest Hills Cemetery. I don’t know what it says about Philadelphia that they’ve got two bizarre sites on offer, but there you go. You could even organize your own event in your town, if you want. It’s all facilitated by Atlas Obscura, an online compendium of “wondrous, curious and esoteric” places.

Free 1930 U.S. census: In a world where there is no such thing as free lunch, it’s nice to find a free census. This is NOT searchable by keyword or name; you have to browse it the old-fashioned way, page by page. However, it is free. (h/t to Pat Connors of the NY-Irish genealogy listserve.)

And for those of us in the neighborhood, check out these two upcoming genealogy lectures in NYC:

Researching Criminal Relatives: Presenter Ron Arons, author of the book The Jews of Sing Sing, discusses how to track down relatives on the wrong side of the law. Free; 5:30-6:30 PM Tuesday, March 16, South Court Classrooms of the Stephen Schwarzman Building, New York Public Library, 5th Avenue at 42nd Street. The NYPL has more about it on their Facebook page (click on the Wall tab).

Basics and Beyond: This afternoon-long seminar hosted by the Jewish Genealogical Society, Inc. includes presentations from genealogists on censuses and vital records, research organization, goal-setting and online research. The seminar is organized in two tracks, one for beginners and one for more experienced researchers. 1 to 5 PM, Sunday, April 11, 130 East 59th Street, Manhattan. Registration is required; for details see www.jgsny.org.

Last-minute update: Omigosh, NPR has a story about a fish that has lived in a New York City pet store since 1970. Is this the oldest fish in New York City? Is there a genealogy angle? The answers are (A) Maybe; and (B) No, there is not. It’s just too strange to pass up. (h/t westchesterdead)


First-name basis: You wish.

The other day my second grader came home very excited after sharing a family tree chart with her classmates and teachers. The Spanish instructor even complimented my daughter on her grandma’s pretty set of Iberian names: Theresa Mercedes Cecelia.

Which made me giggle a bit, since the grandma in question (my mom) was the daughter of German immigrants.

First names, which you’d think would be basic signposts in figuring out ancestors, can tie you up in knots. They might make you guess at the wrong ethnicity; they might lead you on a wild goose chase to the wrong person. They might not be real first names at all.

Fortunately, first-name stories, while difficult to unravel, can make fantastic anecdotes. Here are some examples from my own tree:

My father-in-law: First came older brothers Floyd, Lloyd, Boyd and Coyd. And then came … Renzo Alton. (Please don’t tell me you saw that coming.) His mother wanted something different, and a local schoolteacher suggested Renzo. On his mail, he was R. A. Lynch. His family called him Al. I am not making any of this up, but I bet some future descendant will swear I must have been.

My dad: He was baptized Peter Jerome, but his mother never used his first name. She referred to him as Jerome, or “Sonny.” In the 1930 census my dad is listed as Jerome. As an adult, he used the name Peter. If you didn’t know the story, or didn’t weigh all the facts, you might assume the census taker missed him in 1930, or that perhaps there were two children, one named Jerome who died young, another named Peter who lived to adulthood.

My grandfather “Francie” Haigney: Well, actually, he’s Raymond Francis, but in the 1910 census, he’s Francie. If you didn’t know better, you might think the census taker got my grandpa’s gender wrong.

My mother’s name changes: She was baptized Therese Mercedes — Therese for St. Therese of Lisieux, and “Mercedes” in honor of the nun at the hospital who cared for my grandmother after the birth. Mom disliked Mercedes, and as an adult used her confirmation name, Cecelia, as her middle name. Also, she tended to spell her first name with an “a” instead of an “e”. So in a few places she’s Therese Mercedes, but more often she is Theresa Cecelia.

Those are some of my quirky naming stories, which are peculiar to the people and the circumstances. But I can think of two other common naming situations that might leave a researcher puzzled:

Nicknames: Some nickname logic has become blurred with the generations. “Liz” for “Elizabeth” is one thing, but what about “Lillie”? And not everyone immediately connects “Daisy” with Margaret, or “Mamie” with Mary.  Here’s a chart of common nicknames and their possible equivalents.

Americanizations: Just as with surnames, first names and first-naming conventions can change with immigration. Some translations are obvious, as with my German grandpa (Johann/John). But a trickier case is Grandpa’s sister Anna Kunigunde, who emigrated to the U.S. in 1907. In some records she is simply Kunigunde; she has also been listed as “Kuni.” And I also wouldn’t be surprised to find her in future as Anna, or even “Ann” or “Constance.” Here’s an article about immigrant name-changing.

My own name-changing stories, while amusing, also serve as a caution. Much as I’d like to think I’m on a first-name basis with my ancestors, I know better than to jump to any premature conclusions.


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