Saturday, March 29, 2014

SLCC Genealogy Course: Post #25 - Census Records to 1850

This week in my Salt Lake Community College, Genealogy Course I didn't do my assignment exactly as I originally planned. We were learning about the value of all the different census records. Of course there was a ton of reading and video's to watch. This course has given me a very thorough knowledge of census records.

The assignment was to pick one ancestor and then find every census record during their lifetime. I picked my great-grandfather John Henry Weatherwax, Sr. From his death certificate, he was born in 1855 and died in 1925. Since he lived in New York all his life, that meant there were state and federal census records to look at. In total he could have been living during 14 different censuses.  As I was working from the most recent to oldest census I saw his age going all over the place.  It really made me doubt the death certificate for him. I had other family records that gave his birth as being in 1848. So now I was up to 15 different census records to search.

We needed to transcribed and source all of these census records, plus add them to our research log. I wanted to just focus on him, but found I just had to add the sources to the other family members as I found them in the census. Doing all this work meant this project would take forever to complete. Things were going good until I got to the period before his marriage in about 1881. I found him single in 1880 so that did answer the question if he married earlier and had more children prior to my grandfather birth in 1882. I also found my great-grandmother in 1880, single, living with her parents. They were both living in Greenwich, Washington, New York in 1880. So this gave me a really good case for their marriage being in Greenwich and not somewhere in Saratoga County where they were born.

So I'm moving along and find problems with his age. Then I try to find John Sr. living with his parents in 1875 and back. I can't find anyone by the name of Anthony Weatherwax which John Sr.'s death certificate tells me it is. I already knew this was a tangled mess to be unravel even before taking this class. I had family tradition that his father's name was Andrew, but that darn death certificate throws in Anthony. This death certificate was looking worse by the minute. Years ago I had found a likely John with an Andrew in the census, but I needed to investigate if there were any Anthony's out there first.. I really wanted to solve this problem. I know it can be solved, but the steps to unravel and survey the possibilities, searching for any Anthony's out there, was going to take me way longer to finish than I had time for on this assignment.

I then made the decision that I had enough census records that covered my grandfather John Henry Weatherwax, Jr's life time so I changed my focus person and wrapped things up with him instead. As I changed directions I told myself that even though I may not have done what I wanted to do, I did feel confident in my ability to work with the census records. I knew why census records were important, how to record my searches in the research log, transcribe the records, source and then analyse them.  This after-all was the whole intent of the assignment. As for John Henry Weatherwax, Sr. I will take care of unraveling the mess surrounding his records outside of class.

The assignment required a digital copy of each of the census records, labeled with the source citation. My nightmare of working with images was back. I needed a refresher on using GIMP to add the labels, so I watched the video from last semester that showed how. Then I actually felt some confidence that this labeling could be done in a reasonable amount of time and not take me all day. I was shaky at first and had to ask my youngest son, that uses PhotoShop at work, one question. He had never used GIMP before, but he quickly found the tool I needed for the step I was missing. It made me realize that I had asked the wrong son for help last semester. Amazing how you can do something when the person guiding you knows what they are doing. After the quick help I was on track again. I totally amazed myself in my ability to add the source citations, and have fun at the same time.

I even came up with any easy way to do it. I printed John Henry Weatherwax, Jr's Research Notes in RootsMagic and saved it as an RTF file. Then I opened it in Microsoft Word.  This meant I could just copy & paste the full footnote citation into the text box in GIMP to label the census record.  It worked brilliantly. I was so proud of myself figuring that out. I became a speed demon in no time at all labeling the census records. I really feel like I mastered that part of the GIMP.  Yippee!!

Since the teacher needed all the census images for grading, I knew uploading them one at a time would be a joke. I got the idea to put them into one folder and then compress it into a zip file. That saved me oodles of time, since there was only one file to upload. Yay zip files!

We needed to also hand in a Family Group Sheet and Research Log with the assignment. I had to do two of each since John Jr. is a parent on some records and a child on others. My Research Logs are by families so everything that happened prior to John Jr.'s marriage went on his father's Research Log.

The last item to hand in was an analysis of my census findings. That was a difficult brain switch since all this time I was really focusing on John Sr and not John Jr. There was so much I could have written on John Sr., but you know the story, I didn't feel I had enough time to get all his census records done. I won't bore you with all the details but I laid out the analysis stating what I knew about the family. Then I listed each census and only hit on key elements I found for him.

I will share the little summary I gave at the end.

John Henry Weatherwax, Jr. appears to have been a farmer all his life. He grew up on a farm with his father and later worked on his own farm when married. He is always listed as being able to read and write. The highest grade level completed was 7th. The census confirms what we already knew about John. We do not find all of his children accounted for in the census records, because some died between census years. In the census records, he lived on either Argyle Road or Bald Mountain Road. The 1925 New York State Census gives the location as Argyle to Bald Mountain so it is possible this was a rural area and this stretch of road could have gone by two different names. The value of his farm is listed at $200 in 1940 and is lower than the surrounding neighborhood farms. He would not appear to be very prosperous. However, he is listed as owning his farm instead of having a mortgage on it.

Maybe I could have done that last part better, but it is what it is for now. Bottom line, I feel really confident in locating, transcribing, sourcing, recording, labeling and analyzing census records and that is what the whole class assignment was about. These are all skills I will use over an over again and John Henry Weatherwax, Sr has not gotten off easy.

See ya tomorrow, for tomorrow is always another genealogy day!

1 comment:

okielois said...

Hope you'll eventually post what you found out for John Sr's father.