The Sky Is (Not) Falling

Ancestry succeeded in rocking the world of a large number of genealogists today with their surprise announcement that they would be retiring Family Tree Maker genealogy software at the end of 2015.  Cue Chicken Little and hoards of unhappy genealogists bearing pitchforks and flaming torches.

Angry Mob (clipartsheep.com)

Angry Mob (clipartsheep.com)

But hold fair citizens of Genealogy-land!  All is not lost and, nay, the sky dost not fall today!

First dear reader, I strongly encourage you to go read Ancestry’s blog post here.  Knowledge is power and Ancestry spells out exactly what their short-term plans are for Family Tree Maker software.  If you didn’t run off to read their much-discussed blog post and are still with me, dear reader, here’s a short recap of what Ancestry said:

  • Ancestry will stop selling Family Tree Maker software as of 31 December 2015.
  • Ancestry will continue to support the Family Tree Maker software at least through 1 January 2017.
  • All software features (including TreeSyncTM) will continue to function and Ancestry will offer support, bug fixes and compatibility updates at least through 1 January 2017.

So take a breath, dear reader, your Family Tree Maker software will not turn into a pumpkin at the end of December.  As a user of Family Tree Maker myself I freely admit that losing FTM sucks.  A few years ago I reconsidered whether I wanted to continue using FTM, tried out some other programs and discovered I was still happy with FTM so I dove into learning to utilize all available features in FTM.  I recently had started going through and making sure I had all my sources attached and properly cited (a project that I’m still currently working on).  Having put all that effort into my FTM file I was initially devastated when I read about Ancestry’s intention to discontinue FTM.  Genealogy isn’t just a hobby for many of us.  It’s a very personal crusade to find and remember our ancestors.  When we partner with organizations and allow them to be a part of our genealogical passion it becomes the ultimate betrayal when said organization doesn’t behave as genealogists feel it should.  But no matter how personal of a relationship we believe we have, these organizations are still businesses in the end and must do what they can to survive and thrive.  And there’s always another side to every story, though we may never know what it is.

At this point you may be grabbing your pitchfork or flaming torch and asking yourself what the point of this post is.  Quite simply the post is merely my opinions and intentions as a user of Family Tree Maker.  Change is never easy, but sometimes it’s for the best.  There are several other programs and apps on the market to try and choose between.  And here we arrive at my first opinion: there is plenty of time to research, review and choose new software.  There’s no need to dive headfirst into purchasing new software right away.  Many of the companies that are still offering genealogical software provide a free trial of their software.  Go download the trial versions and use them to the fullest capacity allowed by the trial version.  Heather Wilkinson Rojo of Nutfield Genealogy is writing an ongoing series called “Plan ahead for genealogy research without Family Tree Maker ~ Part 1 of an ongoing series” that I highly recommend following along with.  She lists several good resources that have already been posted on the WWW.

Which brings us to my second opinion: look at this as an opportunity…an opportunity to wrangle those loose ends and clean up your genealogy.  Thomas MacEntee started a great, free program called the Genealogy Do-Over.  There are different ways to participate in this program and it’s an excellent way to check your research, make sure everything fits the way it’s supposed to, cite your sources and (in general) clean up your genealogy.  Besides the Do-Over website, Thomas has created a Genealogy Do-Over Facebook Group which is a great location for discussion and resources (even if you don’t plan to participate in the Do-Over!)

And for the trifecta, my third opinion: continue learning and trying new things.  Sometimes as genealogists we get stuck in a rut.  Running the same searches, looking at the same databases, checking the same sources over and over hoping to find some new information.  We must be careful to avoid becoming stagnant and try hard to remain flexible.

Also keep in mind, Ancestry hasn’t really made mention of long-term plans.  While they may be choosing to discontinue FTM at this point in time, there may be another idea currently in development.  Or they may choose to focus on other things instead.  New technology isn’t an overnight creation.  It takes time, effort and manpower.

So, dear reader, take a breath and look to the future.  It has a bright and beautiful sky.

Untitled Photo by Reymark Franke (Unsplash)

Untitled Photo by Reymark Franke (Unsplash)

Genealogy Basics: The 1900 Census

It’s another Monday and time for another post.  Today, we’re continuing our recent discussion on census records, today we’re looking at the 1900 census.  The 1900 census was enumerated beginning 1 June 1900.  Let’s look at the actual census record to see what information can be extracted from this census.  Using my great-grandpa Edward’s census listing, let’s look at what can be discovered about his family:

Edward Bell Conwell, Sr. family listing in the 1900 U.S. Census

Edward B. Conwell, Sr. is listed here with his wife, Zella.  Breaking the census listing down into three parts will help us view the information a little easier:

Section #1 of Edward Bell Conwell, Sr. family listing in the 1900 U.S. Census

The first three columns contain information on the location:

  • Street and house number (in cities)
  • Dwelling number
  • Family number

The information isn’t shown on my screen shot but the census record shows that Edward and Zella are living on Cherry Street.  So this is another address that I can go look up to see if the house is still standing.  Add that to my list of genealogy things to do.

Column #4 is the name of each person whose place of abode on June 1, 1900, was in this family (surname first, then first name and middle initial if there is one):

  • Conwell, Edward B. – head
  • Conwell, Zella – wife

Columns #5-#14 are personal description data:

  • Relation to head of family
  • Color
  • Sex
  • Month of birth
  • Year of birth
  • Age at last birthday
  • Whether single, married, widowed or divorced
  • Number of years married
  • Mother of how many children
  • Number of these children living

This is pretty self-explanatory information, though it does bear mentioning that at this time Edward and Zella had no children together and they listed their number of years married as zero.  Right there, that is a great indication to look for a marriage record within the last year.

Great information to get off this census is the age at last birthday, their marital status and number of years of present marriage, the number of children born and number now living and probably the best information: month and year of birth.

Moving on to part #2 of the census record:

Section #2 of Edward Bell Conwell, Sr. family listing in the 1900 U.S. Census

Columns #15-#17 are nativity information:

  • Place of birth
  • Place of birth of father
  • Place of birth of mother

This is also really great information because, if I didn’t already have places of birth for each person and their parents, this census provides it.  Keep in mind this information is only as good as (1) the person giving the information and (2) the person writing the information down.  But it gives you a clue where to look.

This census enumerator has taken the time to list each person’s birth location and the birth locations of their parents (as provided by the person providing the census information).  As you can see, everyone was U.S. born and most were born in the Midwest in either Kansas, Illinois, Indiana or Ohio.

Columns #18-#20 are citizenship information:

  • Year of immigration to the U.S.
  • Number of years in the U.S.
  • Naturalization

Again, by this time all my family was U.S. born so none of these columns apply.

Moving on to part #3 of the census record:

Section #3 of Edward Bell Conwell, Sr. family listing in the 1900 U.S. Census

Columns #21-#22 are occupation information:

  • Occupation, trade or profession of each person ten years of age and over
  • Number of months not employed

From this we can see that Edward Sr. was working as a collector of bills.  He worked the entire year so number of months not employed wasn’t applicable.

Columns #23-#26 are education information:

  • Attended school (months)
  • Can read
  • Can write
  • Can speak English

Neither Edward Sr. nor Zella attended school but they both were able to read, write and speak English so they must have attended school at some time.

Columns #27-#30 are home information:

  • Home owned or rented
  • Home owned free or mortgaged
  • Farm or house
  • Number of farm schedule

In 1900 Edward Sr. and Zella were renting and they were renting a home.  That’s not surprising considering they were newly married.

The 1900 census can contain some great information for genealogists.  There are several ways to access the census records, from using Ancestry.com (if you don’t have a paid subscription to Ancestry, check out your local library or Family History Center for free usage opportunities) for indexed images to using some of the non-indexed sites and paging thru the census record pages one by one.  I prefer the indexed version, however, going through page by page can wield treasures of its own.  Additional family members have been discovered in this manner and it can also give you a picture of who was living around your ancestor.

Next week: the 1880 census!  But wait, we missed one didn’t we?  Nope, unfortunately due to a fire in the Commerce Department building, most of the 1890 census was destroyed.  Some parts of the census did survive and information on what survived can be found here.

Genealogy Basics: The 1910 Census

Continuing our recent discussion on census records, today we’re looking at the 1910 census.  The 1910 census was enumerated beginning 15 April 1910.  Let’s look at the actual census record to see what information can be extracted from this census.  Using my great-grandpa Edward’s census listing, let’s look at what can be discovered about his family:


Edward Bell Conwell, Sr. family listing on the 1910 U.S. Census

Edward B. Conwell, Sr. is listed here with his wife, Zella, and children Edward B., Milford, Mildred and Frank.  Breaking the census listing down into three parts will help us view the information a little easier:


Section #1 of Edward Bell Conwell, Sr. family listing on the 1910 U.S. Census

The first two columns are not numbered but they contain information on the abode:

  • Street, avenue, road, etc. (name)
  • House number (in cities or towns)

Columns #1-#2 contain additional information on the abode:

  • Number of dwelling house in order of visitation
  • Number of family in order of visitation

I see that Edward and his family are living on Cyprus Avenue (the street name got partially cut off but it does say Cyprus Avenue).  So this is another address that I can go look up to see if the house is still standing.  Add that to my list of genealogy things to do.

Column #3 is the name of each person whose place of abode on April 15, 1910, was in this family (surname first, then first name and middle initial if there is one) and column #4 is the relationship of the person to the head of the family:

  • Conwell, Edward B. – head
  • Conwell, Zella – wife
  • Conwell, Edna M. – daughter
  • Conwell, Edward B. – son
  • Conwell, Milford R. – son
  • Conwell, Mildred A. – daughter
  • McCabe, Sarah A. – mother-in-law

Columns #5-#11 are personal description data:

  • Sex
  • Color or race
  • Age at last birthday
  • Whether single, married, widowed or divorced
  • Number of years of present marriage
  • Mother of how many children: Number born
  • Mother of how many children: Number now living

This is pretty self-explanatory information, though it does bear mentioning that at this time Edward was 41 (Zella’s age on this census is unreadable), married to Zella for 10 years and they had a total of six children, with four still living.  This tells me I need to look for some deceased children prior to 1910.  Using earlier census records will help me narrow down the years I need to check for those children.  Sarah’s number of children is also listed so I know she had six but the number still living is unreadable.

Great information to get off this census is the age at last birthday, their marital status and number of years of present marriage, the number of children born and number now living.

Moving on to part #2 of the census record:


Section #2 of Edward Bell Conwell, Sr. family listing on the 1910 U.S. Census

Columns #12-#14 are nativity information:

  • Place of birth of this person
  • Place of birth of father of this person
  • Place of birth of mother of this person

This is also really great information because, if I didn’t already have places of birth for each person and their parents, this census provides it.  Keep in mind this information is only as good as (1) the person giving the information and (2) the person writing the information down.  But it gives you a clue where to look.

This census enumerator has taken the time to list each person’s birth location and the birth locations of their parents (as provided by the person providing the census information).  As you can see, everyone was U.S. born and most were born in the Midwest in either Kansas, Missouri, Illinois or Ohio.

Columns #15-#16 are citizenship information:

  • Year of immigration to the United States
  • Whether naturalized or alien

Again, by this time all my family was U.S. born so none of these columns apply.

Column #17 is whether the person is able to speak English or not and if they were not English speaking, the enumerator was asked to list what language they spoke.  The entire family was able to speak English.

Moving on to part #3 of the census record:


Section #3 of Edward Bell Conwell, Sr. family listing on the 1910 U.S. Census

Columns #18-#22 are occupation information:

  • Trade, profession, or particular kind of work done as spinner, salesman, laborer, etc.
  • General nature of industry, business, or establishment in which the person works, as cotton mill, dry goods store, farm, etc.
  • Whether employer, employee or working on own account
  • If an employee: Whether out of work on April 15, 1910
  • If an employee: Number of weeks out of work during the year 1909

From this we can see that Edward Sr. was working but his trade and industry are mostly unreadable.  I’m going to have to see if I can find a better copy somewhere.  Great-great grandma Sarah was working as a laundress for a private family.  They were both working on their own account.  Neither one was out of work as of the enumeration date and neither was out of work during 1909.

Columns #23-#25 are education information:

  • Whether able to read
  • Whether able to write
  • Attended school any time since September 1, 1909

Edward Sr. and Zella are the only ones listed as being able to read and write.  Their daughter, Edna, is the only one listed as having attended school that year.

Columns #26-#29 are ownership of home information:

  • Owned or rented
  • Owned free or mortgaged
  • Farm or house
  • Number of farm schedule

I’m somewhat disappointed that there’s no information listed in these columns for Edward and his family.  I have no idea if they rented or owned their home in 1910.

The last three columns are kind of interesting bits of information:

  • Column #31: Whether a survivor of the Union or Confederate Army or Navy
  • Column #32: Whether blind (both eyes)
  • Column #33: Whether deaf and dumb

I didn’t expect to see any information in these columns for my family honestly.  I know none of the last columns applied to any of them but column #31 (Union/Confederate military survivor) is great information for genealogists since it gives a clue to military service.

The 1910 census can contain some great information for genealogists.  There are several ways to access the census records, from using Ancestry.com (if you don’t have a paid subscription to Ancestry, check out your local library or Family History Center for free usage opportunities) for indexed images to using some of the non-indexed sites and paging thru the census record pages one by one.  I prefer the indexed version, however, going through page by page can wield treasures of its own.  Additional family members have been discovered in this manner and it can also give you a picture of who was living around your ancestor.

Next week: the 1900 census!

Genealogy Basics: The 1920 Census

Today we’re continuing the discussion on census records and looking at the 1920 census.  The 1920 census was enumerated beginning 1 January 1920.  Let’s look at the actual census record to see what information can be extracted from this census.  Using my great-grandpa Edward’s census listing, let’s look at what can be discovered about his family:


Edward Bell Conwell, Sr. family listing on the 1920 U.S. Census

Edward B. Conwell, Sr. is listed here with his wife, Zella, and children Edward B., Milford, Mildred and Frank.  Breaking the census listing down into three parts will help us view the information a little easier:


Section #1 of Edward Bell Conwell, Sr. family listing on the 1920 U.S. Census

Columns #1-#4 contain information on the abode:

  • Street of person’s abode
  • House number or farm
  • Number of dwelling house in order of visitation by enumerator
  • Number of family in order of visitation by enumerator

I see that Edward and his family are still living on Indiana (the street name got partially cut off but it does say Indiana), the street they were living on in 1930 when the census was taken, but they’ve changed house numbers.  So this is another address that I can go look up to see if the house is still standing.  Add that to my list of genealogy things to do.

Column #5 is the name of each person whose place of abode on January 1, 1920, was in this family (surname first, then first name and middle initial if there is one) and column #6 is the relationship of the person to the head of the family:

  • Conwell, Edward B. – head
  • Conwell, Zella – wife
  • Conwell, Edward B. – son
  • Conwell, Milford – son
  • Conwell, Mildred – daughter
  • Conwell, Frank – son

Columns #7-#8 are “tenure” data:

  • Home owned or rented
  • If owned, free or mortgaged

From this we can see that Edward Sr. was renting the home they were in.

Columns #9-#12 are personal description data

  • Sex
  • Color or race
  • Age at last birthday
  • Single, married, widowed or divorced

This is pretty self-explanatory information.  Great information to get off this census is the age at last birthday and their marital status.

Columns #13-#15 are citizenship information:

  • Year of immigration to the United States
  • Naturalized or alien
  • If naturalized, year of naturalization

Again, by this time all my family was U.S. born so none of these columns apply.

Moving on to part #2 of the census record:


Section #2 of Edward Bell Conwell, Sr. family listing on the 1920 U.S. Census

Columns #16-#18 are education information:

  • Attended school since 9/11/1919
  • Whether able to read
  • Whether able to write

The three youngest children all attended school in 1919.  Grandpa Edward was 15 at the time this census was taken and it seems was not attending school.  I happen to know from verbal history that, like a lot of older children during this time, he was working to help support the family.

Columns #19-#24 are nativity and mother tongue information:

  • Place of birth (of person)
  • Mother tongue (of person)
  • Place of birth (of father)
  • Mother tongue (of father)
  • Place of birth (of mother)
  • Mother tongue (of mother)

This is also really great information because, if I didn’t already have places of birth for each person and their parents, this census provides it.  Keep in mind this information is only as good as (1) the person giving the information and (2) the person writing the information down.  But it gives you a clue where to look.

This census enumerator has taken the time to list each person’s birth location and the birth locations of their parents (as provided by the person providing the census information).  As you can see, everyone was U.S. born and most were born in the Midwest in either Kansas, Missouri, Indiana, Illinois or Ohio.  It seems, though, that the enumerator didn’t complete all the boxes for the mother tongue information.  It would be nice if the enumerator was consistent and filled in all the boxes available but that obviously doesn’t always happen.

Column #25 is whether the person is able to speak English or not.  The entire family was able to speak English.

Moving on to part #3 of the record:


Section #3 of Edward Bell Conwell, Sr. family listing on the 1920 U.S. Census

Columns #26-#28 are occupation information:

  • Trade, profession, or particular kind of work done as spinner, salesman, laborer, etc.
  • Industry, business, or establishment which at work, as cotton mill, dry goods store, farm. etc.
  • Employer, salary worker, wage worker or working on his own account

From this we can see that Edward Sr. was working as a laborer and Edward Jr. was listed as an office boy in a packing house, but column #28 is somewhat confusing.  According to the census instructions I located here, the codes for this column were either Em for employer, W for a salary or wage worker and OA for a gainful worker that is neither an employer nor a salary or wage worker.  Someone who had no occupation was supposed to have that column left blank.  But the enumerator has listed both Edwards as simply “E”.  Knowing that Grandpa Edward was always an employee and never an employer and seeing that both Edwards were listed as currently working, process of elimination dictates that they were both either salary or wage worker (most likely wage workers) and should have been listed with a “W” in that column.

Column #29 is the number of farm schedule, which doesn’t apply to this household.

The 1920 census can contain some great information for genealogists.  There are several ways to access the census records, from using Ancestry.com (if you don’t have a paid subscription to Ancestry, check out your local library or Family History Center for free usage opportunities) for indexed images to using some of the non-indexed sites and paging thru the census record pages one by one.  I prefer the indexed version, however, going through page by page can wield treasures of its own.  Additional family members have been discovered in this manner and it can also give you a picture of who was living around your ancestor.

Next week: the 1910 census!  And be sure to check back later this week for a very special edition of Around the Town Thursday!  I’ve got a special treat in store 🙂

Genealogy Basics: The 1930 Census

A couple of weeks ago we started talking about census records and looked at the 1940 census.  Today we’re continuing to look at census records and the focus is on the 1930 census.

The 1930 census was enumerated beginning 1 April 1930.  Let’s take a look at an actual census record to see what kind of information can be extracted from this census.  Last post we looked at my Grandpa Edward’s census listing.  I haven’t located him in the 1930 census yet but I have a listing for my Great-Grandpa Edward (Grandpa Edward’s father) to use for our example:


Edward Bell Conwell, Sr. family listing on the 1930 U.S. Census

Edward B. Conwell is listed here with his wife, Zella M., and children, Milford R. and Frank R.  As you see, listed below the Conwell family, also living with Grandpa Edward, is his son-in-law John Crouse, daughter and wife of John, Mildred and granddaughter Evelyn J.  Breaking the record down into three parts will help us view the information a little easier:


Section #1 of Edward Bell Conwell, Sr. family listing on the 1930 U.S. Census

Columns #1-#4 contain information on the abode:

  • Street, avenue, road, etc.
  • House number (in cities or towns)
  • Number of dwelling house in order of visitation
  • Number of family (in order of visitation)

This is great information because I can take the house number and street name and see if that house is still standing to see where my family lived in 1930.

Column #5 is the name of each person whose place of abode on April 1, 1930, was in this family (surname first, then first name and middle initial if there is one) and column #6 is the relationship of the person to the head of the family:

  • Conwell, Edward B. – head
  • Conwell, Zella M. – wife
  • Conwell, Milford R. – son
  • Conwell, Frank R. – son
  • Crouse, John – son-in-law
  • Crouse, Mildred – daughter
  • Crouse, Evelyn J. – grand daughter

Columns #7-#10 are home data:

  • Home owned or rented
  • Value of the home, if owned, or monthly rental, if rented
  • Radio set
  • Does this family live on a farm?

From this we can see that Edward Sr. owned their home and it was worth $2,000.00.  I can’t tell for sure whether they owned a radio or not.  The enumerator marked “R” in the columns next to other families who obviously owned radios, but there is an “X” next to Edward Sr.’s census listing so while I suspect they did own a radio, I can’t be certain.  And further up the census listing, the enumerator indicated “No farms in this block”.

Columns #11-#15 are personal description data:

  • Sex
  • Color or race
  • Age at last birthday
  • Marital condition
  • Age at first marriage

This is pretty self-explanatory information.  Great information to get off this census is the age at last birthday because it can help pin down a birth date if you don’t already have that and age at first marriage because it can help you pin down a marriage date for the first marriage of the person listed.  Keep in mind that if the spouse listed on the census listing isn’t the person’s first marriage this could cause a little confusion but it can also clue you in to when the first marriage occurred.  It’s somewhat of a double-edged sword.

Columns #16-#17 are education information:

  • Attended school or college any time since September 1, 1929
  • Whether able to read or write

None of the family attended school that year and all but baby Evelyn were able to read and write, which says a lot about the family since many people still struggled to get a decent education in 1930.  Many people had to stop school and go to work to help support their families, resulting in an incomplete education.

Moving to part #2 of the census record:


Section #2 Edward Bell Conwell, Sr. family on the 1930 U.S. Census

Columns #18-#20 are information on place of birth:

  • Person
  • Father
  • Mother

This is a gold mine of location information.  The enumerator has taken the time to list each person’s birth location and the birth locations of their parents (as provided by the person providing the census information).  As you can see, everyone was U.S. born and most were born in the Midwest in either Kansas, Missouri, Indiana, Illinois or Nebraska.

Column #21 and #21a-c are questions about the person’s native language:

  • 21: Language spoken in home before coming to the United States
  • a: (Code) State or MLT
  • b: (Code) Country
  • c: (Code) blank on the form

Columns #22-#23 are citizenship information:

  • Year of immigration to the United States
  • Naturalized or alien

By this time, this part of my family was all U.S. born so these columns didn’t apply.

Column #24 is whether the person is able to speak English or not.  The entire family was able to speak English.

Moving on to part #3 of the census record:


Section #3 Edward Bell Conwell, Sr. family listing on the 1930 U.S. Census

Columns #25-#27 are occupation and industry information:

  • Occupation (trade, profession, or particular kind of work, as spinner, salesman, riveter, etc.)
  • Industry (industry or business, as cottonmill, dry goods store, shipyard, public school, etc.)
  • Code
  • Class or worker

Most of the family worked as laborers, but Zella was working as an operator for some type of factory, Milford was a sales clerk for a grocery store and Frank was working for a nursery.  I can’t tell where John Crouse was a laborer at, it almost looks like he was a laborer for grading.

Columns #28-#29 are questions about employment:

  • Yes or no (whether actually at work)
  • Line number for unemployed

It seems Edward Sr. was unemployed at some point.  Because he was unemployed, he has an additional line number associated with his census line.  Unfortunately the FAQs about the 1930 Census indicate the unemployment schedules no longer exist, so any information on this schedule has been lost.

Columns #30-#31 are veteran information:

  • Yes or no (whether a veteran of the U.S. military or naval forces mobilized for any war or expedition)
  • What war or expedition

None of this family served as veterans.

Column #32 is “No. of farm schedule”.  The farm schedule was a supplemental set of questions for farms and didn’t apply to Edward Sr. and his family.

The 1930 census can contain a wealth of information for genealogists.  There are several ways to access the census records, from using Ancestry.com (if you don’t have a paid subscription to Ancestry, check out your local library or Family History Center for free usage opportunities) for indexed images to using some of the non-indexed sites and paging thru the census record pages one by one.  I prefer the indexed version, however, going through page by page can wield treasures of its own.  Additional family members have been discovered in this manner and it can also give you a picture of who was living around your ancestor.